What is Freight Class?
Freight class or freight classification is one of the least understood freight shipping concepts to the general public. Anytime we need to give an LTL freight quote to an existing customer or new customer, we need to get some basic information to give an accurate quote and one of the crucial pieces of information we need is the freight class.
Freight companies determine the cost of your shipment by looking at the weight of the shipment relative to the shipment’s freight class, and then by the total distance that your shipment will travel. At its core level the freight class is an indicator of how difficult or risky it is to move your shipment. The more fragile, costly or less dense your item is, the bigger risk it is to the freight company to move it and hence they charge a higher amount for it.
The big freight carriers all adhere to the same standards when determining freight class. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association determines the freight class that the carriers use for all items that a company could ship. This association has organized all commodities into one of eighteen different classifications or freight classes. The classes are numeric and start at class 50 for the most dense, cheap, and easy to ship items and ranges all the way up to class 500 for the hardest to ship and least dense items.
Let’s give an example. We have one customer that commonly ships paper. Yes, plain paper on pallets. Think about this, its hard to ruin paper, its very dense and its easy to stack other commodities on top of it. Paper is a class 50 item for shipping. Just the other day, we got a quote for a new shipper. He was trying to ship a crated insulator. The type of insulator that goes on top of equipment in power plants. His insultor was made of glass, clay, and was filled with liquid (oil). The insulator was about 7 feet tall and 4 feet wide yet only weighed 150 pounds. You guessed it, this was a class 500 shipment.
Most customers that are new to freight shipping really are unaware of how drastically changes in freight class can affect the price of their shipments. This is why it is so critical to get the proper freight class before the shipment is processed. We have another customer that ships transmissions and truck engines. Both of these items are class 85. A few weeks ago they shipped some truck hoods and marked them as class 85. The quote on their shipment for class 85 in our transportation management system was $174. Unfortunately for the shipper, truck hoods are much less dense and much more fragile than transmission or engines. They are actually a class 300. This changed the rate of the shipment from $174 all the way to $1080. Yes, that is drastic, but that’s how the freight carriers price their freight.
If you are shipping a new item or are unsure of your freight class, please ask your freight forwarder to look it up for you. We’re glad to do it and it saves money and heartache down the road.