LTL Shipping Services for Beginners: Three Terms You Should Know (and Why They’re Important)

Maybe you just took over the shipping responsibilities for your company and have no idea where to start. Maybe your business has grown from shipping parcel only to shipping one or two pallets at a time and trying to learn about LTL shipping services has your head spinning. Either way, never fear. Shipping LTL can be pretty confusing, but we're here to help! To start, there are three LTL terms you should be aware of – both their meaning, and their implication. Equipped with this knowledge, you'll be ready to tackle your first LTL shipment with ease.

What is my LTL freight class? Why is it so important? 

The NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification) guidelines were created, in part, to provide a standardized way for LTL carriers to assess the expense and difficulty involved in transporting a particular commodity. Put simply, your freight class ranks your shipment's “transportability” on a number scale from 50 to 500 – 50 being the easiest to transport, 500 being the most difficult. Items with a low class are usually heavy and dense, like bricks. Items with a higher class are lighter and more fragile, like empty glass containers. Ultimately, class is based on four characteristics: density, stowability, handling, and liability. These factors, combined, all contribute to the freight class.

Freight class is important because it has a huge impact on the cost of LTL shipping. Knowing your freight class is vital to ensure you're getting an accurate quote on the cost of  LTL shipping – and if you ship something listed at the wrong class, your freight would be inspected and your freight charges could increase significantly.

Have no idea what your freight class is? Not to worry. When you provide us with your shipment details, we'll get all the information we need about the commodity and its packaging to determine your freight class.

What is an NMFC number? How is an NMFC number different from freight class?

The NMFC has created a system with thousands of numbers that each correspond individually to a single commodity, and they're very specific. Your NMFC number determines what your freight class is. For example: potato flour is 73080, and listed at class 55, whereas corn flour is 73140, and listed at class 50. Just describing your commodity as “flour,” as you can see, is not enough. The NMFC number can change depending on how your commodity is packaged whether it's in bags, boxes, glass, or crates can have an effect.

After your NMFC code has been determined, it's used to look up the corresponding freight class for your commodity. Again, if you're not sure of your NMFC number, it's okay – our LTL Service specialists can take the information you give us about your commodity and its packaging to help you figure out your NMFC number. By doing this we'll ensure an accurate quote and that you experience no additional freight charges due to classification.

What does FAK stand for? What does FAK mean in LTL shipping?

FAK stands for “freight all kinds”. If you ship multiple commodities at different freight classes, you can negotiate a FAK in order to ship everything together at the same class. This way, you don't have to figure out the NMFC number associated with each item you ship. For example, if you ship items at class 70 and other items at class 200, you may want to negotiate a FAK of 100. If you ship a variety of commodities, you should consider contacting us about negotiating a FAK on your behalf. You could see freight savings, the benefit of a standardized freight cost for multiple products and commodities, and protection from future changes to the classification of your commodities.

We know this is barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to LTL shipping, but armed with this knowledge, you should feel more confident charging ahead in your new LTL shipping endeavors! If you have more questions, we are here as a resource. Check out our other LTL blogs, leave a comment below, or ask us a question online. If you're ready to start shipping LTL, you can request an LTL quote here!