Are Freight Costs for Rotor Blades About to Change?

In mid-December the Commodity Classification Standards Board (CCSB) issued a Notice of Proposed Amendment to the National Motor Freight Classification.  Specifically, the proposed amendment seeks to reclassify helicopter rotor blades and leading edge coverings, and make clarifications regarding aircraft propeller blades.  Those distributors that sell and ship rotorcraft blades and leading edge coverings may wish to review the proposed amendment to determine the potential cost effects of the proposed reclassifications.

The National Motor Freight Classification is a voluntary standard that assigns classes based on a product’s transportation characteristics, and provides a comparison of those products when they are shipped via motor carrier.  The transportation characteristics of a product are determined based on its dimensions, density, ease of handling, and potential liability due to damage or other factors.  Products once classified are assigned a class name (e.g., Class 50; Class 100; Class 300) with higher class names generally having a greater cost to ship.

The provisions pertaining to leading edge coverings and rotor blades were initially developed in the 1950s.  Leading edges were assigned item number 12110 and rotor blades 12130, and freight classes 70 and 100, respectively.  In the intervening years, technological advances in manufacturing and materials have resulted in leading edges and blades becoming longer and less dense.  The effect of these advances is that the original freight classes assigned to the item numbers no longer accurately reflect the shipping characteristics of leading edges and blades of increasing length.

The proposed amendment suggests that as edges and blades grow longer and less dense, the costs of handling, practicalities of stowing, and potential liability due to damage increases, and therefore items of increasing length should be assigned differing freight classes to reflect the varying transportation characteristics.  The amendment therefore makes two proposals:  First, it would cancel item number 12110 pertaining to leading edges and redefine item 12130 to include both rotor blades and leading edges.  This is due to the understanding that leading edges and rotor blades have similar transport characteristics.

Second, the amendment would assign different freight classes to blades of increased lengths as follows:

Greatest Dimension Proposed Class
Exceeding 288 inches 300
Exceeding 192 inches but not exceeding 288 inches 175
Exceeding 96 inches but not exceeding 192 inches 100
Not exceeding 96 inches 92.5

These proposed classes greatly exceed the current freight classes assigned to leading edges and blades, and as such have the potential to substantially increase transportation costs.  It should also be noted that the proposed classes exceed the class suggested by CCSB’s own density guidelines.

A final element of the proposal would also specifically exclude rotor blades and edges from category 12280 pertaining to aircraft propeller blades to avoid confusion or ambiguity.

Persons with information regarding the transportation characteristics of rotor blades and leading edge coverings are invited to submit a written statement to CCSB prior to their meeting on Tuesday, January 28, 2014.  Information regarding this proposal may be found at CCSB Docket 2014-1.  Distributors should take the opportunity to review the docket and data therein to determine what potential effects such reclassifications would have on their shipping and transportation costs, as well as to determine if the proposed classes are reasonable based on the transport characteristics of the articles.


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