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The Role of Freight Class in Volume LTL Shipping

The Role of Freight Class Shipping in Volume LTL Shipping

Volume Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping, often referred to as “volume LTL,” is a freight shipping method that falls between traditional LTL and full truckload (FTL) shipping. It is designed for shippers with shipments exceeding standard LTL volume but not requiring a full truck.

Freight class in Volume Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipping is crucial for setting rates and consolidating multiple shipments efficiently. Determined by factors like density and handling characteristics, freight classes impact the pricing structure for each shipment. In Volume LTL, accurate classification is vital for fair pricing and efficient use of shared space on trucks. This ensures carriers optimize space utilization, accommodating larger quantities of goods from various shippers on a single truck.

In this guide, we will thoroughly explain the role freight class plays when using Volume LTL shipping as well as help you determine the right freight class for your shipment(s).

Understanding Freight Class

  1. Definition of freight class
  2. Explanation of the NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification) system
  3. Factors influencing freight class assignment

Freight class is a standardized classification system used in the shipping and transportation industry to categorize different types of cargo based on their characteristics. 

The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system in the United States assigns specific freight classes to various cargoes. This classification system ensures consistency and clarity in the shipping industry, playing a key role in determining rates and regulations.

The key criteria used in the NMFC system include:

Density: The pounds per cubic foot of the shipment, calculated by dividing the weight of the item by its volume.

Stowability: How easily the item can be stowed and secured in a transportation vehicle. Efficiently stowable items may be assigned a lower freight class.

Handling Characteristics: The ease or difficulty in handling the cargo. Fragile or awkwardly shaped items may warrant a higher freight class.

Liability for Damage: The susceptibility of the goods to damage during transportation.

Why Freight Class Matters in Volume LTL

  1. Impact on shipping costs
  2. Relationship between freight class and carrier pricing
  3. Effect on transit times and delivery schedules

Freight class, determined by NMFC, significantly influences shipping costs based on density and handling characteristics. Lower classes denote denser, easier-to-handle goods with lower rates, while higher classes indicate greater challenges and liabilities, leading to higher rates. Accurate classification is crucial for transparent pricing, allowing effective budgeting and ensuring consistency in the shipping industry.

Freight class strongly affects transit times, determined by handling needs and stowability. Higher classes, indicating specialized handling, may prolong transit. Delicate items require careful consideration, impacting delivery schedules. Carrier policies, routing constraints, and equipment availability contribute to this relationship. Shippers must be aware of precise planning based on their shipment’s freight class.

How to Determine the Right Freight Class

  1. Overview of the classification process
  2. Tips for accurately determining freight class for different types of cargo
  3. Common mistakes to avoid in freight class assignment

The classification process assigns freight classes based on density, handling, stowability, and damage liability, influencing shipping rates and regulations within the 50 to 500 range. Accurate classification, following NMFC guidelines, ensures fair pricing, industry uniformity, and efficient supply chain communication. Regular updates accommodate changes in practices, technology, and transported commodities, promoting transparency and adaptability.

Follow these tips to accurately determine your freight class:

Measure and Weigh Carefully: Use precise tools for accurate measurements and weights, as even small discrepancies impact the assigned freight class.

Consider Density: Higher-density items usually get lower freight classes. Calculate density accurately by dividing the weight by volume.

Evaluate Handling Characteristics: Assess fragility, shape, and special handling needs. Delicate or awkward items may warrant a higher freight class.

Stowability Matters: Efficiently stowable items may receive a lower freight class.

Check for Special Requirements: Be aware of special requirements for items like hazardous materials, consulting specific classification rules.

Use Online Resources: Utilize carrier-provided online tools or freight class calculators for assistance.

Avoiding common mistakes in freight class assignments is vital for accurate and fair shipping pricing. Pitfalls include incorrect density calculations, neglecting handling and stowability, and disregarding NMFC guidelines. 

Best Practices for Managing Freight Class in Volume LTL 

  1. Strategies for optimizing freight class assignment
  2. Collaboration with carriers and freight partners
  3. Importance of ongoing evaluation and adjustment

Optimizing freight class assignments is crucial for efficient and cost-effective shipping. Employ these strategies to enhance accuracy and streamline logistics:

Accurate Measurements and Weighing:

Prioritize precise measurements and weighing of cargo. Utilize accurate tools to ensure precision, minimizing the risk of misclassifications.

Regular Information Updates:

Maintain up-to-date information reflecting any changes in product lines or packaging. Regular updates ensure that classifications align with current specifications.

Collaborate with Carriers:

Engage with carriers to leverage their expertise. Seek guidance on specific items and classifications, benefiting from their experience in the field.

Periodic Review and Reassessment:

Regularly review and reassess your classification strategies. Adapt to evolving industry practices and regulations, ensuring that your approach remains effective and aligned with current standards.


  1. Recap key points about the role of freight class in Volume LTL
  2. Encourage readers to implement best practices for more efficient and cost-effective shipping

In Volume LTL shipping, freight class is crucial for pricing based on factors like density and stowability, impacting efficient cargo space usage in shared trucks. Accurate classification is vital for preventing billing issues and ensuring fairness. Freight class affects transit times, especially for higher-class items needing careful handling. Understanding freight class is crucial for accurate budgeting, emphasizing its role in fair pricing, space optimization, and regulatory compliance in shipping.

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