Freight Classification - How Does It Work

Freight Classification: How Does It Work?

Learning about and identifying freight classifications can be a crucial step in understanding your hard costs and navigating freight claims. Freight classification is among one of the least understood topics in the transportation industry, and yet it maintains a heavy impact on a variety of factors. Many shippers blindly utilize a particular freight classification for all of their shipments universally without understanding the specifics as to what the freight classification means and how it could be hurting their business. Being more educated on what freight classification is and how to classify your freight correctly can save you serious money, time on delays, and claims costs in the future.

Freight Classification

Freight classes aid in giving correct pricing structures for shipping your freight. They are based on a multitude of factors such as product type, weight, dimensions, etc. and are defined by the NMFTA (National Motor Freight Traffic Association.) There are a total of 18 different classes ranging from 50 to 500 that any particular shipment may be assigned; 50 being the cheapest, and 500 being the most expensive. As of recently, the importance of understanding freight classification has been on the rise as LTL carriers have been cracking down hard on people misclassifying their freight classes. Classification is assigned based on the following factors:

Density & Value

This includes the weight and dimensions of the freight. Although class 50 is the cheapest, it is also the heaviest, weighing in at 50 lbs per cubic foot. On the other side of the spectrum, freight that weighs less than 1 lb per cubic foot would be grouped into freight class 500. These factors are all in relation to the product’s density (weight in proportion to space.) Keep in mind that the dimensions of your goods must include the size of your freight when palletized.


Although the expectation is that most freight should be easy to store on a train, truck, or ship, some products are more difficult to stow, or they may be regulated by the government. Hazardous materials, overweight goods, and oddly shaped or fragile pieces will all require some type of special treatment. Goods which don’t have load-bearing bottoms and ceilings may receive higher freight classes due to their lack of stack-ability. Freight classification in relation to the stowability of an item will be determined on the difficulty or ease of loading, storing, and stacking the items.


Similar to the stowability of an item, the ease or difficulty of handling a particular shipment will determine the class assigned to the freight. Fragility, hazardous properties, government regulations, odd shapes, or overweight cargo will all rank in higher freight classifications due to the difficulty of handling the cargo.


As the probability of your freight being damaged (or damaging adjacent cargo) increases, so will the freight classification. If you are shipping fragile, hazardous, or perishable goods, the probability of cargo being damaged is high. In addition to this, shipping highly valuable goods such as jewelry or precious metals increases the likelihood of theft or robbery which will cause for a higher assigned freight class. Regardless of the freight you are shipping, it is always a good idea to insure your cargo, and to understand your cargo insurance options.

There are 18 freight classes which start at 50 and go up to 500, the classes being:

50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 77.5, 85, 92.5, 100, 110, 125, 150, 175, 200, 250, 300, 400, 500

On the bottom end, classes 50-60 may be materials such as cement and bricks. The middle range of 85-150 could be characterized by goods such as household appliances, computers, monitors, boat covers, sheet metal, and other moderately heavy goods. Goods in the 250-500 range would be lighter, more expensive or difficult to ship items such as mattresses, plasma TVs, deer antlers, ping pong balls, or gold dust.

Although the prior mentioned are loose freight categorizations for a variety of goods, it is crucially important to know exactly what freight class your goods should be assigned. The NMFC has free online tools to help you determine what freight class you should be shipping your goods under. Go to for a specific guide on how you should be classifying your freight.

If you need any help with freight classification, or just want to discuss the topic, call our team at Interlog USA! We’d be happy to talk with you!


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