Freight class (as well as NMFC Codes) are required only when you are shipping freight via LTL (Less than truckload) or volume (less than a truckload but more than 12′ of trailer space). The freight classes are required to centralized carriers pricing since deregulation. I won’t get into all that history but if you are curious, the link is provided above.
Determining a shipments freight class is required to be able to properly calculate your shipping costs. It is also is a very important factor when it comes to dealing with any possible freight claims.
The most common questions we hear from shippers is what freight class to choose. We often hear things like, “I just picked Class 85 for my quote.” What may not understand is that by not picking the correct freight class the carrier will re-class the shipment and then you are hit with a rebill. A little knowledge when it comes to freight class helps 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 by the NMFTA to get common standardized freight pricing for your shipment when working with different freight carriers. Freight classes are defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) and made available through the NMFC or National Motor Freight Classification.
Only in the US this is required. 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 consumers a uniform pricing structure when transporting freight. There are 18 freight classes that a shipment (or multiple freight classes) may fall under with class 50 being the cheapest class to ship under, to class 500 as the most expensive. The freight class assigned to an item (there are over 18,000 items listed with assigned freight classes) that is important to freight carriers in determining the price charged to the customer.
What Determines a Freight Class?
Freight class is calculated based on the items weight, length and height, density, ease of handling, value and damage/theft liability. The definitions for each are as follows:
- (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. The density of your item = Weight/Volume, where Weight is measured in pounds and Volume is measured in cubic feet.
- Stow-ability: Most freight stows well in trucks, trains and boats, but some articles are regulated by the government or carrier policies. Some items cannot be loaded together. Hazardous materials are transported in specific manners. Excessive weight, length or protrusions can make freight impossible to load with other freight. The absence of load-bearing surfaces makes freight impossible to stack. A quantifiable stow-ability classification represents the difficulty in loading and carrying these items.
- 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 ease or difficulty of loading and carrying the freight is assigned to the items.
- Liability: Liability is 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 Freight Classes
|Class Name||Cost||Notes, Examples||Weight Range Per Cubic Foot|
|Class 50||Cheapest||Stone, sheet steel||typically over 50 lbs|
|Class 55||Bricks, flooring, plastic bags||35-50 pounds|
|Class 60||Foodstuffs, dumbbells||30-35 pounds|
|Class 65||Periodicals, paper products||22.5-30 pounds|
|Class 70||Crated automobile engines||15 to 22.5 pounds|
|Class 77.5||Tires, Floor scrubbers, rims||13.5 to 15 pounds|
|Class 85||Crated machinery, palletized engines/transmissions||12-13.5 pounds|
|Class 92.5||Computers, refrigerators||10.5-12 pounds|
|Class 100||Furniture, wine cases, caskets||9-10.5 pounds|
|Class 110||Lathes, table saws, tools||8-9 pounds|
|Class 125||Small Household appliances, end tables||7-8 pounds|
|Class 150||Auto sheet metal parts, bookcases||6-7 pounds|
|Class 175||Clothing, couches stuffed furniture||5-6 pounds|
|Class 200||Watches, mattresses||4-5 pounds|
|Class 250||Wicker furniture, mattresses, televisions||3-4 pounds|
|Class 300||Chairs (wooden), outdoor furniture, gym equipment||2-3 pounds|
|Class 400||Assembled cages or crates||1-2 pounds|
|Class 500 – Low Density or High Value||Expensive||Table tennis, ping pong balls||Less than 1 lbs|
A Practical Example to Determine LTL Freight Class
Shippers can determine the appropriate NMFC for a commodity in different ways:
- Contact ShipTMS for your freight class
- Use our built-in Freight Class calculator
- Using the NMFC book available at http://www.nmfta.org/Pages/welcome.aspx
- Using a program such as ClassIT or Fast Class
- Call your carrier/broker and make them do their job.
As seen below, the NMFC for Gym Equipment is 15520.
In summary: It is imperative you understand freight class. Getting it wrong will cost you. Guessing will cost you. If you use the wrong freight class your item will be reclassified by the freight carrier. Disputing this is difficult, time consuming and you will be charged the difference (usually with a fee and without a discount).