Basic Guide to LTL Freight Class


While Less-than-truckload (LTL) shipping is straightforward, the LTL freight class may seem confusing for many. This Freight Classification plays a prominent role in calculating how much the carrier will charge you for transporting your shipment. Choosing the wrong Freight Class could waste money, time, and resources, and delay shipments. Therefore, it is important to classify a shipment correctly.

What is Freight Class?

Freight class is a number determined by the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC). This classification is known as NMFC classification or NMFC code. Each commodity is defined by an NMFC classification, depending on the nature of the product. There are eighteen freight classes in the NMFC tariff ranging from class 50 to 500. Class 50 would be the cheapest, while class 500 would be the most expensive.

How are LTL Freight Classes Determined?

The freight classes are determined based on a load’s density, stow-ability, handling, weight, packaging, liability, and dimensions. For example, the densest and “shipping-friendly” loads will fall under class 50. In comparison, the least dense and “inconvenient” loads will fall under class 500.

To determine the freight class, one must first pick the product’s commodity type. The most common types of commodities are raw, complex, and soft. Once you have found all this information, you should figure out the NMFC classification. To understand the classifications better, let’s take a closer look at the most important factors behind the freight class:


Density is known as the space the item occupies to its weight. Therefore, one can find density by dividing the weight of the items in pounds by their volume in cubic feet. To find the volume of the items in cubic feet, one would multiply the length by width by height.

NMFC would assign a class of 50 to freight that weighs 50 pounds per cubic foot with density guidelines. While less dense freight would fall under 1 pound per cubic foot in class 500.


Properly packed freight stows nicely in trucks, trains, and boats. However, per the government and carrier policies, some items are not allowed to be on the same freight truck. These items are considered hazardous materials, which means extra precautions are necessary for the transportation. Also, excessive weight, length, or protrusions can make freight impossible to load with other freight. In addition, the absence of load-bearing surfaces makes freight impossible to stack. Therefore, a quantifiable stow-ability classification represents the difficulty in loading and carrying the items.


Most freight is loaded with mechanical equipment and poses no handling difficulties, but some freight requires special attention due to its weight, shape, fragility, or hazardous properties. Therefore, handling is part of the classification representing the ease or difficulty of loading and carrying the freight.


Liability is the last NMFC classifier. It is the probability of freight theft or damage caused to adjacent freight. Perishable cargo or cargo prone to spontaneous combustion or explosion is classified based on liability. These items are assigned a value per pound, a fraction of the carrier’s liability.


You will have to know the approximate weight of the freight load. For example, an LTL shipment is usually one to six pallets and can only weigh 200 to 5,000 pounds.


For LTL, shippers should always know the dimensions of their shipments. To find the dimensions of your shipment, you must know the load’s weight, height, width, and length (make sure you round it to the nearest inch).


Shippers are encouraged to load their shipments onto pallets or crates for an LTL shipment. This is because numerous people throughout the LTL process handle freight, so the shipment is protected from bumps, drops, and adjacent freight. As a result, knowing if the loads are on pallets or in crates is essential in determining the NMFC classification number.

Freight class plays a significant role in pricing. All carriers weigh their shipments at the terminal during the shipping process and verify the class you provide on the bill of lading (BOL). If the class and weight on the BOL are incorrect, the carrier will re-class and re-weight the shipment, which will result in higher shipping charges.

Need help determining LTL Freight Class?

Determining your load’s freight class can be confusing at times. However, you can reach out to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, like PLS Logistics Services, for help.

PLS Logistics LTL service team has over 30 years of experience in LTL freight shipping. Our dedicated LTL team keeps up to date on industry trends, along with any changes in the industry. In addition, we can help you determine accurate freight classifications with our transportation management system (TMS), PLS Pro.

Our TMS is customizable, user-friendly, and can easily integrate with your existing business systems to save you time and money on your next LTL shipment. In addition, PLS Pro has built-in freight class estimators that help you determine your NMFC classification.

Do not pay extra. Contact us today to help you figure out the correct class for your LTL freight!

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