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The Importance of Class in LTL Shipping


What is the freight class in shipping?

Knowing your classification in less than truckload (LTL) shipping is important. As a freight shipper, you need to determine your freight class number to minimize surprises. This number indicates the type of product in the shipment and affects not only the billing but the entire shipping process.

There are 18 freight classes in the National Motor Freight Classification tariff that range from class 50 (least expensive) to class 500 (most expensive). The higher the class, the higher the rate for every hundred pounds you ship. The classification is determined on four transportation characteristics: density, handling, stowability, and liability. These characteristics establish a commodity’s “transportability.”

If you schedule a shipment based on the wrong freight classification or weight, you will be charged incorrectly. All carriers weigh your goods at their terminal and verify the class you provide on the bill of lading. If the class and weight on the BOL are incorrect, the carrier will re-class and re-weight the shipment, which will likely result in higher shipping charges. If a product is classified incorrectly, the payer of the shipment runs the risk of 1) paying too much or, 2) violating transportation law which could lead to hefty fines if caught trying to pay a cheaper rate.

How to determine your class

To determine class, you must first pick the product’s commodity type and then the dimensions of your shipment including weight, height, width, and length. Other questions that will typically need to be answered include:

  1. What is the description of the item being shipped?
  2. What is the product made of?
  3. How is it used?
  4. How is it packaged?
  5. What is the value of the item?
  6. What is the density of the item?
  7. Is the item new or used?

You can also call the manufacturer of the item you are shipping and ask them what the freight classification is. Manufacturers know the freight class of their own products. If you do not know the manufacturer of the goods, contact the distributor or seller (the person you bought the goods from). Otherwise, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association can help. Visit the website or contact them at 1-703-838-1810. The NMFTA defines the freight classifications. The classification of your shipment plays an important role in calculating how much the carrier will charge you for transporting it. Knowing the characteristics of your freight is very important.

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