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The National Motor Freight Classification manual contains many density-based classification items. When the density of a shipper’s product is not indicated on the bill of lading or when there is insufficient information provided, the highest class found under the item heading will apply.

In order to avoid the costs usually associated with a classification as high as 400, it is vital for a shipper to document the correct density, or at least the correct cube and weight so that density may be easily determined. A carrier may elect to inspect any shipment for any reason. At this time, density will usually be calculated, and if the density discovered by the carrier differs from that which is indicated by the shipper, charges will be adjusted accordingly. One might expect that a density determined by an official shipment inspection is infallible, but this is far from the case.

NMF 100 Item 110 Sec. 8. describes density as “the actual density of the articles shipped, as measured in pounds per cubic foot.” While this may seem like an obvious statement, it is indeed a necessary one because some carriers are too often caught up by the idea of “effective cube,” which is essentially a manufactured cube determined by using the maximum width and height measurements, based on equipment size. The effective cube is applicable only in certain situations, outlined in the carrier’s rules tariff. There are specific applications for which the effective cube is necessary; however, it has no bearing on density as it is used for classification purposes.

Sec. 8. (d) of Item 110 contains an important piece of information which some carriers commonly overlook: density is to be calculated based on each handling unit individually, except when “only a total weight for all handling units” is indicated on the bill of lading. Carriers often calculate a total density on a multiple-unit shipment as a matter of course. This is an incorrect practice that may cost the shipper a great deal more money than is necessary and fair.

For example, consider a shipment consisting of two pallets containing plastic articles, one skid measuring 48”x48”x96” and the other measuring 48”x48”x20”. We will say that each skid weighs 200 pounds. If we make separate calculations as prescribed by Item 110 Sec. 8. (a), the density of the first skid would be 1.56 PCF and the second would be 7.5 PCF, resulting in classifications of NMFC 156600-2 class 300 and NMFC 156600-5 class 125, respectively. However, if we add the individual cubes together and divide into the total weight, we end up with a total density of 2.59 PCF, which corresponds to NMFC 156600-3 class 250.

The charges will most likely be higher when based on the total density, depending on any exception classes that may be prescribed in your company’s published pricing.

AMTR is your best defense against overcharges based on incorrect density calculations. Ask us today how we can get started auditing freight bills for your company. Our service never costs—it pays!

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