Category: Logistics

Topic: Freight, LTL, Technology, Volume

How to Determine your Shipments Freight Class

Calculate Freight Shipment Class with Density

What is Freight Class?

In less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping, freight class determines the rate for a shipment. Classes range from Class 50 to Class 500, with Class 50 being the lowest and most economical option. Class 50 includes items like bricks, mortar, and other high-density items, or least expensive to transport. On the other hand, Class 500 represents the most expensive type of freight, such as ping pong balls.

A carrier determines freight class by four categories: Handling, Liability, Density, and Storability.


How easy is it to handle your cargo pieces? Does the carrier need extra machinery or trained experts to move hazardous products? Are the contents fragile, requiring additional assistance, packaging, and attention to ensure their safety during transit? Assessing and identifying the difficulty level in handling a specific cargo is factored into its classification. It’s not surprising that bricks have a lower classification than high-value televisions.


What is the likelihood of a particular freight being damaged or stolen during transit? Is the cargo perishable, such as fruit or produce? Is it also valuable? These considerations contribute to the liability aspect of the freight classification calculation. By assessing the liability of specific cargo, the carrier can determine the level of difficulty in transporting the item.


Shipment volume and density significantly impact LTL freight. Carriers aim to maximize trailer space by cubing trailers out as much as possible. Moving 1,000 lbs of bricks differs greatly from moving 1,000 lbs of feathers. Bricks occupy less space than feathers, enabling carriers to fully utilize their trailer capacity. To determine your shipment’s volume, use TLI’s shipment density calculator.


Government regulations or carrier-specific policies govern certain types of freight, such as shipping ammunition and batteries. Certain types of freight cannot be loaded together due to regulations or policies, including specific hazardous materials, exceptionally heavy freight, or freight that protrudes in a fixed, inconvenient direction. Freight class aims to evaluate relative storability, indicating the ease or difficulty of handling different types of freight.

How do I Determine Freight Class?

Freight class is initially determined by calculating the shipment volume and density. The shipper then determines the freight class with guidance from the industry standard for that product. The standard for the classification is govern by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association in the form of a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) number. The NMFC number guides shippers on proper packaging, the proper classification, and other valuable information for shipping certain cargo.

Determining freight class is a tedious and time-consuming task. However, if a shipper ships the same product, a TMS system helps alleviate the task of looking up the right class. Systems like ViewPoint TMS feature built-in density calculators and automatically populate products by density, enabling everyday shippers to assign the correct class automatically.

Why does Freight Class Matter?

LTL carriers will penalize shippers who do not use the proper freight class, regardless of whether the shipper intends to use it. Reclassification occurs when the carrier inspects the freight and determines that the correct class has not been applied. The carrier then reclassifies the product, typically to a higher class, and adjusts the shipment rate accordingly. The difference in cost can be substantial depending on the originally assigned freight class and the reclassified class.

If a shipper believes that the reclassification is wrong, they can challenge the reclassification with the carrier. To dispute a reclass, the shipper will need to provide appropriate documentation to substantiate their claim. Examples of such documentation include an official product catalog outlining the use and application of the product, a certified weight certification, and other relevant resources.

How to Receive Support

Teaming up with a 3PL Freight Broker provides expert assistance for freight class shipping. A reliable 3PL will accurately classify your shipment and assist in disputing any reclassifications. For instance, TLI offers a TMS system with a built-in density calculator, product uploads based on density, and a freight audit program to dispute any discrepancies. You receive expert freight class support from rating to post-delivery.