Freight shipping class 50: Correctly calculate NMFC codes

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Freight Class 50 Misconceptions: How to Accurately Classify Your Freight

What Are NMFC Freight Class Codes?

National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is a freight classification system created by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) and used for all interstate, intrastate, and foreign commerce movement of LTL cargo. NMFC codes provide standardized freight classes to determine the transportability of many of the countless different commodities being shipped together in LTL shipments each year. Because LTL shipping involves a variety of different products with different densities, liabilities, and handling considerations transported together in a single shipment, freight class codes are necessary to provide standardization for shippers and carriers to negotiate freight rates for different types of goods.

There are 18 possible NMFC classifications for LTL freight, the lowest and least expensive being 50, and the highest and most expensive being 500. Freight that is dense, sturdy, and has minimal liability will be classified lower, while freight that is fragile, uniquely shaped, or prone to damage, loss, or theft will be classified higher. Often, the denser a product, the lower its freight classification code. NMFC freight classes are usually denoted by 5-digit codes, depending on whether the item falls under a subclassification, and each NMFC code and subclass relate to a specific commodity depending on what it is, its dimensions, how it is packaged, whether it is assembled or disassembled, and the materials from which it is made.

What is Freight Class 50?

Freight shipping class 50 applies to only the densest and easily transportable freight items. Typically, to qualify for code 50, a shipment must have a weight range per cubic foot of over 50 lbs, be very durable and easily handled, and able to be shrink-wrapped and stowed on a standard 4x4 pallet. Examples of items that generally fall under the category of freight class 50 include industrial goods such as nuts, bolts, and steel rods, or dense bagged materials such as flour or concrete. Consumer products are almost never classified by the NMFTA as freight class 50.

For shippers and carriers, freight class 50 represents the lowest and therefore least expensive classification that can be assigned to a commodity in an LTL shipment, as the highest density and most easily transportable goods are the simplest to ship and most desirable to carriers. Because of this, there is a temptation for shippers to try and classify their shipment as freight class code 50 in order to receive the lowest rate quote from a carrier. However, this can result in even higher charges to the shipper than making an accurate initial classification on their freight. Shipping companies almost always check shipments identified as freight class code 50, imposing additional charges on shipments that under-declare their freight class code and eliminating any shipper’s ability to “game” the system by under-declaring LTL freight. If a check reveals that the freight class has been incorrectly declared, the carrier will charge a reweigh or reclassification fee in addition to the difference in freight charges, with the bigger the difference between declared class and shipped class resulting in the higher the additional charges added to the bill. 

How to Find the Correct Freight Class for Your Shipment?

Freight classes and subclasses can be complicated and require precision and attention to detail. Depending on the specific nature of a product the freight class code can fall anywhere within a large range of classes and subclasses. For example, one NMFC code given for chairs/stools (82790) can range anywhere from freight class 60-400, depending on the specifics of the chair or stool in question and the subsequent subclasses for which it may qualify. If the stool or chair has a density per cubic foot of more than 30 lbs it will fall under subclass 11, giving it an NMFC code of 82790-11, a combined code and subclass that would place it under freight class 60 on the 50-500 scale. However, if the stool or chair has a density per cubic foot of less than 1 lb it will fall under subclass 1, giving it an NMFC code of 82790-1, a combined code and subclass that would place it under freight class 400 on the 50-500 scale. Because the range of freight class can vary so significantly for a single type of product depending on its specifications, it is very important to not only know the correct NMFC code for the item, but also the applicable subclass into which it fits so as to assign the correct freight class.

While determining the exact NMFC code and subclass that corresponds to one of the eighteen different freight classes is the most precise way to correctly classify your cargo and avoid a reclassification fee from your carrier, not every item is on the NMFC list with a corresponding code and subclass. When this is the case, the calculated density of the item is used to determine its freight class. To learn more about the formula for determining the density of your freight, consult Koho’s full explanation of Freight Classes. When calculating the density of your freight, unless you are shipping a very dense industrial commodity, you will most likely not find your LTL freight to have the density of over 50 lbs per cubic foot needed to qualify for freight class 50. Instead, make sure that you are aware of all aspects of your shipment necessary for making an accurate assessment of its freight code and class. Determine the density, handling, stowability, and liability of your freight in order to ensure you assign the correct freight class and avoid unnecessary added charges on the bill from your carrier.

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