How to Choose the Right Freight Class

Posted by Jarrett on Jun 16, 2022 11:26:41 AM



Navigating the nuances of freight shipments can be complex and confusing, especially when it comes to choosing the proper freight class and associated packaging, rules and bills of lading. The industry relies on the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system called ClassIT, published by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), as a standard that “provides a comparison of commodities moving in interstate, intrastate and foreign commerce.”

These complexities can result in overpaying on freight bills and costly cargo claims. Knowing how freight classes and related rules and procedures work, as well as how they affect your freight shipments and bottom line, are critical to your business’s bottom line.


Freight Classes and Transportation Characteristics

Each commodity or product type is assigned an NMFC number and a freight class for LTL shipments. There are 18 different freight classes that define the type of commodity being shipped based on weight, length and height, density, ease of handling, value, and liability. These 18 freight classes are evaluated by four transportation characteristics:

  • Density – This is the space the commodity will take up related to its weight.
  • Handling – This is the government’s regulations placed on products, such as easy, hard, hazardous material, heavy loads, etc.
  • Stowability – This refers to the shape, size and fragility of the commodity and how it can be loaded, stored and stacked on the truck.
  • Liability – This refers to the probability of your freight being damaged, stolen or otherwise mishandled.


These four characteristics are used to establish a commodity’s “transportability” to consolidate, streamline and simplify the standards for commodities being shipped. As a result, carriers and shippers then have a standard frame of reference to work from for comparative evaluation in negotiations.


Packaging, Rules and Bills of Lading

NMFC specifies minimum packaging requirements so that goods are properly protected, handled and stowed in “a manner that is reasonably safe and practicable so as to withstand the normal rigors of the less-than-truckload environment.” These rules are meant to support the classification and/or packaging of various commodities and all the related filings of claims, as well as act as guidelines for bills of lading and associated terms and conditions.


Keeping up with Freight Class Changes

Freight class is a fluid process, continuously changing as our economic and social conditions change. This requires carriers to constantly stay up to date on these changes as they happen, as they can significantly affect shipping costs.


This is where leveraging a 3PL partner comes into play. Companies like Jarrett have teams with deep expertise and direct connections to NMFTA and NMFC, providing expert guidance on how to navigate freight classes and related rules for classifying shipments and working with vendors. Jarrett also reviews all NMFTA changes three times per year and publishes “freight class updates” on its site that include commodity classification, packaging requirements and pounds per cubic feet, among others.


Make sure you are aligned with a freight shipping expert like Jarrett to ensure you are maximizing your shipments by choosing the right freight classifications. Contact us to receive a full review of your inbound and outbound freight data by calling 877-815-0279 or by visiting

Topics: shipping


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