4 Critical Factors in Improving LTL/Dry Van Chemical Shipment Rates

In the complex world of chemical shipping and logistics, understanding the intricate dynamics of the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) and associated factors can significantly influence overall transportation spend for less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers and shippers. The NMFC is a set of standards developed, maintained, and published by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA).

LTL carriers and shippers reference these standards to classify commodities in terms of the level of resources required to transport products via LTL. How and why the NMFTA classifies the commodity of a given product is critical for shippers to understand, as this directly affects LTL freight pricing and influences the shipper’s overall transportation spend.

To help build your understanding and navigate these waters, here are four critical factors to understand when working to improve LTL chemical shipment rates.

1. NMFC Codes and Freight Class

Each item shipped via LTL is assigned an NMFC code determined by its commodity. In addition, each NMFC code has corresponding freight classes that directly impact the shipment cost. One of 18 different LTL freight classes, ranging from 50-500, is determined by four main freight characteristics:

  1. Density
  2. Handling
  3. Stowability
  4. Liability

The resulting freight class is essentially a score of the overall transportability of the freight, where the higher the freight class, the more expensive the product will be to ship via the LTL network.

2. The Role of Density

Cargo density is a primary factor in determining the LTL freight classification. Like most chemicals, the same product can be shipped in various forms and packaging configurations. The same chemical product can have different freight classes depending on the density of the articles that make up the shipping unit. The higher the density, the lower the freight class and shipment rate.

3. Packaging and Handling

Along with density, the dimensions of the packaged freight are a significant factor in determining the freight class. Take, for example, a rigid plastic sheet where one NMFC code has multiple possible freight classes dependent not only on the density but also the greatest dimension of the packaged unit. Additionally, if the unit requires extra labor or special equipment due to its size or shape, this can play a part in determining the freight class and, consequently, the rate.

4. Bill of Lading Accuracy & Completeness

Inaccurate or incomplete information on the bill of lading provided to carriers can result in an incorrect NMFC code assignment and may contribute to higher transportation spend. Bills of lading without product descriptions will force the carrier to estimate the product’s freight class. Carriers typically err on the higher side regarding freight class and rate, leading to billing errors, claims, manual work, and delays to payment, all of which only consume time and effort with no added value.

Optimizing NMFC Classification with Chemical Logistics Expertise

The NMFC system developed by the NMFTA plays an important role in determining the transportation costs of moving cargo via the LTL mode in the United States. It’s the shipper’s responsibility to determine the correct classification of their products. Properly assessing and assigning NMFC codes and LTL freight classes can also be challenging. Shippers who don’t fully understand or manage this process run the risk of overpaying for LTL freight. This risk can be minimized by maximizing the density of the shipping unit, minimizing special handling needs, and providing complete and accurate information on the bill of lading to the carriers.

The procurement experts at CLX Logistics can assist you with evaluating products shipped via LTL to identify the correct NMFC codes and freight classes and guide communications with carriers to reduce billing errors and ensure shippers pay accurate rates. Contact us today to talk with a specialist.

Lisa Carr is the Procurement Manager at CLX Logistics, responsible for over-the-road transportation procurement services for CLX. Year-to-date, CLX Procurement Services has purchased nearly $1 Billion in transportation freight services both internally for CLX Operations and also for CLX customers.

Sarah Napolitan is a Carrier Program Manager for CLX Logistics. With nearly 10 years of experience buying freight, Sarah is an expert in US less-than-truckload freight procurement for chemical shippers.

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