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“What is freight class?”

“How do I calculate the correct freight class for my goods?”

These are two of the most asked questions in LTL transportation. And yet, freight class is one of the most important- yet misunderstood- concepts. Understanding the freight classification system can save your business time and money and avoid unnecessary hassles. In this article, we will explain the freight classification system, and how to calculate freight class for the 18 traditional freight classes and the 11 density-based freight classes listed below.

Role of Freight Class in LTL Shipping

Determining your shipment’s freight class is a vital step to effectively managing LTL freight as it is a big factor in determining your freight hard costs, but also is a very important factor when it comes to dealing with any possible freight claims.

Additionally, the most common problems we hear in the consultation process with shippers are often related to confusion with regards to which freight class to choose. As a 3PL, we often hear shippers say, “Well, I just pick Class 55 for all my freight. It’s just what I have always done.” This approach can potentially hurt a shipper in the long run. The shipper may save money on the freight shipment by picking a lower class, but then time is wasted when the carrier reclasses the freight and the invoice doesn’t match the expected costs, making a traffic manager seem ineffective.

A little education, especially when it comes to freight class, can really help you save not only money but time, resources, and, most importantly, avoid delays in getting freight inbound or outbound to your customer.

What is a Freight Class?

Freight classes are designed to help you get common standardized freight pricing for your shipment when working with different carriers, warehouses and brokers. Freight classes are defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) and made available through the NMFC or National Motor Freight Classification.

In the United States, each commodity or type of product is assigned a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) and corresponding class for less than truckload (LTL) freight shipments.  The (NMFC) system is a standardized method designed to give shippers a uniform pricing structure when transporting freight. There are 11 classes that a shipped package may fall under, with class 60 being the least expensive, to class 400 as the most expensive. The number assigned to an item is important to LTL carriers in determining the tariffs, which in turn determine the price charged to the customer.

Download your Guide to Calculating Freight Class Today!

Factors on How to Calculate Freight Class

Before you determine the freight class for your shipment, you must identify certain factors about your specific freight. Freight class is based on weight, length and height, density, ease of handling, value and liability related to theft, damage, breakability and spoilage. The definitions for each are as follows:

  1. Weight, Length, Height, Density and Value: Density guidelines assign classification 50 to freight that weighs 50 pounds per cubic foot. The Commodity Classification Standards Board (CCSB) assigns classifications 70, 92.5, 175 and 400 to freight with densities of 15, 10.5, 5, and 1 pound per cubic foot, respectively. Freight less dense than 1 pound per cubic foot is classified as 500. 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/1,728, where all dimensions are measured in inches (there are 1,728 cubic inches per cubic foot). The density of your item = Weight/Volume, where Weight is measured in pounds and Volume is measured in cubic feet.
  2. Stowability: Most freight stows well in trucks, trains and boats, but some articles are regulated by the government or by carrier policies. Some items cannot be loaded together. Hazardous materials are transported in a highly specific manner. 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 stowability classification represents the difficulty in loading and carrying these items.
  3. Handling: 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 the ease or difficulty of loading and carrying the freight is assigned to such items.
  4. Liability: Liability is a measurement of the probability of freight theft or 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. When classification is based on liability, density must also be considered.

The 18 Different Types of Freight Class

 

Class Name

Cost

Notes, Examples

Weight Range Per Cubic Foot

Class 50 – Clean Freight Lowest Cost Fits on standard shrink-wrapped 4X4 pallet, very durable over 50 lbs.
Class 55 Bricks, cement, mortar, hardwood flooring 35-50 lbs.
Class 60 Car accessories & car parts 30-35 lbs.
Class 65 Car accessories & car parts, bottled beverages, books in boxes 22.5-30 lbs.
Class 70 Car accessories & car parts, food items, automobile engines 15 to 22.5 lbs.
Class 77.5 Tires, bathroom fixtures 13.5 to 15 lbs.
Class 85 Crated machinery, cast iron stoves 12-13.5 lbs.
Class 92.5 Computers, monitors, refrigerators 10.5-12 lbs.
Class 100 Boat covers, car covers, canvas, wine cases, caskets 9-10.5 lbs.
Class 110 Cabinets, framed artwork, table saw 8-9 lbs.
Class 125 Small Household appliances 7-8 lbs.
Class 150 Auto sheet metal parts, bookcases, 6-7 lbs.
Class 175 Clothing, couches stuffed furniture 5-6 lbs.
Class 200 Auto sheet metal parts, aircraft parts, aluminum table, packaged mattresses, 4-5 lbs.
Class 250 Bamboo furniture, mattress and box spring, plasma TV 3-4 lbs.
Class 300 Wood cabinets, tables, chairs setup, model boats 2-3 lbs.
Class 400 Deer antlers 1-2 lbs.
Class 500 – Low Density or High Value Highest Cost Bags of gold dust, ping pong balls < 1 lbs.

