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Cinde W. Ingram

Freight ratings change

Some casual furniture manufacturers may ship products differently now because of new motor freight classification ratings for metal and wooden chairs and barstools, based on density.

Henry Vanderminden IV, president, Telescope Casual, said its freight rates are negotiated on an annual basis and he doesn't expect them to increase. "We do a freight guarantee to our customers," he said. "They never have to worry about being shocked."

William Mascaro, senior classification specialist with the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, said he heard little from furniture manufacturers after the classifications for less-than-truckload (LTL) general commodity carriers went into effect Jan. 27. That response was mostly questions.

"When it goes to density, some people complain; others say 'thank you very much,'" Mascaro said. He noted the wide range of weight differences in patio furniture products such as tubular aluminum chairs vs. wrought iron chairs. "If they're on top of their shipping, when we have these density items there are actually ways whereby artificially inflating the weight slightly of the shipment, they can increase the density and lower the class one additional ranking from what it would be."

Champ Land of Troutman Chair said he doesn't expect it to affect his wooden rockers because he ships through specialized furniture carriers, which were not changed. There are 25 to 30 specialized furniture carriers in the United States, although some are regional rather than national in scope, said Brent Burton, vice president of transportation and logistics for American Home Furnishings Alliance, SCFMA's parent organization.

"Most of our members ship via specialized furniture carrier," Burton said. "It doesn't impact the furniture carrier side, but it does if you're shipping general commodity, such as an ABF, Roadway, Yellow, Old Dominion or Overnight. Their rates are tied into the classification and whatever class is associated with that product is how they're going to rate your shipment."

Kathy Haney, vice president, Outdoor Lifestyle, said the Stanley, N.C.-based manufacturer is rethinking the way it packages products for shipping to get them to customers in the most cost-efficient way. "Furniture is a volume item and we are actually finding it is more economical to use a truckload carrier," Haney said. "Some customers are in areas not served by regional furniture carriers and others refuse to accept orders shipped that way. "

Knowing higher gas prices already make it more costly to move product from any port or factory, furniture analyst Jerry Epperson spoke of other increases to come. "As of May 1, we're going to get new container rates," he said. "The contracts always come up at the end of April, and my sources tell me the containers are going to go up $300 to the West Coast and up $400 to $500 on the East Coast. Given the amount of imported product in your business, that's another consideration."

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