Freight class can tell you a lot about a commodity. Most importantly, an item’s freight class speaks to its “transportability”—how difficult or easy it is to ship. With this information, a carrier, a 3PL, or a freight forwarder can tell you how much it will cost to ship.
In other words, freight classes offer a standardized way to classify less-than-truckload (LTL) freight shipments, making them easier to price.
In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about freight classes, including what they are, what they’re based on, and how you can determine the freight class for your own shipments.
First, let’s talk about why freight classes are so important to the logistics industry.
Why Are Freight Classes Important?
Freight classification simplifies and standardizes many elements of the shipping process.
This standardization makes it easier for all of the parties involved in moving a shipment to classify and price their services. After all, getting freight from its origin to its destination involves evaluating a number of variable elements and coordinating a number of different parties.
Now that you know the “why” behind freight classes, let’s take a closer look at the specifics.
How Do Freight Classes Work?
Every LTL freight shipment is put into one of 18 freight classes, as defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). Typically, the higher the freight class, the more expensive your goods are to ship. 50 is the lowest class and, therefore, usually the least expensive. 500 is the highest freight class—the most costly.
How Do You Determine Freight Class?
To determine the freight class of a shipment, four elements are assessed:
What is the size and shape of the commodity?
What kind of care is necessary?
How valuable is the commodity? And how susceptible is it to theft, damage, or perishability?
After these characteristics are evaluated, the commodity will be grouped into one of the standard 18 freight classes, which will factor heavily into the cost to ship it.
What Are the Most Common Freight Classes?
To give you a sense of a few common freight classes—and the commodities that fall into them—check out the following examples:
- Class 60 (30-35 pounds per cubic foot) – Car parts and accessories, crated machinery, glue, bottled water
- Class 70 (15-22.5 pounds per cubic foot) – Food items, car parts, and accessories, automobile engines
- Class 85 (12-13.5 pounds per cubic foot) – Automobiles engines, cast iron stoves, crated machinery
- Class 92.5 (10.5-12 pounds per cubic foot) – Computers, monitors, refrigerators, ice machines
- Class 100 (9-10.5 pounds per cubic foot) – Calculators, wine cases, canvas, furniture
As you look through these examples, you’ll notice that a wide variety of different commodities can fit within the same freight class. For this reason, you may want to talk with an expert to help you find the right freight class for your commodity. The other piece of information that can help you determine your commodity’s freight class is its NMFC® code.
What’s an NMFC Code?
As you study up on freight classes, you may also come across something called an NMFC code. This is an additional set of standards that the NMFTA created in addition to the 18 freight classes. NMFC stands for National Motor Freight Classification®. It’s a code specific to a commodity, one that can be used to help determine its freight class.
An item’s freight class will tell you which one of the 18 standard classes your shipment belongs to. However, the NMFC code is a designation specific to the commodity itself. Every NMFC code is matched up with a freight class. So if you know the NMFC code for the items you’re shipping, it can help you figure out the freight class for your commodity.
For example, a hair dryer has an NMFC code of 62180, which falls into a freight class of 125. Wheel covers in packages with a density in pounds per cubic foot of 6 but less than 8 are also in the same freight class: 125. Their NMFC code is 18260-A Sub 5.
If you already know the NMFC code for the commodity you’re shipping, a 3PL or freight forwarder or a carrier can look up your freight class for you.
If you don’t know the NMFC code, consider reaching out to the manufacturer of the goods you’re shipping. They often know the NMFC code and freight classification of the items they manufacture, which can help you get a quick answer.
Can You Calculate Your Freight Class on Your Own?
Yes. However, while you can often use the NMFC code—or an online calculator—to figure out your freight class on your own, it can be risky. If you get it wrong, your shipment will have to be re-classed, which often comes with extra charges. Your best bet is to talk to a 3PL or a freight forwarder to make sure you have the right freight class.
We’d be happy to assist you! Contact us and we can help you get started with classing your freight—the right way. Additionally, if you’re shipping via ocean freight, we also offer FAK (freight of all kinds) rates! By using this type of classification, you can save yourself some significant time when shipping LCL (less than container load) freight.