Figuring Out Freight Class: Where to Start
Less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers in the U.S. calculate freight charges based on the National Motor Freight Traffic Association’s (NMFCA) tariff designations, known as freight class or classification. Using freight class for shipments helps to ensure accurate pricing, safe shipping conditions, as well as proper handling of loads from start to finish. But figuring out the freight class of your LTL shipment is not always easy. There are 18 freight classes ranging from class 50 (the least expensive) to class 500 (the most expensive). Freight class is determined by 4 main factors:
Density is often the biggest consideration when it comes to freight class. The density is the space the item occupies in relation to its weight. The density is calculated by dividing the weight of the item in pounds by its volume in cubic feet. Your item's volume in cubic feet is Length x Width x Height/1728, where all dimensions are measured in inches and 1728 represents the number of inches in a cubic foot.
Most freight stows well in trucks, but some items are regulated by the government or carrier policies. Some examples include:
- • Some items cannot be loaded together
- • Hazardous materials must be shipped in a particular way
- • Excessive weight, length or protrusions can make freight impossible to load with other freight
- • The absence of load-bearing surfaces can make freight impossible to stack
A quantifiable stow-ability classification represents the difficulty in loading and carrying these items.
Most freight is loaded with mechanical equipment and poses no handling difficulties, but some freight, due to weight, shape, fragility or hazardous properties, requires special attention. A classification that represents ease or difficulty of loading and carrying the freight is assigned to items.
Liability is probability of freight theft, damage, or damage to adjacent freight. Perishable cargo or cargo prone to spontaneous combustion or explosion is classified based on liability and assigned a value per pound, which is a fraction of the carrier's liability. Higher value items must also be classified higher as a more valuable item has a greater risk of theft, as well as the risk of damage would mean much higher costs than lower value items.
Similarly, if an item is particularly fragile, it becomes more difficult to transport and therefore has a higher classification. That is why there are two seemingly opposite item types can be in the same class: ping pong balls and powdered gold. The gold, while having a high density, also has a high value, making it a higher risk item. Ping pong balls on the other hand, have a very low density and value, but are extremely fragile and could be damaged easily.
Freight Class Examples
|Class #||Examples||Weight Per Cubic Foot||Properties|
|Class 50||Gravel, items that fit on standard shrink-wrapped 4x4 pallet, very durable||Over 50 pounds||High density, durable, low cost|
|Class 55||Bricks, cement, mortar, hardwood flooring, sand, steel bars, concrete tile, terrazzo||35-50 pounds|
|Class 60||Car accessories, car parts, machinery in crages||30-35 pounds|
|Class 65||Car accessories, car parts, bottled beverages, books in boxes||22.5-30 pounds|
|Class 70||Car accessories, car parts, car engines, metal castings, food items||15-22.5 pounds|
|Class 77.5||Tires, bathroom fixtures, tools (non hand-tools)||13.5-15 pounds|
|Class 85||Crated machinery, cast iron stoves, prepared food||12-13.5 pounds|
|Class 92.5||Computers, monitors, refidgerators, electric toothbrushes||10.5-12 pounds|
|Class 100||Boat covers, car covers, canvas, wine cases, caskets, used household goods||9-10.5 pounds|
|Class 110||Cabinets, framed artwork (low value), tablesaw||8-9 pounds|
|Class 125||Small household appliances, wooden furniture||7-8 pounds|
|Class 150||Auto sheetmetal parts, bookcases, clothing||6-7 pounds|
|Class 175||Clothing, couches, stuffed furniture, fish tanks or aquariums||5-6 pounds|
|Class 200||Auto sheetmetal parts, aircraft parts, aluminum table, packaged matresses, optical lenses||4-5 pounds|
|Class 250||Bamboo furniture, mattresses, boxsprings, plasma tv, car body sections (hoods, fenders, etc.)||3-4 pounds|
|Class 300||Wooden cabinets, tables, setup chairs, model boats, taxidermied animals||2-3 pounds|
|Class 400||Deer antlers, bags of chips, popcorn||1-2 pounds|
|Class 50||Bags of gold dust, ping pong balls, acid solutions containing disolved silver, gold or palladium||Less than 1 pound||Low density, high value, highest cost|
Don't Just Guess
Estimating and entering an incorrect class can be costly. If you incorrectly classify your shipment, it can be reclassified by the freight carrier. Disputing this is difficult, time consuming, and you will be charged the difference. An inaccurate classification may also cause mishandling of load contents during shipment resulting in damaged goods, financial losses for the shipper, and possibly dissatisfied customer at the point of delivery. Lastly, if product shipments are classed incorrectly, your freight quote will be inaccurate and you may be overcharged, or be charged additional fees once it is reclassified.
So Many Factors, So Little Time
There are multiple factors that go into determining the class, and because of this, many items can fall into multiple classes based on the various factors. One example of this would be cloth materials, which falls into three different freight classes (85, 100, and175). Cloth, cotton or synthetic fibers, bales or rolls fall into the 85 class, while disposable aprons, coveralls, pants or shirts, as well as cleaning rags all fall into class 100. Lastly, garments or apparel fall into class 175. As you can see, classifying any given shipment involves many factors and can be confusing. Partnering with a broker that specializes in LTL shipments can help you determine freight class.