Freight Class

When requesting rates and booking less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping services, the shipper is responsible for providing the carrier with the correct freight class for their cargo. Providing the correct freight class to the carrier ensures you receive an accurate quote for the goods you are shipping, while providing an incorrect freight class can result in significant and unexpected charges from the carrier due to the time money and resources needed to reclassify the shipment. In addition, if your shipment is damaged or lost in transit, an incorrect freight class can affect the compensation owed to you by the carrier.

What is Freight Class?

Created and maintained by the nonprofit membership organization known as the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is a classification system used for interstate, intrastate, and foreign commerce movement of LTL (less than truckload) shipments. The purpose of NMFC numbers is to provide standardized comparative evaluations of the billions of different commodities being shipped together in LTL shipments every year. Because LTL shipping involves a variety of different products with different densities, liabilities, and handling considerations together in a single shipment, NMFC numbers are necessary to provide common ground for shippers and carriers to negotiate freight rates and logistics and ensure productive and efficient LTL shipping.

Why is Freight Class important?

Declaring the correct NMFC freight class ensures that you as a shipper get the best rate and that you are making an apples-to-apples comparison when choosing the carrier, service and rate that is right for you and your business.

In addition, providing the carrier with the correct freight class helps you avoid:
1.  Paying too much because you “play it safe” and overdeclare the freight class
2.  Incurring unexpected and potentially significant costs resulting from underdeclaring the freight class

How is Freight Class Determined?

Freight class is determined based on an item’s transportability due to factors such as weight, dimension, density, storage capability, ease of handling, value and liability from instances like theft, damage, and spoilage. The four main metrics that determine freight class are:

- Density. Density, or pounds per cubic foot, is the measurable amount of space needed for an item within a freight shipment in relation to its weight. Higher density items usually fall in a lower class, while less dense items tend to fall on the higher end of the spectrum.

- Handling. Freight that requires special instructions when loaded or unloaded as a result of weight, shape, or other unique restrictions such as fragility, special attention, or hazardous properties that involve a higher level of care beyond the standard machines commonly used to load or unload items will result in a higher freight classification.

- Stowability. Stowability refers to how your items can be transported with other commodities. Some types of freight are subject to government regulation or specific carrier policies, limiting what other types of freight with which they can be transported. Items that are hazardous, flammable, or perishable, as well as those that are particularly heavy or that protrude in an inconvenient way cannot be shipped with certain types of materials, resulting in a higher freight classification. When it comes to stowability, it is important to think about packaging. Freight that is crated or boxed to become stackable and uniform is easier and more efficient to stow in a shipment.

- Liability. Liability refers to the value of a commodity and its potential to be damaged or lost in transit. Items that have a higher risk of theft, accidental damage, or may cause damage to other items during shipping will result in a higher Freight Class. Perishable or hazardous freight will also carry potential liability costs and concerns.

The Classes of Freight

There are 18 possible NMFC classifications for LTL freight, the lowest being 50, and the highest being 500. Freight that is dense, easy to handle and store and with minimal liability will be classified lower, while freight that is fragile, uniquely shaped, or susceptible to damage or theft will be classified higher. Usually, the more dense the item, the lower the freight classification. The NMFTA publishes a list of freight class designations for commonly shipped items. To use the NMFC list, you’ll need to become a member of the NMFTA, and you can do that here.

If you don’t have access to the NMFC list or don’t want to subscribe, the next best option is to estimate your freight class based on the density of your shipment (how much your shipment weighs per cubic foot). To do this you can use the freight class density table (see What if an item does not have a NMFC Classification? below).

Freight Density (pounds per cubic foot)

Freight Class

Less than 1

400

1 but less than 2

300

2 but less than 4

250

4 but less than 6

175

6 but less than 8

125

8 but less than 10

100

10 but less than 12

92.5

12 but less than 15

85

15 but less than 22.5

70

22.5 but less than 30

65

30 or greater

60

What if an item does not have a NMFC Classification?

The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is the industry standard many carriers subscribe to and use for pricing and planning LTL shipments. The NMFC reference guide created by the National Motor Freight Association provides the freight class and item number for many commodities but not all.

If the commodity in your LTL freight shipment is not listed within the NMFC standards, the density of the item will determine the freight class. The density of a shipment is simply its volume in cubic feet divided by its gross weight in pounds.

Example:
The volume of a pallet with dimensions 48 inches long x 48 inches wide x 48 inches high = 48" x 48" x 48" / 1,728 = 64 cubic feet (note that 1,728 is the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot).

If the actual gross weight of the pallet is 400 pounds, the density of the pallet is 400 pounds / 64 cubic feet = 6.25 pounds per cubic foot.

For items not listed within the NMFC commodity list, determine the density using the formula above and assign the applicable freight class using the table above.

If you would like additional assistance, please contact us.

What happens if I provide the incorrect Freight Class?

The shipper is responsible for providing the carrier with the freight class both when requesting a quote and at the time of booking a shipment.

If you provide the incorrect NMFC freight class to the shipper, the charges for your shipment may be higher than you expect based on the original quote. In some cases, the difference can be significant.

Trucking companies do spot checks on shipments and impose additional charges on shipments that underdeclare the freight class, and carriers are currently investing in technologies that enable them to perform these checks in a few seconds. As a result, the percentage of shipments getting checked is increasing and will eventually reach 100%. If the check reveals that the freight class has been incorrectly declared, the carrier will charge a reclassification fee in addition to the difference in freight charges. You can avoid these costs by informing the carrier of the correct freight class at the time of quotation and when booking the shipment.

Furthermore, in the event that your shipment is damaged or lost, an incorrect freight classification can affect the compensation the carrier owes you. This is one of the reasons Koho recommends all-risk insurance for all shipments.

Freight Class is important when shipping LTL. If you require additional assistance, please contact us or by dialing +1-888-990-KOHO (5646).

Understand Freight Class by the number

Common commodities & class breakdowns

Providing the correct freight class number is imperative to receiving an accurate freight shipping quote. Your freight class number is determined by dimension, density, stowability and handling. We’ve outlined some of the most common commodities to ship and their associated freight class numbers to easily look up the NMFC code you need. 

Other Resources