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Freight Shipping Classifications

LTL shipping is priced based on freight class. The freight class of the cargo you plan to ship helps determine the cost of your shipment, and it’s also important information to have on hand if you need to make a claim on a lost or damaged shipment.

When you're preparing your goods for shipment, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of freight shipping terms you need to understand before your shipment hits the road - and that includes freight classifications. Freight class is one of the most common - and most confusing - freight shipping terms you'll encounter. So, what exactly is freight shipping class?

In the United States, each commodity or type of product is assigned a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC). Freight shipping classes are defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), and establish a standardized system designed to provide consumers (both residential and commercial) with a uniform pricing structure when transporting freight.

Freight shipping class is determined by four factors:

  1. Density
  2. Stowability
  3. Handling
  4. Liability

Let’s take a closer look at each of these factors.

1. Density

Density describes the space your cargo occupies in relation to its weight. It’s calculated by dividing the weight of the item in pounds by its volume in cubic feet. Unless there are any major concerns with stowability, handling, or liability, density is the most significant factor when assigning a freight class.

How to calculate density:

  1. Measure the length, width, and height in inches of your freight in its packaging.
  1. Multiply Length x Width x Height to calculate the volume of your cargo in cubic inches.

L x W x H = inches3

  1. To calculate cubic feet, divide the volume of your freight in inches3 by 1,728 (the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot).

inches3 / 1,728 = feet3

  1. To calculate density, divide the weight of your freight by total cubic feet.

feet3 x weight in lbs = freight density

2. Stowability

Stowability quantifies the ease or difficulty of loading and carrying your cargo onto and off of the truck.

Most freight is easily stowable in trucks, trains, and boats, but some cargo is regulated by government or carrier policies that will make stowability more difficult. For example:

  • Some items cannot be stowed together.
  • Hazardous materials must be transported according to specific safety policies and regulations.
  • Excessive weight, length, or oddly shaped protrusions may make it impossible to load your cargo with other freight.
  • Some freight can’t bear additional load, and therefore can’t be stacked.

3. Handling

Freight is often loaded using mechanical equipment. Most freight poses no difficulties, but some cargo requires special attention because of its weight, shape, fragility, or other safety hazards.

4. Liability

Liability measures the probability of freight theft or damage, as well as the likelihood of damage due to adjacent freight. Perishable cargo, or cargo that is prone to spontaneous combustion or explosion, is classified according to liability and assigned a value per pound.

Freight Shipping Classifications (lowest cost to highest cost)

There are 18 freight classifications. Use this chart to help determine your freight shipping class:

Cost
Class Name
Examples
Weight Range per Cubic Foot

Lowest cost

50 - Clean Freight

Cargo that fits onto a standard, shrink-wrapped 4x4 foot palette; very durable

Over 50lbs

 

55

Bricks, cement, hardwood flooring

35-50lbs

 

60

Car accessories and car parts

30-35lbs

 

65

Car accessories and parts, bottled beverages, books in boxes

22.5-30lbs

 

70

Car accessories and parts, food items, automobile engines

15-22.5lbs

 

77.5

Tires, bathroom fixtures

13.5-15lbs

 

85

Crated machinery, cast-iron stoves

12-13.5lbs

 

92.5

Computers, monitors, refrigerators

10.5-12lbs

 

100

Boat covers, car covers, canvas, wine cases

9-10.5lbs

 

110

Cabinets, framed artwork, table saw

8-9lbs

 

125

Small household appliances

7-8lbs

 

150

Auto sheet metal parts, empty bookcases

6-7lbs

 

175

Clothing, couches and other stuffed furniture

5-6lbs

 

 

200

Auto sheet metal parts, aircraft parts, packaged mattresses

4-5lbs

 

250

Bamboo furniture, mattress and box spring, plasma TVs

3-4lbs

 

300

Wood cabinets, tables, chairs

2-3lbs

 

400

Deer antlers

1-2lbs

Highest cost

500

Bags of gold dust, ping pong balls

Less than 1lb

Download Freight Shipping Guide PDF

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