Increasing LTL Complexity – The Importance of Proper Commodity Descriptions

Managing LTL freight has continually become more and more challenging over the past several years. While “surface” pricing appears to be soft, underneath the surface carriers are looking everywhere they can to find additional opportunities for revenue. In many cases it’s understandable – shipments outside the normal, commercial, dock-to-dock moves are more costly to service and should have additional charges. Residential, limited access, and lift-gate deliveries (to name a few) all involve more time, hence more money. Knowing your customer’s specific requirements prior to setting up the load is imperative to receiving an accurate quote.

Carriers have traditionally had lengthy rules tariffs which identify and explain these additional charges, but they were often not strictly enforce. However, they have become smarter on their margins and what is impacting their costs, causing a shift in the LTL environment. Not only are carriers now billing for additional services or rules they have previously ignored (like detention, “truck ordered not used,” appointments, etc.), but they are also getting very detailed in what the shipment – commodity – is and how it’s described.

Recon has always stressed the importance of getting shipments right going out the door – the proper weight, class, and back-up documentation. As NMFC rules are gearing towards being more density-based, measuring dimensions becomes critical to getting accurate quotes. Now, carriers are enforcing shippers to also have the correct, detailed descriptions of the commodity on the BOL. Many carriers are amending their rules tariffs to outline their intent to charge shippers for incorrect descriptions and NMFCs. Soon they will not accept a simple declaration of what class the product is unless the proper corresponding description is included with it. Keep in mind they are looking for the NMFC description, not the one your company uses internally. Product “123ABC” is not an acceptable description. It’s prudent to review your BOLs as soon as you can and determine what steps need to be taken to avoid unnecessary freight cost issues.

For example, many of our customers either ship or receive adhesives. The general NMFC for this is 4620, which also happens to be density-based and either “combustible” or “other than combustible.” After determining which category best fits your product, it’s important to gather the correct weight and shipment dimensions to determine the freight class. According to the NMFTA, the proper description for adhesives (non-combustible) would be “Adhesives, NOI, 20 or greater PCF” or “Adhesives, NOI, Less than 20 PCF” with a corresponding freight class of 85 or 60 –depending upon the density of the freight. Equally as important, the correct NMFC number and sub-number must also be noted, so in this case either NMFC# 4620-5 or 4620-6.

We often hear “But we’ve always shipped this at this class.” Yes, but that was then and this is now – the good news is Recon is here to help navigate the new playing field. These are the hidden cost increases we have mentioned in the past. LTL transportation continues to be more and more challenging, but with the proper information we can stay ahead of it! .