What Is Freight Class and How To Calculate It?

What Is Freight Class and How To Calculate It?

February 21, 2024

Understanding freight class and how to calculate it is essential for shippers, but it can often be confusing.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into everything you need to know about freight classes, making the process clearer and simpler for you.

Additionally, we offer a downloadable tip sheet that you can print out and keep handy for quick reference.


What is freight class in shipping? Tired of opaque shipping costs?

Freight class unlocks the secret! This standardized system categorizes your goods* based on key features like density, ease of handling, and potential risk.

Think of it like airline seating:

Economy packs more passengers, lowering the fare. High-value, fragile items fly business class, requiring special care.

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) created this code, assigning each category a numeric ranking (50-500).

Lower numbers translate to lower shipping costs – just like that economy seat!

But how does it work?

Carriers use freight class to determine *fair and consistent pricing* based on the specific needs of your shipment. This ensures *transparency and cost predictability* for both you and the carrier.

So, what’s the bottom line?

Understanding freight class empowers you to:

  • Negotiate better rates: Knowing your shipment’s class gives you leverage.
  • Budget accurately: Predict shipping costs upfront, avoiding surprises.
  • Choose the right carrier: Find one aligned with your specific needs and budget.

Ready to dive deeper?

Numerous online resources and freight experts can help you classify your goods and navigate the shipping landscape with confidence.

Remember, knowledge is power, and freight class is your key to unlocking cost-effective and efficient shipping!


What is freight class?

Freight class is a standardized system used in the transportation industry to categorize different types of freight based on their characteristics.

These characteristics typically include density, stowability, handling, and liability.

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) developed the freight classification system to establish uniform pricing for shipping goods by truck.

Each freight class is assigned a numeric code ranging from 50 to 500, with lower numbers indicating lower freight rates for shipping.

The classification of a particular shipment helps carriers determine the appropriate pricing and handling requirements based on the characteristics of the goods being transported.

Role of freight classification in LTL shipping

Freight classification plays a crucial role in Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) shipping, where multiple shipments from different shippers are combined onto a single truck for transportation. Here’s how freight classification impacts LTL shipping:


Freight class determines the pricing structure for LTL shipments. Carriers use the assigned freight class, along with other factors such as distance, weight, and any additional services required, to calculate shipping rates. Lower freight class numbers generally correspond to lower shipping rates, while higher class numbers result in higher rates.

Billing Accuracy:

Accurate classification ensures that shippers are billed correctly for the transportation of their goods. By assigning the appropriate freight class to each shipment, carriers can ensure that shippers are charged the correct rates based on the characteristics of their freight.

Allocation of Space:

Freight class helps carriers allocate space on their trucks efficiently. Shipment classification provides valuable information about the size, weight, and handling requirements of each load, allowing carriers to optimize the utilization of available trailer space and maximize load capacity.

Handling Requirements:

Different freight classes have specific handling requirements and restrictions.

Carriers use the assigned class to determine how to handle and transport each shipment safely and securely.

For example, fragile or hazardous goods may require special handling procedures based on their classification.

Liability and Insurance:

Freight class also influences liability and insurance considerations in LTL shipping. Higher-risk shipments, such as those classified in higher freight classes or containing hazardous materials, may require additional insurance coverage to protect against potential losses or damages during transit.

Overall, freight classification serves as a standardized system that facilitates fair pricing, efficient operations, and proper handling of shipments in the LTL shipping industry.

It helps shippers and carriers alike ensure smooth and cost-effective transportation of goods.

Why is the NMFC important?

The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is important for several reasons:


The NMFC provides a standardized classification system for freight shipments. By establishing uniform criteria for categorizing different types of goods, it helps ensure consistency and clarity in the transportation industry.


The NMFC plays a key role in determining freight rates for shipments. Freight classes assigned according to the NMFC directly impact pricing, with lower-classed freight generally receiving lower shipping rates and higher-classed freight attracting higher rates.


Standardized classification through the NMFC promotes fairness in pricing.

Shippers and carriers can rely on a consistent framework to assess the characteristics and associated costs of transporting various types of freight, helping to prevent unfair pricing practices.


The NMFC facilitates efficient operations in the transportation of goods. By providing clear guidelines for handling and stowing different types of freight, it helps carriers optimize their processes and utilize available resources more effectively.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance:

Compliance with the NMFC is often required by law or regulation for carriers operating in the transportation industry.

Adhering to NMFC standards helps carriers avoid penalties and ensures that they meet regulatory requirements related to the classification and transportation of goods.

Overall, the NMFC serves as an essential tool for standardizing freight classification, determining pricing, promoting fairness, optimizing operations, and ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory standards in the transportation of goods.


