Your guide to shipping electronics by freight
5 min. read
Consumer electronics is big business. The industry grew by 9.6% in 2021 alone—driven by large retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Apple, and Walmart.
The most popular items were smartphones (at an astonishing 161 million units), smart home products, wireless earbuds, laptops, televisions, and gaming consoles. Retailers even sold 1.6 million electric bikes—a product that’s likely to have low stowability, which is important when it comes to freight class for electronics.
So how do suppliers get all those electronics to retailers? Shipping electronics, which are typically high-value and easily damaged, doesn’t have to be complicated.
Packaging electronics for freight shipping
Even small electronics often have a high value, and packaging them securely is essential. For larger items, you want to make sure not only that your own items will be safe, but that they will not damage other items on the truck. Many electronics are shipped in skin packs, which are essentially shrink-wrapped packages, or blister packs, which are customized, pre-formed plastic cavities. But the primary packaging is only the first step.
From there, you’ll want to package smaller items into cardboard bulk boxes and larger items into crates. Fill any gaps with bubble wrap, tissue paper, foam, air pillows, or corrugated cardboard inserts so the product can’t move around within the box.
When shipping electronics by freight, securing the box to the pallet is just as important. Using the standard pallet size of 48” x 40” makes packing and shipping logistics easier. Make sure no boxes extend beyond the edge of the pallet and don’t stack your pallet more than 48” high. When your boxes are stacked—with evenly distributed weight and size—cover it with stretch film, hold it down with straps, label it, and prepare your bill of lading. Now you’re ready to ship!
What is the NMFC code for electronics?
The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFC) groups commodities using codes to make it easier for carriers to evaluate loads. NMFC codes are based on:
- Weight and size
- Handling requirements
These criteria can result in very different NMFC codes for various freight electronics. For example, plasma TVs are code 63322, cell phones are code 62820, and computers are code 116030. Large appliances like dishwashers can also be considered electronics and given the appropriate NMFC code.
What is the freight class for electronics?
The freight class for electronics is even more important than the NMFC code. The NMFC code represents an individual item, but the freight class groups those items together to determine shipping prices. Yet like the NMFC code, the freight class varies based on what you’re shipping.
There are 18 freight classes, and the main determinant is the density of the product. That’s why refrigerators, computers, and monitors can all be in the same 92.5 freight class, but have different NMFC numbers. Bottom line: Loads that fit in small spaces, like smartphones or game consoles, will have lower rates, while those that take up space and are difficult to fit together with other goods, like big-screen TVs, will have higher rates.
See our freight class guide for more detailed information.
How to ship electronics in bulk
Manufacturers and suppliers face unique challenges when shipping electronics in bulk. Freight electronics are often oddly shaped and high-value. Plus, shippers may not have enough smaller items to fill a full truckload (FTL). If this sounds like you, there are other shipping options you can explore.
Full truckload shipping for electronics
FTL shipping means you pay for all the space on a single truck. The carrier contracts the entire trailer to you, and the truck goes directly to the destination. FTL usually means less handling, faster delivery times, and less damage—but not all suppliers can fill that much space, especially for small electronics. A full truckload typically fits around 26 standard pallets. If you have enough electronics, this could be your best bet. If not, you’ll want to look into other options.
Less-than-truckload shipping for electronics
Less-than-truckload (LTL) is a very common mode for shipping electronics. When you ship LTL, you pay for the space you need, and your shipment is combined with other suppliers’ shipments in order to fill a full truck. Because you don’t have to pay for a full truckload, you save money, but there are drawbacks. You’ll be restricted by your items’ freight class, and if you need special accommodations, you’ll pay accessorial fees. LTL shipments are also more prone to damage and delays.
Shared truckload shipping for electronics
Shared truckload (STL) is an ideal mode for shipping electronics. It has many of the benefits of FTL and LTL, but helps eliminate some of the drawbacks. Like LTL, it combines multiple shippers’ freight onto a single truck, so you still get the cost savings. But instead of moving it through a hub-and-spoke system, where it’s unloaded and loaded multiple times, it’s shipped directly to its destination. You get more on-time, in-full deliveries and less damage, plus cost savings.
Check out shared truckload for other industries to see how it makes a difference.
Insure your electronics freight
Shipping electronics by freight does have some special considerations, but with the right knowledge and an experienced guide, any business can ship their products on-time and damage-free. And just in case, there’s always freight insurance—an important part of shipping electronics. Learn more about shipping insurance for electronics in the next chapter.
How can I prevent damage to electronics during freight shipping?
Preventing damage when shipping electronics is all about packaging your products properly and working with the right carrier. Wrap items securely, use the appropriate box or crate for your goods, fill in all empty spaces, secure the items to the pallet, and always use a ramp for loading and unloading. You can also consider using a floating deck, which absorbs shock.
What is considered “electronics” in terms of freight shipping?
Consumer electronics are products that use electricity and are intended for everyday use. Speakers, headphones, smart devices, routers, computers, televisions, and game consoles are all classified as electronics. Appliances like dishwashers, toasters, vacuums, and dryers, are often categorized as home electronics because, like consumer electronics, they are high-value and require special shipping considerations.
How do electronics manufacturers ship freight?
Manufacturers have several options for shipping electronics. Those who are exporting products overseas often use ocean freight, then ship by rail once products arrive in port. Air shipping is also an option, although it’s the most expensive shipping mode. For domestic shippers, trucking is the preferred option. It’s reliable, cost-effective, and relatively fast.