How To Understand Freight Classifications & Reduce Shipping Costs

Posted in Blog on May 09, 2016, tagged with freight classifications, freight shipping, moving costs

When shipping items by freight, each shipment falls under a select classification. These classifications are the basis of how carriers quote and bill for shipping freight items, but they can be difficult to understand if you aren't familiar with how freight shipping works. This article will help you understand how freight classifications work, and how you can take advantage of the rules to reduce the cost of shipping your item(s). 

What Are Freight Classifications?

When freight-shipping an item, the carrier will assign it a freight classification. The freight classification system was developed and is overseen by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), and is referred to in the industry as the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC). There are 18 freight classifications. In order of cost from lowest to highest, these 18 freight classifications are listed below, along with examples and the weight range per cubic foot.

  1. Class 50 — Fits on standard pallets, durable (over 50 pounds)
  2. Class 55 — Bricks, cement (35-50 pounds)
  3. Class 60 — Automotive parts (30-35 pounds)
  4. Class 65 — Bottled beverages, boxes of books (22.5-30 pounds)
  5. Class 70 — Car engines, automotive parts (15-22.5 pounds)
  6. Class 77.5 — Tires, bathroom fixtures (13.5-15 pounds)
  7. Class 85 — Crated machinery, transmissions (12-13.5 pounds)
  8. Class 92.5 — Computers, refrigerators (10.5-12 pounds)
  9. Class 100 — Boat covers (9-10.5 pounds)
  10. Class 110 — Framed artwork, table saw (8-9 pounds)
  11. Class 125 — Small appliances (7-8 pounds)
  12. Class 150 — Bookcases (6-7 pounds)
  13. Class 175 — Padded furniture, couches (5-6 pounds)
  14. Class 200 — Boxed mattresses (4-5 pounds)
  15. Class 250 — Mattresses and box springs, plasma TV (3-4 pounds)
  16. Class 300 — Cabinets, tables (2-3 pounds)
  17. Class 400 — Deer antlers (1-2 pounds)
  18. Class 500 — (Low density or high value) Bags of gold dust, pingpong balls (less than 1 pound)

Factors That Determine the Freight Classification of an Item

  1. Density. The most significant factor in determining an item’s freight classification is density (the “weight range per cubic foot” designation in the list above). The denser the item(s), more of it can be loaded in the truck trailer. Generally speaking, the more material the hauler carries, the more revenue it mak es — a trailer full of cement or bricks produces more revenue than a truckload full of coffee tables. However, other factors also come into play.
  1. Ease of stowing is another important factor. Twenty boxes of books are easier to stow than a swingset or a piano. Items that are not easily stacked because of fragility or shape occupy more space in the truck, therefore reducing the amount of freight-shipping items the carrier can load. If the item is hazardous material, the carrier will have to follow specific regulations that increase cost.
  1. Handling is another consideration in freight classifications. Fragile items, hazardous items, refrigerated items, items that are not palletized, etc., require special equipment, special vehicles and/or special expertise to handle safely.
  1. Liability is the fourth factor in determining freight classification. Some items are more liable to damage (and damaging other freight being carried) than others. High-liability items include hazardous materials, perishable items and fragile antiques. Extremely valuable items such as antiques and certain electronic equipment are more liable to theft, which also increases carrier liability.

Density calculator: For freight-shipping items, density is calculated by dividing the item’s weight (pounds) by the item’s volume (cubic feet). Volume calculation, measured in inches, is length x width x height, divided by 1,728. As you can see from the information presented, the designation is not always cut-and-dried. Although there are numerous online freight charge estimators, we recommend you work with carriers to make the freight classification designation for your item(s).

How to Reduce Your Freight Charges by Understanding Freight Classifications

Knowing a bit about the freight classification system and how it’s determined is helpful in managing cost when you need to ship something from Point A to Point B via truck. Consider these options before asking for a rate quotation from a carrier.

  • Packing loose items such as books in shipping boxes makes for easier stowing and handling. Be careful not to overfill shipping boxes or use shipping boxes that are too large — the former makes for more difficult stacking, and the latter makes for heavier, hard-to-handle boxes.
  • Go a step further by palletizing boxed items and securing the boxes to the pallet with stretch film or plastic banding. Palletized loads are easy for carriers to handle with forklifts or pallet jacks.
  • Crate odd-shaped or fragile items such as antique tables or chairs. Proper crating of such items greatly increases stowability and makes handling easier. Crating may also reduce liability concerns for the carrier.
  • Remove protruding and/or fragile pieces from items. For instance, removing handles and knobs — or inverting them — from the drawers and glass panels of an antique china cabinet eliminates areas of possible damage in its stowing and handling. Chair legs, table legs, glass doors, glass panels and lampshades are good candidates for removal, to be boxed and shipped separately.
  • When you have a problematic item to ship, seek carriers that specialize in that type of material. Certain carriers specialize in the shipping of hazardous materials, refrigerated items, antiques, etc. The appropriate carrier may charge a bit more, but reducing the risk of damage to your property will make it a sound investment and help you sleep at night. On the other hand, a specialized carrier may well charge less because it is more efficient and confident in taking care of your job.

Let Us Help You With Your Freight Classification Questions

If you are short on time to take care of determining freight classifications and identifying the right trucker for your job, Transit Systems specializes in freight shipping and will do the legwork for you. We have years of experience in shipping antiques, valuable items, heavy items and odd-shaped items, along with everyday residential and commercial items. We understand freight classifications inside and out, and can quickly match your requirements to the right carrier. We also offer white glove service for customers in need of special crating or other preparation for the shipping of difficult items. Whatever level of service you need for your shipping job, we will deliver. Please contact us now to learn more.