Freight Class is an important part of the LTL shipping industry, but one that most new shippers are confused by. What is freight class? How do I find mine? How does the class affect my shipping price? Read on, my friend! You're in the right place.
What is Freight Class?
Let's begin with a definition. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) defines a class as a way "to establish a commodity's transportability." The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is the standard which enforces this system, grouping commodities into one of 18 classes - ranging from 50 to 500. The NMFC determines this class using four characteristics: Density, Stowability, Handling, and Liability.
Density: An item's density is determined by its weight and dimensions. Check out our density calculator to determine your item's density in pounds per cubic foot. The higher the density, the lower the class and ultimately, the lower the cost. This may seem backward at first glance, but consider this: Carriers love shipping freight that is heavy and doesn't take up much space compared to its weight. This means they can fit more product on their truck, which means more cash in their wallets.
Stowability: Stowability means how the shipment can be arranged with other freight in the transport vehicle. A good rule of thumb is to think of it as an item's ability to be "stowed" or transported in relation to other items. This takes into account hazardous shipments (which cannot be moved with non-hazardous shipments) or items with strange dimensions that make it difficult to load freight around them.
Handling: Handling concerns the item's ability to be handled as the freight is loaded and unloaded from LTL terminal to LTL terminal. Dimensions, fragility, and packaging play a role in how difficult an item is to handle.
Liability: Liability takes into account the probability of the shipment being damaged or stolen, or damaging other adjacent freight - as well as the perishability or possibility of freight theft of the item.
How Freight Class Affects Quote Prices
This part is simple-- The lower your class, the lower the price. An item that is a class 50 will be cheaper to ship than an item that is class 500.
Freight Class List
Different commodities have a different combination of these four factors and the NMFC codes divide them into 18 classes numbered from 50 to 500.
In the table below you will see samples of goods that are usually found in each class.
|Class Name||Samples||Weight Range Per Cubic Foot||Cost|
|Class 50 - Clean Freight||Fits on standard shrink-wrapped 4X4 pallet, strapping material, flour||Over 50 lbs.||Lowest|
|Class 55||Bricks, cement, mortar, hardwood flooring, cloths or rags, magazines, copy paper||35 - 50 lbs|
|Class 60||Car accessories & car parts, steel cables, used tires, stone blocks, glass, moldings||30 - 35 lbs|
|Class 65||Car parts & accessories, bottled beverages, books in boxes, conveyors, chocolate in boxes, electric cords, tile||22.5 - 30 lbs|
|Class 70||Newspapers, wooden pencils, machinery, caskets, unassembled furniture, food items, automobile engines||15 - 22.5 lbs|
|Class 77.5||Tires, bathroom fixtures, garments, shirts/pants, snowplows,||13.5 - 15 lbs.|
|Class 85||Crated machinery, transmissions, clutches, doors, CDs/DVDs, motorcycle engine||12 - 13.5 lbs|
|Class 92.5||Computers, monitors, refrigerators and freezers, gas-powered generators, cabinets, kiosk or ATMs||10.5 - 12 lbs|
|Class 100||Vacuum, boat & car covers, canvas, wine cases, caskets||9 - 10.5 lbs|
|Class 110||Cabinets, framed paintings & artwork, table saw, metalworking||8 - 9 lbs|
|Class 125||Small household appliances, pictures/posters in boxes, exhibit booths, vending machines||7 - 8 lbs|
|Class 150||ATV, jet skis, motorcycles, assembled wooden furniture, work stations||6 - 7 lbs|
|Class 175||Clothing, couches, stuffed furniture, metal cabinets,||5 - 6 lbs|
|Class 200||TVs, aircraft parts, aluminum table, packaged mattresses, snowmobiles||4 - 5 lbs|
|Class 250||Bamboo furniture, engine hoods, mattresses and box springs, unassembled couch, plasma TV||3 - 4 lbs|
|Class 300||Wood cabinets, tables, chairs, model boats, kayaks/canoes, chassis||2 - 3 lbs|
|Class 400||Deer antlers||1 - 2 lbs|
|Class 500 (Low Density or High Value)||Bags of gold dust, ping pong balls||Less than 1 lb.||Highest cost|
What are NMFC Codes?
Each LTL shipping item has an NMFC code associated with it. NMFC codes are similar in concept to PLU codes at a grocery store-- Every item that could be shipped is assigned a code. For example, hardwood flooring may be assigned NMFC #37860, whereas corrugated boxes may be assigned NMFC #29250. These codes can be accessed via an NMFC database, which is constantly being updated. Let a FreightPro know if you need help finding the correct NMFC code for your product, as this is step 1 in determining your freight class. The NMFC code will tell you how to class your item. Some items have a permanent class, whereas others could be classed based on density, packaging, value, or other factors.
An item that is density-based means that the freight's density will determine the class. For example, Machinery may fit under NMFC #133300, which the database says is a density-based code. If you're shipping machinery, you'll need to first determine the item's density (based on weight, dimensions and pallet count), and will then be able to calculate a freight class. With most density-based classes, a lower density means a higher class, and a higher density means a lower class. Using our example, let's say we have 2 machines on standard-sized pallets with the same dimensions (48''x40''x48''). Machine #1 weighs 1000 lbs, and Machine #2 weighs 500 lbs. This means that Machine #1 is denser than Machine #2, giving it a lower freight class and (usually!) a cheaper price.
On the other hand, some shipping items have a permanent class regardless of their size or weight. An example of a fixed-class item would be a transmission. A transmission's NMFC code is 19940, which classes at 85 no matter the size, weight, or packaging. There may also be NMFC codes that class based on how an item is packaged, its value, or any other product characteristic. The only way to know for sure is to get your freight broker to help you look up your item in the NMFC database.
Finding Your Correct Freight Class
We've covered what a shipping class is, as well as how it affects the cost of your freight shipping, so let's finish up with how to find the correct class for your freight. Many carriers and brokers offer a freight class calculator that will determine the density and estimated class. These tools are convenient for casual shippers, but keep in mind that they offer only "estimated" classes. If you're looking to avoid freight reclasses, the only way to ensure your class is to confirm your freight class using the correct NMFC code, and making sure it is visible and legible on the BOL used at the time of pickup. Your freight broker can you help you do this, as they should have access to the NMFC database.
As you can see, there's a lot to say about class, but if you do have questions, your freight broker will be able to help you find the correct class for your shipment. In conclusion, here are a few classing tips to keep your shipping simple and easy.
Freight Class Tips & Tricks
- ALWAYS include the NFMC code on the BOL so the carrier can see it.
- ALWAYS include the freight description on the BOL to the best of your ability. Something labeled "shipping item" is much more likely to be re-classed, as the carrier has no idea what the freight is and therefore no idea what class is correct.
- Class calculators can give the exact density of a shipment, however, their classes are always estimates. Not all items have density-based classes!
- Be aware of carrier habits. All carriers are not created equal and some are harder on re-classes and inspections than others. Know the limitations of the carriers you'll be using.
- BE HONEST. Resist the urge to cheat on your freight class to fool the shipping companies. In the long run (like Vegas) the house always wins and you'll end up paying penalties for constant re-classes.
Looking for more information on shipping? Check out our brand new freight shipping guide. It's Free!