How About True Density-Based Class?

In August of 2017, the NMFTA changed its classification for true density-based items.

Absent any unusual or significant handling, stowability or liability characteristics, density is of prime importance in the assignment of classes. The CCSB has developed density guidelines that are based on the precedent of pertinent administrative as well as classification decisions.

The density guidelines are used in the assignment of classes where the average density of a commodity or group of commodities is representative or reflective of the range of densities exhibited by that commodity or commodity group. Furthermore, the density/class relationships set forth in the guidelines presume that there are no unusual or significant handling, stowability or liability characteristics, which would call for giving those characteristics additional or different “weight” in determining the appropriate class.

Commodities or commodity groups exhibiting a wide density range not accurately reflected by a single overall average density may be assigned density-based classes; especially where there are no unusual or significant handling, stowability or liability characteristics and where there is no other feasible means of effectively narrowing the range. And where densities are distributed throughout the range, commodities or commodity groups may be assigned classes predicated on a full density scale. In this regard, full-scale density classifications should generally provide the following standard progression:

Class

Examples

Weight Per Cubic Foot

Class 60 Fits on standard shrink-wrapped 4X4 pallet, very durable Over 30 lbs.
Class 65 Car accessories & car parts, bottled beverages, books in boxes 22.5-30 lbs.
Class 70 Car accessories & car parts, food items, automobile engines 15- 22.5 lbs.
Class 85 Crated machinery, cast iron stoves 12- 15 lbs.
Class 92.5 Computers, monitors, refrigerators 10- 12 lbs.
Class 100 Boat covers, car covers, canvas, wine cases, caskets 8- 10 lbs.
Class 125 Small Household appliances 6- 7 lbs.
Class 175 Clothing, couches stuffed furniture 4- 6 lbs.
Class 250 Auto sheet metal parts, aircraft parts, aluminum table, packaged
mattresses, bamboo furniture, mattress and box spring, plasma tv
2- 4 lbs.
Class 300 Deer antlers, Cans of food, Cutlery 1- 2 lbs.
Class 400 Bags of gold dust, ping pong balls < 1 lbs.

A Practical Example to Calculating Freight Class

Shippers can calculate freight class for a commodity in different ways:

As seen below, the NMFC for plastic hose or tubing is 51140.

Screenshot from SMC3 Fast Class Software

To properly freight class a shipment of 1 pallet of rubber hose, we need to know the pallet dimension and weight. This product ships on a standard pallet that can be double stacked for shipment. The dimensions are 48” L x 40” W x 45.5” H and the weight including pallet is 243.2 lbs. Using the formula shown above (and repeated below with the numbers from our example) we derive a PCF of 4.8 PCF.  Therefore, using the table above our freight would be NMFC class 51140-4 rated at class 175 since this falls under the 11-tier new table from the NMFC.

Of course, if you don’t want to calculate freight density manually, please complete the form at the top of this article to get access to our handy freight density calculator.

As we hope the above demonstrates, understanding and correctly determining freight class is critically important to your shipping operations. Getting it wrong can be costly, as incorrect classifications will result in your freight being reclassified- and rebilled- by the freight carrier. Disputing this is time-consuming, and you will be charged the difference (usually without a discount).

As always, GlobalTranz’s team of LTL experts stands at the ready to assist you through the complexities of LTL shipping. Please contact us and put our expertise to work for you.