PLS Headquarters relocated to 2000 Westinghouse Drive, Suite 201, Cranberry Township, PA 16066 On January 3, 2022!

Basic Guide to LTL Freight Class


While LTL shipping is pretty straight-forward, LTL freight class may seem quite confusing for many. At the same time, knowing the right class of your freight is essential for shipping LTL. When shippers first come across having to move an LTL load, determining and understanding freight class may be quite a challenge.

In today ’s, we want to talk about some basics of freight classification and answer the most common questions: What is it? How does it work? Why is it important to know your freight class? How do you find the correct class for your freight?

What is the LTL freight class?

Freight classification was introduced by NMFTA (National Motor Freight Traffic Association) to categorize freight based on a number of characteristics and standardize pricing. According to this concept, all commodities are grouped in 18 classes, ranging from Class 50 to Class 500. The higher is the class, the higher will be the shipping rate. Basically, freight classification depends on your freight’s density. Many shipping companies would calculate the LTL freight class for you, so you don’t have to worry about it. However, stating an inaccurate classification can lead to extra charges and delays. The classification is cataloged in the NMFC tariff, and a unique NMFC number is assigned to each item.

What factors determine LTL freight class?

ltl freight class

A hundred-pound load of brick will probably be smaller and easier to handle than a hundred-pound load of ping-pong balls, right? The classification is fairly comprehensive and is based on four characteristics:

  • Density
  • Freight stowability
  • Ease of handling
  • Liability

Each commodity is evaluated according to these factors and cataloged under a specific NMFC number and class. The densest and “shipping-friendly” loads will fall under Class 50, which will also be the cheapest. The least dense and “inconvenient” loads will be classified as Class 500, which will be the most expensive.

Why is the LTL freight class important?

As mentioned above, freight class directly affects the pricing. Knowing the accurate class of your freight will ensure that you know the correct shipping price up front and avoid carrier re-class and up charges. The best way to avoid unpleasant surprises on the invoice is not only to know the correct class but the accurate NMFC number for your freight as well. The NMFC number should be on the BOL along with the clear freight description.

How to determine the freight class?

Finding the correct item and determining freight class may be a little confusing at times. If you are not yet a pro, you can reach out to your 3PL representative. They have expertise and access to the NMFC database and will be able to help you determine the class. Classifying LTL freight may be tricky, so make sure to provide extensive and accurate freight description, including weight, dimensions, packaging, and value to your 3PL representative.

Need help figuring out the correct class for your LTL freight? We can help!

Subscribe to our blog to get industry insights and stay on top of the latest news!

Get a Quote

Compare the best freight rates from more than 45,000 carriers

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Error Icon
Oops! Something went wrong.