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Mastering Freight Classes: What Are Freight Classes and How to Streamline Logistics

Updated: May 18

Freight classes are essential for standardizing shipping costs and ensuring proper handling and transportation of goods. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) has established the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system, which categorizes freight into 18 classes ranging from 50 to 500. These classes impact shipping costs, handling requirements, and liability. Here's an in-depth look at how freight classes work and how you can optimize them for your shipping needs.

Construction site with a red crane lifting large steel beams onto a flatbed truck in front of a high-rise building under construction.

Factors Determining Freight Class

1. Density: This is the weight of the shipment relative to its size. Higher density items (heavier and smaller) fall into lower classes (e.g., Class 50), which are cheaper to ship. Lower density items (lighter and larger) fall into higher classes (e.g., Class 500), which are more expensive due to the space they occupy.

2. Stowability: This measures how easily the freight can be stored and stacked with other goods. Items that are difficult to stow, such as hazardous materials or odd-shaped items, have higher freight classes due to the special handling required.

3. Handling: This considers how easy or difficult it is to load and unload the freight. Items requiring special equipment or careful handling are classified into higher classes.

4. Liability: This includes the risk of damage or theft during transit. Higher risk items, such as fragile or perishable goods, are assigned higher classes.

Common Freight Classes

  • Class 50: Heavy, dense items like bricks or cement.

  • Class 60: Items such as car parts and glass.

  • Class 70: Machinery and automobile engines.

  • Class 100: Boat covers and wine cases.

  • Class 150: Furniture and ATVs.

  • Class 500: Very light, high-value items like ping pong balls and gold dust.

Optimizing Freight Classes for Cost Savings

1. Accurate Measurement: Ensure precise documentation of weight, dimensions, and density to avoid reclassification and additional costs.

2. Proper Packaging: Use appropriate packaging to protect items and optimize space, reducing dimensional weight penalties.

3. Consolidate Shipments: Combine smaller shipments into larger ones to benefit from lower rates offered for full truckload shipments.

4. Negotiate Rates: With accurate classification, you can negotiate better rates based on reduced handling and lower liability.

5. Utilize Online Tools: Many carriers provide online freight class calculators to help determine the correct classification based on your shipment's specifics.

Benefits of Understanding Freight Classes

  • Accurate Cost Estimation: Helps in budgeting and avoiding unexpected expenses.

  • Efficient Carrier Selection: Allows selection of carriers that specialize in your type of freight.

  • Optimized Packaging: Ensures goods are properly protected and minimizes damage.

  • Negotiation Power: Better understanding of freight classes allows for more informed rate negotiations.

  • Compliance and Avoiding Penalties: Ensures compliance with regulations and avoids penalties for misclassification.


Understanding and properly managing freight classes can lead to significant cost savings and operational efficiencies. By accurately classifying your shipments, optimizing packaging, consolidating shipments, and negotiating rates, businesses can streamline their logistics operations and improve their bottom line.

South Coast Carriers is here to help with all your shipping needs. Our team of experts ensures that your freight is accurately classified and handled according to the highest industry standards. We provide comprehensive support, from accurate measurement and proper packaging to effective negotiation of shipping rates. Partner with South Coast Carriers to optimize your freight shipping and experience seamless logistics operations. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with your freight shipping requirements.


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