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How to Identify Your Freight Class: A Quick Guide

colorful freights at a port

In logistics and transportation, there’s a critical element that affects shipping costs and strategies: freight class. This often-overlooked measurement plays a pivotal role in determining the price of shipping goods across various carriers and businesses in Less Than Truckload (LTL) freight.

What is Freight Class?

Freight class, as defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), standardizes pricing in the LTL freight sector. Essentially, it’s a system that categorizes different types of products or commodities based on their characteristics and assigns them a specific freight class number. This number ranges between 60 and 400, with lower numbers representing heavier, denser items, and higher numbers indicating lighter, bulkier, or more delicate items.

Calculating Freight Density

The process of calculating freight density is a crucial step in determining its freight class. Here’s a simplified guide to this calculation:

  1. Measure the length, width, and height of the freight in inches, including packaging.
  2. Multiply these dimensions to obtain the cubic inches.
  3. Divide the cubic inches by 1,728 (the cubic inches in a cubic foot) to convert to cubic feet.
  4. Divide the weight of the freight in pounds by the cubic feet calculated in the previous step. This gives you the density of the freight.

In equation form: Density = Weight (lbs) / Volume (cubic feet)

Factors Influencing Freight Class

Several factors play a role in determining a product’s freight class. Understanding these factors can provide insights into how the classification system operates:

1. Commodity and Density: While some commodities have pre-defined freight classes, others are density-based. Density is determined by the ratio of the total cubic feet to the total weight in pounds. Generally, a lower density corresponds to a higher freight class. This means that lightweight items that occupy a lot of space might end up with a higher class and, subsequently, a higher shipping cost.

2. Stowability: Stowing freight efficiently is essential for optimizing transportation resources. Freight that’s difficult to load due to its weight, size, shape, or regulatory restrictions may incur a higher freight class. Items that cannot be loaded with other goods due to safety concerns are also assigned a higher class.

3. Handling: Freight goes through various handling checkpoints during its journey. Items that require special handling due to their fragility, weight, shape, or hazardous nature might be classified as a higher freight class. This classification accounts for the extra care and resources needed to transport such items safely.

4. Liability: The likelihood of theft, damage, or harm to other freight or workers is an important consideration. Freight that poses higher liability risks, such as perishable items or hazardous materials, tends to have a higher assigned class due to the increased responsibility and potential costs associated with their transportation.

Unveiling the Impact

These factors create a comprehensive classification system that ensures fair pricing and efficient handling of various types of cargo. By comprehending the nuances of freight class, shippers can make informed decisions about packaging, shipping methods, and cost-effective strategies to optimize their supply chain.

So, the next time you’re shipping goods, remember that beyond weight and size, it’s also commodity characteristics, stowability, handling requirements, and liability considerations that determine your freight class. Unlocking the secrets of this classification system could potentially lead to more streamlined shipping processes and enhanced cost savings for your business.

For expert guidance and support in mastering freight shipping, connect with us at US Cargo Link.