What is freight class

Learn all about what is freight class, an essential concept in the world of shipping and logistics. Discover how it impacts your shipping costs, and get answers to common questions in this comprehensive guide.

In the intricate world of shipping and logistics, understanding the concept of freight class is paramount. Whether you are a business owner shipping products or an individual receiving goods, freight class plays a crucial role in determining shipping costs and ensuring that your items arrive safely. In this blog, we’ll delve into the basics of freight class, why it matters, and answer some frequently asked questions to help you navigate the logistics landscape more effectively.

Freight Class

Freight class, also known as NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification), is a standardized system used by carriers to categorize and rate different types of freight. It is a vital part of the freight pricing structure, influencing how shipping charges are calculated. Freight class is established using a number of criteria, including

  1. Density: The density of the cargo, measured in pounds per cubic foot, is a primary consideration. Items with higher density usually have a lower freight class.
  2. Stowability: This factor assesses how efficiently the cargo can be packed and stored in a trailer. Awkwardly shaped or oversized items may have a higher freight class.
  3. Handling: The ease of handling the cargo affects its classification. Fragile or hazardous materials might have a higher freight class due to the specialized care they require.
  4. Liability: Items prone to damage or theft may incur higher shipping costs, resulting in a higher freight class.
  5. Value: High-value items may be assigned a lower freight class to minimize insurance costs.

Why Does Freight Class Matter?

Understanding your freight class is crucial for several reasons:

  1. Accurate Pricing: Freight class helps carriers determine the shipping rates for your goods. Knowing your class ensures you’re charged appropriately, preventing unexpected costs.
  2. Risk Assessment: A freight class also reflects the inherent risk associated with shipping your goods. This can influence the carrier’s liability for any damages.
  3. Efficiency: Proper classification allows for more efficient loading, unloading, and transport of goods, reducing the risk of damage.
  4. Regulatory Compliance: Different types of freight may be subject to specific regulations or restrictions. Proper classification ensures compliance with these rules.

How is Freight Class Determined?

Freight class is determined by considering several key factors:

  1. Density: The density of the shipment, measured in pounds per cubic foot, is a crucial determinant. Higher density often results in a lower freight class, leading to lower shipping costs.
  2. Stowability: The ease of fitting the shipment into a shipping container or trailer influences freight class. Difficult-to-stack items may have a higher class.
  3. Handling: Items that require special handling due to fragility, size, or weight can have a higher freight class.
  4. Liability: Items prone to damage or theft may incur higher shipping costs.
  5. Ease of Identification: Easily identifiable items may have a lower class, as they are less likely to be damaged or misplaced during transit.

What are the factors that determine freight class

Freight class, a critical factor in determining shipping costs, is influenced by several key factors. These include the item’s density, stowability, handling, and liability. Density measures how much space an item occupies in relation to its weight, with denser items often falling into lower freight classes. Stowability assesses how easily an item can be stored alongside other cargo, while handling considers the item’s fragility and special requirements during transportation. Lastly, liability reflects the potential for damage or theft, with higher-risk items assigned to higher freight classes. Understanding these factors helps businesses optimize their shipping strategies and minimize transportation expenses while ensuring the safe and efficient delivery of goods.

How Do I Calculate Freight Class?

To calculate freight class, you’ll need to determine the density of your shipment. Here’s a simplified formula:

Freight Class = (Weight in Pounds / Volume in Cubic Feet) × 172.8

This formula will provide you with a freight class ranging from 50 to 500.

What is the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC)?

The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is a standard system used to classify and categorize freight for transportation. It assigns a specific code to each type of commodity, making it easier for carriers and shippers to identify the correct class for a shipment.

How Can I Find the NMFC Code for My Shipment?

You can find the NMFC code for your shipment by referring to the NMFC book, contacting your carrier, or using online databases. Accurate classification is crucial for correct pricing and avoiding disputes.

What is the Difference Between Freight Class and NMFC Code?

Freight class is a numerical representation of the shipment’s characteristics, while the NMFC code is an alphanumeric code assigned to specific commodities. Freight class is determined by the shipper, whereas the NMFC code is a standardized classification.

What Are the Implications of Freight Class on Shipping Costs?

Freight class has a direct impact on shipping costs. Lower freight classes result in lower shipping costs, making accurate classification vital for cost-effective shipping solutions.

How Can I Get a Freight Class Quote?

To get a freight class quote, you can reach out to shipping companies, brokers, or use online tools provided by carriers. Providing accurate information about your shipment is essential for receiving an accurate quote.

How Can I Ensure That My Freight Class Is Accurate?

To ensure accurate freight class assignment, follow these steps:

  1. Measure the density of your shipment accurately.
  2. Use the NMFC code that best matches your commodity.
  3. Consult with shipping experts or carriers if you’re uncertain.

What Is the Density of My Shipment?

Shipment density is the weight per cubic foot of your cargo. You can calculate it by dividing the weight (in pounds) by the volume (in cubic feet) of the shipment.

How Do I Measure the Cubic Feet of My Shipment?

To measure the cubic feet of your shipment, multiply the length, width, and height (in inches) of your package and divide by 1,728 (the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot).

Freight Class Density Calculator

There are online tools and software available that can help you calculate your shipment’s density and subsequently its freight class.

What Are the Different Types of Freight Classes?

Freight classes range from 50 to 500, with lower numbers representing high-density and easily handled items, while higher numbers indicate lower density or more challenging handling requirements.

What Are the Typical Freight Class Ranges for Different Types of Commodities?

Freight class ranges can vary, but generally, class 50-85 is reserved for high-density items, while class 300-500 is for low-density or challenging-to-handle items.

How Can I Get Help Determining the Freight Class for My Shipment?

If you’re uncertain about determining the correct freight class for your shipment, consult with experienced shipping professionals, carriers, or use online resources and tools.


In the world of shipping and logistics, understanding freight class is crucial for both businesses and individuals. It directly impacts shipping costs, risk assessment, and the efficiency of cargo handling. By familiarizing yourself with the basics of freight class, you can make informed decisions and navigate the complex world of shipping more effectively.


A1: You can usually find your freight class by consulting the National Motor Freight Classification book, speaking with your carrier, or using online resources provided by shipping companies.

A2: Yes, it can change based on various factors, such as packaging, density, or the carrier’s assessment. It’s essential to keep it up to date for accurate pricing.

A3: Yes, hazardous materials have their own designated classes and regulations to ensure safe transportation.

A4: To lower shipping costs, consider optimizing your packaging to reduce the item’s dimensions and weight, which can result in a lower freight class.

A5: Yes, you can dispute the assigned freight class with the carrier and provide evidence to support your claim. A reevaluation may lead to a more accurate classification and potentially lower costs.

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