The rules and regulations of interstate shipping can sometimes seem overwhelming in the deregulated environment we now live in. There is much to understand to keep things running smoothly. For instance, you will need to know how your product is defined by the trucking industry, how to complete important shipping documentation properly, and the right ways to package and secure your freight. You will also want to evaluate the variety of options that are available to you for getting your freight to its destination as quickly and reliably as possible. This simple guide to shipping and receiving was designed with you in mind to help you and the people at your business master a few of the more common rules, regulations, and practices that go along with successful shipping and receiving which can be crucial for businesses to survive. We are sure that you will find the information and tips useful.
Less than Truckload Shipments
Less Than Truckload (LTL) carriers typically transport shipments that are less than 10,000 pounds. Shipments from several different customers are consolidated onto one trailer.
National Motor Freight Classification Book
The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is a publication for motor carriers that contain rules, descriptions, and ratings of all commodities moving in commerce. The publication is used to classify freight for rating purposes. In the world of interstate shipping, different types of products are defined according to their makeup. Each product definition is called a classification. The class of your freight plays a prominent role in calculating how much your carrier will charge you for transporting it. Freight classes are catalogued in the National Motor Freight Classification tariff. Less than truckload carriers are compensated on a price per hundred pound basis. The NMFC assigns one of eighteen (18) different classifications for each item shipped; ranging from class 50 (slab steel) to class 500 (ping pong balls). The classes and weight breaks are illustrated below. Rates are structured so that as the weight of your shipment increases, the price per hundred pounds decreases. For very light shipments, most less than truckload carriers will state a minimum charge for the service. Historically, the pricing for all classes of freight was expressed as a percentage of the rate for class 100. As an example, freight assigned a classification of 70 would pay 70% of the price (per hundred pounds) for a class 100 rate.
While this proportional relationship no longer reflects exact percentages, it does allow a comparison of the relative expense of shipping one product versus another. There are four characteristics of every article of freight that are analyzed to determine the NMFC classification. In order of importance they are;
- DENSITY- Rates are expressed on a price per hundred pound basis so therefore the greater the density of a product the lower the price per hundred pounds will be.
- LIABILITY- The value of the product, susceptibility of theft, susceptibility to damage, and to damage other freight all come into play in determining the exposure to potential liability the carrier will incur in transporting this commodity.
- STOWABILITY- How freight stacks in a trailer. Carriers will load freight high and tight in a trailer to best facilitate the careful and safe movement of product. Freight that does not stack well can increase the chances of a freight claim.
- HANDLING EASE- How easy it is for a carrier to move product on and off trailers and across their shipping dock. Long, bulky freight will often times require special handling and result in increased costs.
Besides defining commodity classes, the NMFC also assigns item numbers to each type of commodity. The item number is related not only to the commodity itself, but to its; packaging, the material from which the commodity is made, and other considerations. The NMFC is an excellent reference book for the transportation professional. It describes both shipper and carrier responsibilities. The NMFC includes:
- A list of carriers who participate in the NMFC
- Descriptions of each item/commodity
- Rules specifically for shippers
- Packaging requirements
- Rules of handling claims for loss and damage
Before you ship your product
1. Prepare your packaging - All goods should be protected with proper packaging in compliance with the NMFC.
2. Label every piece clearly and completely - Complete names and addresses on each piece to ensure that your shipment will arrive intact.
3. Complete a bill of lading - The bill of lading is a contract between the shipper and the carrier. It must state the name and address of both the shipper and the consignee, a description of the product being shipped, quantity, class and weight, who is paying the freight charges, along with any special instructions to the carrier.
4. Select a carrier - Carriers are usually selected based on the goods you are shipping, the services you require, where your shipment is destined, the transit time required, and the costs associated with these services. We will work with you to ensure that the carrier selected will be best suited to meet your needs.
5. Place a pick up - Once you confirm your order. Most carriers will have a truck at your location the same day. The earlier you call, the more likely you are to get a same day pick up. Our dispatcher will ask you the same information on your bill of lading to ensure that the right equipment will arrive to handle your shipment.