How to calculate freight class

Calculating freight class involves several steps, primarily based on the characteristics of the shipment. Here’s a general guide on how to calculate freight class:

Determine the Density:

Freight class is often determined based on the density of the shipment, which is calculated by dividing the weight of the shipment (in pounds) by its volume (in cubic feet).

The formula for density is:

Density (lbs/cubic feet) = Total Weight of Shipment (lbs) / Total Volume of Shipment (cubic feet)

Measure the Dimensions:

Measure the length, width, and height of the shipment in inches.

Multiply these dimensions to get the total volume in cubic inches. Then, divide the total volume by 1,728 to convert cubic inches to cubic feet (since there are 1,728 cubic inches in a cubic foot).

Total Volume (cubic feet) = (Length x Width x Height) / 1,728

Determine the Stowability and Handling Requirements:

Consider factors such as the shape, fragility, and handling requirements of the shipment.

Some items may require special handling due to their size, shape, or sensitivity, which can affect the freight class.

Check the NMFC:

Refer to the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) to find the appropriate freight class for your shipment based on its characteristics.

The NMFC provides detailed descriptions and guidelines for classifying various types of freight.

Apply the Correct Freight Class: Based on the density, stowability, handling requirements, and NMFC guidelines, determine the most appropriate freight class for your shipment.

Freight classes typically range from 50 to 500, with lower numbers indicating lower shipping rates and higher numbers indicating higher rates.

Verify with the Carrier: Before finalizing the freight class, verify it with your carrier to ensure accuracy and compliance with their specific requirements and pricing structure.

It’s important to note that calculating freight class can vary depending on the specific requirements of carriers and the characteristics of the shipment.

It’s recommended to consult with your carrier or freight broker for guidance on determining the most accurate freight class for your shipments.

(Weight, Length, Height) Freight Density and Value

Freight density refers to the amount of space an item occupies relative to its weight. It plays a significant role in determining freight classification, which directly impacts shipping costs.

Here’s a breakdown of how freight density is calculated and its corresponding classifications according to the Commodity Classification Standards Board (CCSB):

  • Freight with a density of 50 pounds per cubic foot is classified as Class 50.
  • Classifications 70, 92.5, 175, and 400 are assigned to freight with densities of 15, 10.5, 5, and 1 pound per cubic foot, respectively.
  •  Items less dense than one pound per cubic foot are classified as Class 500.

To calculate density, follow these steps:

  1. Measure the dimensions of the item in inches: Length (L), Width (W), and Height (H).
  2. Calculate the volume in cubic feet using the formula: Volume = (Length x Width x Height) / 1,728.
  3. Determine the weight of the item in pounds.
  4. Divide the weight by the volume to find the density: Density = Weight / Volume.

By understanding and calculating freight density accurately, shippers can ensure proper classification and optimize shipping costs.


Stowability refers to the ease with which a freight item can be arranged and secured within a transport vehicle, such as a truck or container.

It considers factors such as size, shape, and fragility of the freight, as well as any special handling requirements.

Freight items that are easily stackable, non-fragile, and uniform in shape are considered highly stowable, whereas irregularly shaped, fragile, or difficult-to-handle items may have lower stowability.

The stowability of a freight item influences various aspects of the shipping process:

Efficient Space Utilization:

Freight that is easy to stow allows carriers to optimize the use of available space within their transport vehicles.

Well-stowed items can be packed tightly together, maximizing the payload capacity of the vehicle and reducing wasted space.

Safe Transportation:

Proper stowage helps prevent shifting, tipping, or damage to the freight during transit.

Securely stowed items are less likely to become dislodged or cause accidents, ensuring safe transportation for both the freight and the vehicle’s occupants.

Handling Requirements:

Items with low stowability may require special handling procedures or equipment to ensure they are safely loaded and secured.

Fragile or irregularly shaped items may need additional padding, bracing, or careful positioning to prevent damage.

Loading and Unloading Efficiency:

Highly stowable freight can be loaded and unloaded more efficiently, reducing the time and labor required for these tasks. This efficiency can translate to faster turnaround times for carriers and lower costs for shippers.

Storage Flexibility:

Freight that is easy to stow may offer more flexibility in storage options, allowing carriers to accommodate a wider range of cargo types and sizes.

In summary, stowability is an important consideration in the transportation and logistics industry, impacting efficiency, safety, and cost-effectiveness throughout the shipping process.

Shippers and carriers must assess the stowability of their freight items to ensure smooth and successful transport operations.


Handling in the context of shipping refers to the physical manipulation and movement of freight items throughout the transportation process.

It encompasses a wide range of activities, from loading and unloading cargo onto/from vehicles to the movement and positioning of items within storage facilities or shipping containers.

