What to do if the freight class of your LTL freight is miscalculated

Image of trucks lined up in a parking lot

What To Do If Your Freight Class is Miscalculated


What is LTL Freight Class?

The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), created and maintained by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), is a universal system for classifying LTL freight. NMFC codes are assigned to standardized freight classes based on the transportability of the goods. LTL shipping involves a massive range of items with different densities, liabilities, and handling considerations transported together in a single shipment. Freight class codes are necessary to provide a standard classification that shippers and carriers can use to negotiate freight rates for different types of cargo.

There are eighteen NMFC classifications for LTL freight. The lowest and least expensive freight class code is 50, and the highest and most costly is 500. Freight that is dense, heavy, and sturdy will be classified lower, while cargo that is fragile, oddly shaped, or has a high potential for damage, loss, or theft will be classified higher. Each NMFC code corresponds to a specific item based on its description, dimensions, packaging, whether it is assembled or in parts, and the materials from which it is made. These specific codes all fall under one of the eighteen freight classes and can be found using the NMFTA’s ClassIt Tool.

What Determines Freight Class?

An item’s freight class depends on its “transportability.” Transportability is determined by the shipment’s weight, dimensions, density, value, risk, how easy it is to handle and store, and a variety of other factors. The four main metrics used to assign freight class are:      

Density – Density, or pounds per cubic foot, is how much space an item takes up in relation to its weight. Higher density items are typically assigned a lower NMFC class, while less dense ones tend to fall on the higher end of the spectrum.

Handling – Freight that requires special handling accommodations when loading or unloading because of its shape or the nature of its materials will result in a higher freight classification.

Stowability – Stowability is determined based on how easily an item can be transported with other commodities. Some freight may be subject to government regulation or specific carrier restrictions, limiting what types of cargo can share a trailer with it. For example, flammable, hazardous, or perishable items cannot be shipped with certain other kinds of materials, resulting in more difficult stowability and higher freight classification. Freight that is palletized, uniform, and stackable is easier and more efficient to stow, resulting in a lower freight class.

Liability – Liability is determined by the value of an item and its potential to be damaged or lost during shipping. Freight that has a higher risk of theft, accidental damage, or may cause damage to other items in transit will be assigned a higher freight class. Perishable or hazardous freight will also carry increased liability costs and considerations. 

If an item in your LTL freight shipment is not assigned a specific NMFC code, its density is used to calculate its freight class. The density of a load is simply its volume in cubic feet divided by its gross weight in pounds. The calculated density will correspond to one of the eighteen freight classes. If you need help determining the freight class of your shipment, visit Koho’s tips for how to calculate freight class on your own.


What Happens If You Miscalculate Freight Class?

Because it involves a wide variety of commodities all shipped together on a single trailer, LTL shipping requires precision and accuracy to coordinate effectively. If a shipment’s characteristics are misrepresented, it can disrupt the careful configuration of cargo and weight balance on the truck, creating delays or potential damages in transit. It may not even all fit on the trailer.

Because of this, LTL carriers are constantly on the lookout for shipments that do not match the information provided on their bill of lading (BOL). Technology has sped up the inspection process to the point where nearly every piece of LTL freight is weighed and dimensionalized at the carrier terminal. If the shipment’s weight or dimensions are inaccurately represented, the carrier will issue a reweigh or a reclass attached to your shipping invoice. You will be responsible for any additional charges due to a change in freight class, plus an additional fee for the inspection.

What Do You Do If Your Freight Is Reclassed?

Despite your best efforts and careful attention to detail, sometimes mistakes are made and your carrier reclasses a shipment. If the discrepancy is minimal and the rebill added to your shipping invoice is small, it may not be worth disputing. However, you do have the option to fight any reclassification fee.

To start this process, you need to provide the packing slip and product spec sheets as evidence that the item was classed correctly. If you have photos of the shipment or the scale readout and a recent certification showing that your scale is calibrated correctly, this will help your case.

File your dispute as soon as possible. Any delay will make carriers less willing to work with you regarding your claim. You can also seek out a professional to help you file your claim. If you successfully contest the additional charge, you will receive a refund from your carrier. But if your LTL freight shipment was not reclassed in error, you will be responsible for paying the rebill.

The best way to avoid reclassification is to ensure that you provide accurate measurements, weights, descriptions, and classes on your BOL before your freight is ever picked up. If you need help determining freight class or anything else regarding your LTL shipment, contact the LTL freight experts at Koho today.

See what Koho has to offer
From LTL to insurance, see what you can do on Koho's platform.
Need Help?
Contact our pros! Koho's experts are available 8am to 8pm ET Monday through Friday.