Freight Class - What Does It Mean

Have you ever wondered what does class mean or how do you determine the class of your shipment? Well you are not alone. It can be a bit confusing when you are running a quote and you are asked to select a class, especially if you are not a frequent shipper or it is your first time. You may ask yourself, what is class? Why is class important?  How is it determined? Where do I find the correct class for my shipment? Below are the answers to many of your questions.

What is class?

The class is basically what determines most LTL common carrier shipping rates, and it is determined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) through a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) number.

Each commodity or item being shipped has its own NMFC number with its corresponding class. There are 18 different classes that an LTL shipment can be classified under ranging from class 50 to class 500. For a given weight between two zip codes, generally a lower class means a lower rate.


Why is selecting the correct class important?

It is important to know the correct class of your items before you get a quote for your shipment, or your quote will most likely be very inaccurate. If the class selected is not accurate, not only will the rate quoted be invalid but there is also an excellent chance that the carrier moving your shipment will reclassify the item and add hundreds of dollars in extra charges to your bill.

How to determine class?

As mentioned before, there are 18 different classes that an LTL shipment can be classified under ranging from class 50 to class 500. Class is determined by commodity description, density, packaging and handling characteristics, value of product and its likelihood of theft.

The density is the space the load occupies in relation to its weight. It is calculated by dividing the weight of the item in pounds by its volume in cubic feet. The volume in cubic feet is Length x Width x Height/1,728, where all dimensions are measured in inches. Weight/Volume equals density.

Although the class of many items can be determined based on their density, some will always have a specific freight class no matter what their density is or how they are packaged. One example is a transmission, which will always be class 85. Others will be based on their packaging. For example, most boxed kayaks are class 250 or 300; however, unboxed are class 400. Another example is household items: they are strictly Class 150 if packaged in boxes or crates or Class 250, if they have other packaging other than boxes or crates.

Below you can find examples of general commodities and their corresponding classes.

Freight Class Examples

If it is your first time shipping an item or if you are not sure what class to select, you can contact  and speak with a highly trained specialist that will be able to help you determine the correct class for your item to avoid extra charges later. You can also contact the manufacturer of your item. Most of the time they will know the NMFC codes for their products. Also, you may try to call the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) for assistance on classification of items. As a last resource you can try an internet search for the correct class for your item, although this may not always yield reliable results.

Knowing the NMFC numbers and corresponding class of what you ship or have shipped for you is critical if you wish to obtain reliable, competitive pricing for the goods you move. Such knowledge will help you avoid expensive surprises and pointless after-the-fact arguments with Carriers. Legally and contractually, a shipper or a buyer of freight who provides a Bill of Lading to his shipper, by agreeing to the Carrier’s Tariff and tendering freight to a Carrier, is liable for errors in description, weight, class and even NMFC numbers should those details have safety or loss implications. Use the FreightRun Shipping Specialists as a resource to avoid such problems and save money when you obtain your LTL pricing online.