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Freight Class for LTL Shipping Explained

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?

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 freight 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.

Stowability: Stowability means how the shipment can be arranged with other freight in the transport vehicle. 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. Class helps carriers optimize the loading and unloading processes. By categorizing freight based on characteristics like size and weight, carriers can efficiently stack and organize shipments within trailers, maximizing the use of available space.

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.

Why does freight class impact my costs?

Freight Class significantly influences shipping costs, with LTL carriers using the classification to calculate freight charges. Higher classes generally result in higher rates. Understanding your freight’s classification is crucial for accurate pricing, ensuring that shippers pay a fair price for both the space occupied and the handling requirements. Dense freight, with its lower chance of damage, contrasts with handling fragile items like glass compared to more robust materials like bricks.

Freight Class Chart and NMFC Code List Lookup

Different commodities have a different combination of these four factors and this NMFC codes list divides 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 NameSamplesWeight Range Per Cubic FootCost
Class 50 – Clean FreightFits on standard shrink-wrapped 4X4 pallet, strapping material, flourOver 50 lbs.Lowest
Class 55Bricks, cement, mortar, hardwood flooring, cloths or rags, magazines, copy paper35 – 50 lbs 
Class 60Car accessories & car parts, steel cables, used tires, stone blocks, glass, moldings30 – 35 lbs 
Class 65Car parts & accessories, bottled beverages, books in boxes, conveyors, chocolate in boxes, electric cords, tile22.5 – 30 lbs 
Class 70Newspapers, wooden pencils, machinery, caskets, unassembled furniture, food items, automobile engines15 – 22.5 lbs 
Class 77.5Tires, bathroom fixtures, garments, shirts/pants, snowplows,13.5 – 15 lbs. 
Class 85Crated machinery, transmissions, clutches, doors, CDs/DVDs, motorcycle engine12 – 13.5 lbs 
Class 92.5Computers, monitors, refrigerators and freezers, gas-powered generators, cabinets, kiosk or ATMs10.5 – 12 lbs 
Class 100Vacuum, boat & car covers, canvas, wine cases, caskets9 – 10.5 lbs 
Class 110Cabinets, framed paintings & artwork, table saw, metalworking8 – 9 lbs 
Class 125Small household appliances, pictures/posters in boxes, exhibit booths, vending machines7 – 8 lbs 
Class 150ATV, jet skis, motorcycles, assembled wooden furniture, work stations6 – 7 lbs 
Class 175Clothing, couches, stuffed furniture, metal cabinets,5 – 6 lbs 
Class 200TVs, aircraft parts, aluminum table, packaged mattresses, snowmobiles4 – 5 lbs 
Class 250Bamboo furniture, engine hoods, mattresses and box springs, unassembled couch, plasma TV3 – 4 lbs 
Class 300Wood cabinets, tables, chairs, model boats, kayaks/canoes, chassis2 – 3 lbs 
Class 400Deer antlers1 – 2 lbs 
Class 500 (Low Density or High Value)Bags of gold dust, ping pong ballsLess than 1 lb.Highest

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 is assigned one class at 55 with NMFC #37860, whereas plastic articles are assigned NMFC #156600 with 11 subs meaning the class is determined by the density. These codes can be accessed via an NMFC database, which is constantly being updated. Many carriers and LTL freight 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 freight BOL used at the time of pickup. Your LTL shipping expert can help you do this, as they should have access to the NMFC database.

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 classification 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 LTL shipping expert to help you look up your item in the NMFC database.

How to Find your Correct Freight Class or NMFC Code

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 LTL freight 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 freight BOL used at the time of pickup. Your LTL shipping expert can help you do this, as they should have access to the NMFC database. Below, we’ve also included 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 freight shipping companies. In the long run (like Vegas) the house always wins and you’ll end up paying penalties for constant re-classes.

As you can see, there’s a lot to know about freight class, but if you do have questions, FreightPros powered by NTG will be able to help you find the correct class for your shipment.

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