How is Freight Class Determined and What Is the Purpose?

Businesses shipping goods must know how freight classes are determined to ensure accurate pricing and efficient logistics. Anyone in shipping or logistics must understand freight class to avoid unexpected costs and streamline operations. In this blog, our team will explain how freight class is determined and what its purpose is in the shipping industry.

What is Freight Class? 

The freight class system is used in the United States to categorize goods for shipping. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) created this system to ensure uniform pricing and handling for different types of freight.

The purpose of freight class is to simplify the pricing of freight shipments. It helps carriers, shippers, and logistics professionals determine shipping costs based on the characteristics of the goods being transported. The classification ensures a fair and consistent pricing structure across the industry.

Factors Determining Freight Class 

Understanding how freight class is determined involves several factors. These factors ensure that goods are categorized correctly, leading to fair pricing and efficient handling during transportation. The four primary factors determining freight class are density, stowability, handling, and liability. 

  1. Density
    • Definition: Density refers to the weight of the shipment relative to its size.
    • Example: A shipment of bricks has a higher density than a shipment of pillows because bricks are heavier and take up less space.
  2. Stowability
    • Definition: Stowability measures how easily the goods can be stored and transported with other freight.
    • Example: A pallet of uniform boxes is easier to stow than odd-shaped items like machinery parts.
  3. Handling
    • Definition: Handling refers to the ease or difficulty of moving and managing the freight.
    • Example: Fragile items require special handling compared to durable goods, affecting their freight class.
  4. Liability
    • Definition: Liability considers the value of the goods and the potential risk of damage or theft.
    • Example: High-value electronics have higher liability than low-cost materials like gravel.

Freight Class System 

The freight class system ranges from Class 50 to Class 500. Lower classes indicate heavier, denser items that are easier to handle, while higher classes represent lighter, bulkier, and more fragile goods. Here are some examples:

  • Class 50: Very dense and heavy items, such as building materials.
  • Class 125: Moderately dense items, like car parts.
  • Class 500: Light and bulky items, such as clothing.

Practical Application of Freight


Understanding and accurately determining freight class helps businesses optimize shipping costs. Correct classification prevents unexpected charges and ensures smooth transportation. Tools like freight class calculators and guidelines provided by the NMFTA can assist in determining the correct class for shipments.

Common Challenges and Tips 

Accurately determining freight class can take time and effort. Here are some tips to overcome these challenges:

  • Measure and Weigh Accurately: Ensure you have precise measurements and the weight of your shipment.
  • Use Freight Class Calculators: Utilize online tools to help determine the correct freight class.
  • Consult with Experts: When in doubt, consult with a logistics expert or your carrier.

Determining freight class in the logistics industry is important as it affects the cost and handling of shipments. Businesses can ensure efficient and cost-effective shipping by understanding the factors that determine freight class and using the right tools. Optimize your shipping and ensure accurate freight classification with the help of IFS Freight. Contact us today to streamline your logistics and reduce your shipping costs.

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