Handling considerations are essential for ensuring the safe, efficient, and timely transportation of goods. Here are some key aspects of handling in shipping:

Loading and Unloading:

Handling involves the careful loading of freight onto transport vehicles (such as trucks, ships, or aircraft) and unloading them upon arrival at their destination.

Proper loading techniques help maximize space utilization, prevent damage to goods, and ensure the safety of workers.

Securing and Bracing:

Freight must be securely fastened and braced within transport vehicles to prevent shifting or damage during transit.

This may involve using straps, tie-downs, or other securing devices to immobilize cargo and distribute weight evenly.

Special Handling Requirements:

Some freight items may have special handling requirements due to their size, shape, weight, or fragility.

For example, hazardous materials, perishable goods, or fragile items may require specialized equipment, packaging, or handling procedures to ensure their safe transport.

Equipment and Tools:

Handling often involves the use of various equipment and tools, such as forklifts, pallet jacks, cranes, and hoists, to move heavy or oversized items.

Proper training and equipment maintenance are essential to ensure the safety of workers and prevent accidents.


In multi-modal transportation or when transferring freight between different modes of transport (e.g., from truck to train), handling involves the transfer or transshipment of goods from one vehicle or container to another. This process requires cordination and careful handling to minimize delays and prevent damage.

Documentation and Tracking:

Effective freight management goes beyond physical handling. Seamless documentation and tracking are essential for a smooth journey from origin to destination.

Picture this: You dispatch a valuable item, only to face uncertainty.

Detailed documentation, like barcode scanning or RFID tags, offers a digital roadmap of your cargo’s voyage.

This empowers you to monitor its whereabouts and avoid unnecessary stress.

But it’s more than just peace of mind. Compliance demands meticulous record-keeping.

From updating shipping logs to meeting customs regulations, proper documentation ensures legal adherence.

The result? Streamlined operations, fewer delays, and minimized damage risk.

Proactive tracking allows you to address issues promptly, preventing costly setbacks and ensuring timely delivery.

Don’t overlook documentation and tracking—they’re integral to successful shipping. Invest in accurate records and real-time tracking for a worry-free journey.




In the context of shipping, liability refers to the legal responsibility of parties involved in the transportation of goods for any loss, damage, or injury that may occur during transit.

Liability considerations are essential for shippers, carriers, and other stakeholders to understand their respective obligations and potential risks.

Here are key aspects of liability in shipping:

Carrier Liability:

Carriers, such as trucking companies, shipping lines, airlines, or railroads, typically assume liability for the goods they transport.

They are responsible for delivering the goods safely and in accordance with the terms of the transportation contract.

Carriers may be liable for loss, damage, or delay caused by negligence, mishandling, or other factors within their control.

Shipper Liability:

Shippers, who own or consign the goods being transported, may also bear liability under certain circumstances.

Shippers are responsible for accurately declaring the nature, value, and packaging of their goods, as well as complying with legal and regulatory requirements.

Failure to provide accurate information or inadequate packaging may result in shippers assuming liability for any resulting loss or damage.

Limits of Liability:

Carriers often limit their liability for loss or damage to goods through contractual agreements, such as bills of lading or shipping contracts.

These agreements typically specify the maximum amount of compensation that carriers are obligated to pay in the event of a claim.

Shippers should carefully review these terms and consider purchasing additional insurance coverage to mitigate potential losses beyond the carrier’s liability limits.

Insurance Coverage:

Both shippers and carriers may purchase insurance coverage to protect against liability for loss, damage, or other risks associated with the transportation of goods.

Cargo insurance policies can provide financial protection against a wide range of perils, including theft, accidents, natural disasters, and unforeseen events.

It’s essential for parties to understand the scope and limitations of their insurance coverage to ensure adequate protection.

Documentation and Claims:

Proper documentation, such as bills of lading, delivery receipts, and inspection reports, is crucial for establishing liability and resolving disputes in the event of loss or damage during transit.

In case of a claim, parties must follow the prescribed procedures and timelines for filing claims with carriers or insurers to seek compensation for their losses.

Understanding liability in shipping helps shippers and carriers manage risks, protect their interests, and ensure the safe and efficient transportation of goods from origin to destination.

It’s advisable for parties to consult legal and insurance professionals to address liability issues effectively and minimize potential liabilities.

