Freight class: Everything you need to know.

June 11, 2015

It would be hard to imagine a world without industry standards and classification systems. While we may not take the time to appreciate them on an everyday basis, they are critical to the sustainability of nearly all aspects of our daily lives.

From computers and mobile phones to petroleum, these standards and classifications establish critical baselines for individual industries to reference while doing business.

In the freight shipping industry, freight classes carry this responsibility, providing both shippers and carriers with standards to base pricing. Let’s walk through what freight class is and what determines freight class density.


What is freight class?

Freight classes are designed with the intention of getting shippers practical, standardized freight pricing for shipments when collaborating with different carriers, warehouses and brokers.

In an effort to create consistent freight pricing, The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) put together a freight classification system. The NMFC is common across the freight industry. It’s used to “rank” the ease of getting an LTL shipment to its destination. The more difficult, the higher the freight class, and the higher the price to ship. 

What is dimensional rating?

Dimensional rating takes the length, width and height of a shipment into account, in addition to the weight. While it’s already been adopted by some major carriers, it’s expected to become a bigger piece of the shipping puzzle in the coming years.


Why it's important.

Freight class can help carriers decide the optimal way to organize specific goods on a trailer. It's necessary to assign classes properly, especially when carriers are handling a combination of fragile goods with heftier items. Proper classification can guide what freight is stackable and least likely to be damaged (i.e bricks).

Your total freight shipping cost ultimately depends on many factors, with freight class being one of the most important. Deciphering between the different classes and what each can offer will allow you to optimize your shipping costs and make shipping without disruption a reality.

If a freight class is wrongly used, it may cause a back-office snag when rectifying the invoice. Therefore, it's worthwhile to brush up on freight classifications to make sure you're saving as much money, time, resources and effort as possible.

Here are a few freight class factors to keep in mind so you can properly plan your shipment.


Freight class factors.

All 18 freight classes are based on weight, dimensions, density, storage capability, ease of handling, value and liability from instances like theft, damage, breakability and spoilage. The classes range from 50 all the way to 500. The higher the freight class, the more expensive and more likely the item is to be damaged in transit. Here's a further breakdown of each factor:

Density and value.

The space that items take up in connection with its weight is what's considered density. Density recommendations assign class 50 to freight that is more than 50 pounds per cubic foot. Items less dense than 1 pound per cubic foot are assigned class 500.

Storage capability.

The more difficult an item is to stow with other articles in shipments, the more likely the freight class will be on higher end. Things like hazardous materials, heavy items and/or goods regulated by the government and carriers will all result in the probability of a higher freight class due to the limited options of what it can be stored with.


Items are often loaded and unloaded by machines. Typically, those goods don't pose any issues that impact their freight class assignment. However, freight requiring special care as a result of weight, shape or any other unique restrictions while in transit will be given a higher freight class.


Accountability for the chance of freight theft and accidental damage is also taken into consideration. The more potentially perishable an item is during transit, the more likely a higher freight class will be assigned.



How Freightquote can help.

Freightquote by C.H. Robinson has created a freight density calculator that shippers can use as a guide to help gauge their freight's density. This tool can help ensure that users get the most accurate shipping rates possible. 

Whether you have been shipping freight for years or this is your first time, Freightquote's patented self-service technology allows you to get instant and free freight shipping rates. Contact us to get started and sign up now.

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