Common misconceptions about LTL freight class

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Common Misconceptions About Freight Class

The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is a universal freight classification system created and maintained by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) and used to identify all LTL cargo. NMFC codes divide goods into standardized freight classes meant to determine the transportability of different commodities being shipped together in LTL shipments. Because LTL shipping involves a wide range of items with different densities, shapes, liabilities, and handling considerations transported together in a single shipment, freight class codes are necessary to provide a standard classification from which shippers and carriers can negotiate freight rates for shipping different types of goods. If the wrong freight class is applied to items in a shipment, the carrier will likely catch it and reclassify the load, resulting in additional charges added to the freight bill.


What Are Freight Class Codes?

There are eighteen possible NMFC classifications for LTL freight, the lowest and least expensive being 50, and the highest and most expensive being 500. Freight that is dense, sturdy, and has minimal liability will be classified lower, while freight that is fragile, uniquely shaped, or prone to damage, loss, or theft will be classified higher. Typically, the denser a product, the lower its freight classification code, though this is not always the case.

NMFC freight classes are usually listed as 5-digit codes, depending on whether or not the item requires a subclassification. Each NMFC code and subclass relate to a specific commodity depending on what it is, its weight and dimensions, how it is packaged, whether it is assembled or disassembled, and the materials from which it is made. These specific codes all correspond with one of the eighteen classes of freight. Sound confusing? It can be.


Common Mistakes When Classifying LTL Freight

One of the most common mistakes shippers make when classifying their freight is looking at the freight class before the freight description. If shippers look at the freight class first to find an item, they may be incorrect because some products can fall into a wide range of freight classes depending on several particular factors. For instance, the freight class for furniture can fall into multiple classes, from freight class 60 all the way to freight class 400, depending on what the furniture is made from, how it is constructed, how it is packaged, or any other specific options or features it may have. 

Shippers should instead look for the detailed description of the item to find its NMFC item number and subclass, which then shows the shipper the correct freight class it falls under. It is important to read all the notes that apply to an item to make sure the description fits the item in your shipment.


How to Avoid Applying the Wrong NMFC Code 

The easiest way to ensure you correctly classify your LTL freight is to obtain a subscription to CLASSIT (, the online freight classification directory tool maintained by the NMFTA, or consult one of Koho’s freight class experts for advice on how to determine the correct freight class. The CLASSIT system will evaluate the density, handling, stowability, and liability of your shipments to establish their transportability and corresponding NMFC codes, allowing you to assign the correct freight class to your LTL shipment and avoid any reclassification adbills from your carrier.


When in doubt, follow this checklist to ensure you are utilizing the correct information about the product to determine its freight class: 

  • What is it? 
  • What is the description given by the manufacturer or producer of the commodity for sale?
  • What does it do?
  • What is the function of the item?
  • What is it made out of?
  • What are the primary and secondary materials from which the product is made?
  • How is it packaged?
  • Is the item fully enclosed in a crate or box? Is it shipped loose or wrapped on a pallet?
  • Is it assembled or disassembled?
  • Is the item put together, folded, knocked down, or nested? How are the parts grouped together?

The answers to these questions will help you narrow down your item’s NMFC code and its corresponding freight class. If you have trouble, contact the shipping experts at Koho to help you fill out your paperwork correctly the first time.

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