Freight class codes chart

  • Here is a simplified chart of freight class codes commonly used in the shipping industry:
  • Class 50: Very dense, compact, and heavy items, such as iron or steel articles
  • Class 55: Bricks, cement, and other dense construction materials
  • Class 60: Car parts, machinery, and other medium-density items
  • Class 65: Small appliances, boxed books, and dense household goods
  • Class 70: Automobiles, furniture, and medium-density household goods
  • Class 77.5: Tires, bathroom fixtures, and medium-density items requiring careful handling
  •  Class 85: Crated machinery, transmissions, and other less dense items
  •  Class 92.5: Computers, monitors, and other fragile or high-value items
  •  Class 100: Boats, engines, and other large, lightweight items
  • Class 110: Light fixtures, framed artwork, and other large, lightweight items requiring careful handling
  • Class 125: Cabinets, tables, and other large, lightweight items with special handling requirements
  •  Class 150: Baled cotton, mattresses, and other bulky, lightweight items
  •  Class 175: Clothing, linens, and other non-dense items
  • Class 200: Furniture pads, tarps, and other lightweight, durable items
  •  Class 250: Pallets, empty barrels, and other lightweight, durable items
  • Class 300: Mats, rugs, and other low-value, low-density items
  • Class 400: Deer antlers, bags of feathers, and other fragile, low-density items
  •  Class 500: Ping pong balls, bags of insulation, and other extremely low-density items


Please note that these are general examples and specific items may fall into different classes based on their individual characteristics. It’s important to consult the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) book or contact your carrier for precise classification.

How about true density-based freight class?

True density-based freight class refers to a classification system that determines the freight class of a shipment solely based on its density, rather than using a standardized classification system like the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC).

In a true density-based system, the density of the freight directly determines its freight class, with lower-density items being assigned lower freight classes and higher-density items receiving higher freight classes.

Here’s how a true density-based freight class system might work:

Density Calculation:

The density of each shipment is calculated by dividing its weight (in pounds) by its volume (in cubic feet). The formula for density is:

[ Density = \frac{Weight}{Volume} ]

Freight Class Assignment:

Freight classes are then assigned based on the calculated density.

Lower-density shipments (those with lower pounds per cubic foot) are assigned lower freight classes, while higher-density shipments (those with higher pounds per cubic foot) are assigned higher freight classes.

Classification Criteria:

The criteria for assigning freight classes based on density may vary depending on the specific requirements of the carrier or shipping company.

However, in general, shipments with densities below a certain threshold may be assigned a higher freight class, while those with densities above the threshold may be assigned a lower freight class.


A true density-based freight class system offers several potential benefits, including simplicity, fairness, and accuracy.

By directly linking freight class to density, this system eliminates the need for complex classification rules and allows for more precise pricing based on the actual characteristics of the shipment.

Freight class example

Let’s consider an example to determine the freight class for mats or matting (floor) using the NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification) number 70970:

To properly freight class a shipment of one pallet of mats or matting (floor), we need to know the pallet dimensions and weight. The product ships on a standard pallet with dimensions of 48” x 40” x 45.5”, and the total weight including the pallet is 275 pounds.

Here’s the calculation process:


Calculate the volume:

( text{Volume} = text{Length} \times \text{Width} \times \text{Height} )

( text{Volume} = 48” \times 40” \times 45.5” = 87,360 \text{ cubic inches} )


Convert volume to cubic feet:

( text{Volume (cubic feet)} = frac{text{Volume (cubic inches)}}{1,728} = frac{87,360}{1,728} = 50.6 \text{ cubic feet} )


Calculate density:

( text{Density} = frac{\text{Weight}}{\text{Volume}} = frac{275 \text{ pounds}}{50.6 \text{ cubic feet}} \approx 5.4 \text{ pounds per cubic foot} )


Based on the NMFC chart, a density of 5.4 pounds per cubic foot corresponds to a freight class of 175.

It’s crucial for shippers to accurately classify their items for shipment to avoid costly errors.

Topshipping , as an industry-leading 3PL (Third-Party Logistics provider), offers assistance in managing freight costs, setting up processes, and providing technology solutions to streamline freight classification and automate processes

. Ensuring correct freight class classification is essential to prevent reclassification by carriers, which can be challenging and result in additional charges.

If you need further assistance or have specific questions, feel free to ask!


Implementing a true density-based freight class system may pose challenges in terms of establishing consistent density thresholds, managing variations in shipment characteristics, and ensuring compatibility with existing industry standards and practices.

Overall, a true density-based freight class system offers a straightforward and transparent approach to classifying shipments based on their physical properties.

While it may require careful consideration and coordination among stakeholders, it has the potential to streamline the classification process and improve pricing accuracy in the transportation industry.


Need help classifying your LTL Freight Shipping?

Go for top – tier LTL shipping solutions by partnering with Topshipping.

Gain access to a comprehensive suite of services, tools, and cutting-edge technology designed to streamline freight classification and optimize your shipping processes.

Our team of shipping experts is ready to assist you in leveraging our industry-leading solutions to meet your unique business needs.

Reach out to us today to learn more about how Topshipping can elevate your shipping operations.

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