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How to Find Freight Class

FreightCenter can help you find your freight class and ensure a successful shipment.

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The biggest challenge for all shippers is understanding the freight class of what you are shipping. FreightCenter offers tools and expertise on how to find the freight class of your shipment.

Overview

Freight class is a standardized classification system for commodities transported via LTL freight shipping. It is used by carriers for pricing freight rates and formulating the cost to ship your freight.

The classification system also ensures that customers receive an unbiased price when shipping freight. Freight class is assigned to a shipment based on either the specific commodity being transported or the total density of the freight being shipped.

Factors that Determine Your Freight’s Class

Four transportation characteristics determine freight class:

freight class explained
  • Stowability – Stowability takes into account how your freight can be transported with other commodities. Freight that is flammable, perishable, or hazardous is regulated and can’t be shipped with certain materials. When thinking about stow-ability, consider how your freight is packaged. Items that are crated or boxed are usually stackable and easier to pack inside a cargo container or truck.
  • Liability – Liability refers to the value of a commodity, the likelihood of theft or damage, and the probability of the item causing damage to other freight during shipping. Possessing a greater risk will result in a higher freight class.
  • Ease of handling – When classifying freight, the level of care needed during shipping is taken into consideration. If the item is fragile, requires special attention, or has hazardous properties it will fit into a higher class and increase the shipping cost. Size, weight, and shape also contribute to freight class.
  • Density – Density, or pounds per cubic foot, is the measurable amount of space needed for an item. Commodities that are compact and have a higher density fall into a lower class and are cheaper to ship than bulky items. Use our freight density calculator to find the density of your freight.

The freight class of the items you are transporting is a major factor in determining the cost of your freight shipment. There are 18 freight classes – ranging from 50 (the least expensive) to 500 (the most expensive).

Items that are high in density (heavy and compact) and less susceptible to damage are given a lower freight class. Items that are low in density and more susceptible to damage are given a higher freight class. You can use our freight class lookup tool or freight class calculator to view the freight class of other commonly shipped items.

How to Find Freight Class

3 easy steps to calculate the weight density and freight class

  1. Measure the height, width, and depth of the shipment.  When taking these measurements you must include the entire handling unit meaning you must include the pallets or other packaging in your measurements. (On shipments with multiple pieces, repeat this step for each piece).
  2. Multiply (height x width x depth). Multiplying these will give you the total cubic inches of the shipment. If you have multiple pieces, multiply the height x width x depth for each piece. Take the results for each piece and add them together to get the total cubic inches Once you get your total cubic inches, you must convert this to cubic feet. This is easily done by simply, dividing the total cubic inches by 1,728. NOTE: the 1728 variable comes from there are 1768 cubic inches 1 cubic ft. ie. 12x12x12 = 1728.
  3. Then, divide the weight (in pounds) of the shipment by the total cubic feet. Doing this will give you the pounds per cubic foot, or weight density. Don’t forget that if you have multiple pieces, you must add the weight of each piece together before dividing by the total cubic feet of the shipment.
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Freight Class vs Density-Based Shipping

Density is used for shipping objects that vary in size or when the number of items shipped varies from shipment to shipment.

For example, commodities such as wooden tables and clothing are classified simply by density.

  • Wooden tables are considered density-based because there is no one standard size for tables. The shipper could be shipping small coffee tables or large dining room tables; therefore, it is more accurate to use density.
  • Clothing is shipped using density because the shipper could be transporting 500 pounds or a ton. These types of shipments are based on density because the NMFC code is not enough to determine the freight class.

There are some items that are not classified by a freight class or NMFC number at all. These items fall into a general category referred to as Not Otherwise Indicated (NOI). In these special cases, the freight class is based on density. If your product has a density-based freight class or is considered NOI, you can use our NOI calculator to estimate its freight class.

You can use our freight density calculator to determine the density of your shipment.

What if You Don’t Know Your Shipment’s Freight Class?

If you aren’t sure about your freight shipment’s freight class, follow these steps:

  • Use our freight class lookup or freight class calculator tool to find your item’s freight class based on stowability, liability, ease of handling, and density.
  • Calculate your freight density with our Freight Class/Density calculator.
  • Call 800.716.7608 to speak with a FreightCenter Freight Agent.

Have freight to ship? Get started with our instant freight quote tool.

Common Questions

Higher Freight Class More Expensive?

Higher freight class is more expensive due to several factors, including density, stowability, handling, and liability. For example, some items with the highest freight class of 500 include ping-pong balls. Due to their lack of density and gold dust (due to the risk of theft). You'd think at first that an item's numbers being high in its calculations would mean a high freight class. However, it is a complicated mix of high and low rankings that we'll fully explain below.

Low Density : High Freight Class

Does a Low-Density Item have a Higher Freight Class?

Items with low-density are given a higher class. In relation to the item being more susceptible to damage. Density is how much the item weighs in comparison to its size. Shippers measure items by cubic foot. These measurements determine the amount of space needed for the shipment. Lower freight class is given when the item is compact, and is cheaper to ship than bulkier items.

High Freight Class Stowability

Stowability

Stowability is the first and main calculation of all shipping companies. Calculations are taken into account on whether or not your item can be transported with other commodities. Items that can catch fire, are hazardous, or perishable cannot be shipped with certain other materials. At FreightCenter, we recommend keeping your shipment within a crate or a very sturdy box. This would make your shipment stackable, and easier to pack with other cargo/freight. In essence, the fewer items that can be stored around it, the more expensive the cost.

Shipping class for HAZMAT.

Handling

The level of care required for your shipment is part of calculating your freight class. The more attention your item needs, the higher the cost. For example, a family heirloom is a used item and thus can't be protected with add-on shipping insurance. In addition, hazardous materials that are at risk of things, such as catching on fire, as well. These items would need special attention and would earn themselves a high freight class. Higher handling needed, raises the cost.

Liability

Liability is the likelihood of theft and or damage attempts to the vehicle shipping the item. The value of the item is what calculates its liability. The higher the chances, the higher the freight class. This raises the cost for understandable reasons. Especially for shipments involving longer commutes. The longer it takes to ship the item, the greater the risk.

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How Do I Choose a Freight Class?

Freight class is determined by four transportation factors: stowability, liability, ease of handling and density. High density (heavy and compact) items and less susceptible to damage and are given a lower freight class.

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