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Freight Class

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Understanding freight class is one of the biggest challenges for new and experienced shippers alike. FreightCenter offers tools and expertise to assist you in determining the freight class of your shipment.

Freight Class 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.

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Factors that Determine Freight 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.

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 your shipments density.

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

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

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Common Questions

Is a Higher Freight Class More Expensive?

Higher freight classes are 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).

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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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