How to Determine LTL Freight Class for Optimal Shipping Costs

Posted by Cargobot ● Jul 2, 2024 2:02:02 PM

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Welcome to the world of LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) freight shipping! If you're a shipper in the United States, understanding the nuances of LTL freight class is crucial for optimizing your shipping costs and ensuring smooth logistics. Determining the correct LTL freight class can be a game changer for your business, impacting everything from pricing to compliance with industry standards. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll break down the essentials you need to know about LTL freight class, including: 

  • What LTL freight class is and why it matters
  • Key factors influencing freight classification
  • A step-by-step method to determine your freight class
  • Common mistakes to avoid and how to fix them
  • The impact of accurate freight classification on shipping costs

By the end of this article, you'll be equipped with the knowledge to classify your freight accurately, avoid costly mistakes, and leverage industry tools and resources to streamline your operations. Let's dive in and make freight shipping a breeze!


Understanding LTL Freight Class

LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) freight class is a standardized classification system that plays a crucial role in determining the cost and management of shipping smaller freight volumes.

Unlike Full Truckload (FTL) shipping, where one shipper's goods utilize an entire trailer, LTL shipping consolidates shipments from multiple shippers. Each shipment is assigned an LTL freight class to ensure efficiency and fairness in pricing. 

The freight class system is governed by the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), which provides a framework for classifying various types of commodities. Each freight class is assigned a specific code, known as the NMFC code, which helps carriers determine shipping costs, calculate fuel surcharges, and ensure proper handling. 


The Importance of Accurate Freight Determination

Accurate freight classification is of paramount importance. It ensures that shippers are not overpaying for their transportation needs and helps to avoid potential conflicts and penalties. Misclassifying your freight can lead to logistical challenges and unnecessary costs, making it vital to understand and properly assign the correct freight class. 

Freight classes range from Class 50 to Class 500, with lower numbers usually indicating denser and more durable goods, while higher numbers signify lighter, bulkier, or more fragile items. Knowing which class your freight falls into can dramatically affect your shipping expenses, as freight rates typically increase with higher classes. 

Ultimately, determining the correct LTL freight class involves looking at several key factors including density, stowability, handling, and liability. Each of these elements contributes to the ease or difficulty of transporting and handling the shipment. In the next sections, we'll delve into these factors in detail to help you accurately classify your LTL freight.


Factors Influencing LTL Freight Class

LTL Freight Class

Several critical factors influence the classification of LTL freight. Systematically understanding these factors will enable you to categorize your freight accurately and hence, optimize your shipping costs. 


1) Weight and Density 

Weight and density are major determinants in the LTL freight class assignment. Density refers to the mass per unit volume of a shipment, calculated as the weight of the shipment divided by the total cubic feet.

A higher density usually leads to a lower freight class, potentially lowering shipping costs. For example, dense materials such as steel will usually fall into a lower freight class than lightweight materials like foam. 


2) Dimensions and Volume 

The dimensions and overall volume of your shipment also play a crucial role. Freight with excessive weight, length, or protrusions can make it impossible to load with other freight, leading to a higher class assignment.

To calculate the total cubic feet, multiply the length, width, and height of the shipment and divide by 1,728 (conversion from cubic inches to cubic feet). 


3) Handling and Stowability 

Handling and stowability refer to how easily the freight can be loaded, unloaded, and transported. Freight that is cumbersome to handle or requires special equipment will likely be classified at a higher rate.

For instance, items that need special handling like hazardous materials or fragile goods are placed in higher classes because of the difficulties and risks involved. 


4) Liability and Value 

Liability considerations are another decisive factor. This involves any risk of damage or risks posed to other goods, such as perishable cargo or items prone to spontaneous combustion or explosion. These are classified based on their liability profile. Moreover, the value per pound assigned to different types of commodities affects their classification. Higher-value items might be placed in a higher freight class to account for liability and insurance costs. 

By carefully considering these factors – weight, dimensions, handling, and liability – you can better determine the correct LTL freight class for your shipment, ensuring compliance with the NMFTA guidelines and optimizing shipping expenses.


Steps to Determine Your LTL Freight Class

Steps to Determine Your LTL Freight Class


Step 1: Measure Your Freight 

Start by accurately measuring the dimensions of your shipment. Use a tape measure to determine the length, width, and height of your freight. Make sure to measure in inches as most calculations in LTL shipping are done using this unit.

Write down these dimensions as they will be crucial for subsequent steps. 


Step 2: Calculate Density 

Density is a key factor in determining your freight class. To calculate the density, you need both the shipment's weight and total cubic feet.  

  1. First, multiply your cargo's length, width, and height to get the volume in cubic inches.
  2. Convert this volume to cubic feet by dividing the total cubic inches by 1,728 (since there are 1,728 cubic inches in a cubic foot).
  3. Finally, divide the weight of your shipment (in pounds) by the volume (in cubic feet) to get the density, expressed in pounds per cubic foot.


Step 3: Identify the NMFC Code 

Every freight shipment is assigned an NMFC code representing the commodity being shipped. Knowing your NMFC code is crucial as it will directly influence your freight class.

You can find the NMFC code for your commodity by consulting the NMFC directory or using online tools provided by your carrier or logistics provider. Make sure you choose the correct code to avoid any discrepancies. 


Step 4: Consult the NMFTA Guidelines 

Review the guidelines provided by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA). These guidelines will clearly explain how density, handling, stowability, and liability affect your LTL freight class.

Consult these guidelines to ensure you're classifying your freight correctly. 


Step 5: Verify with Your Carrier 

Once you've determined your estimated freight class, verifying it with your LTL carrier is a good idea. Carriers have the final say on freight classification and may perform their own verification process.

By confirming your freight class with them, you can avoid potential reclassification fees and ensure that your shipment is processed smoothly. 


Common Freight Class Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Common Freight Class Mistakes

Inaccurate LTL freight class determination can result in higher shipping costs and delays. Here are some common mistakes you might encounter and how to avoid them: 


Incorrect Measurements 

One of the most frequent errors in freight classification is providing incorrect dimensions and weight. When you underestimate the size or weight of your shipment, you risk being reclassified by the carrier, which can lead to unexpected fees and delays.

Always measure the dimensions and weight accurately, using calibrated equipment if necessary, and include any packaging or pallets in your measurements. 


Overlooking Special Handling Requirements 

Certain items may require special handling due to their fragility, hazardous nature, or other unique properties. For instance, items prone to damage or with unusual shapes might need additional precautions.

Misclassifying such items can result in higher liability or damage risks during transit. Always review the handling requirements for your cargo and ensure they are factored into your freight class. 


Misidentifying NMFC Codes 

NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification) codes are critical for determining the correct freight class. However, misidentifying or choosing the wrong NMFC code can lead to incorrect classification.

To avoid this, double-check the NMFC code against the current NMFTA guidelines and consult any available resources or experts if uncertain. Remember, each type of commodity has specific codes, and accuracy is key. 

Understanding and avoiding these common pitfalls ensures smoother and more cost-effective LTL freight shipping experiences. For more detailed guidance and support, explore Cargobot’s LTL freight services and resources available on our website.


The Impact of Accurate Freight Classification on Shipping Over-the-Road Freight 

Accurate Freight Classification on Shipping Over-the-Road Freight

Shipping freight might seem straightforward, but things can get a bit more complicated when it comes to Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) freight shipping.

One of the most crucial aspects of LTL shipping is accurately determining the freight class. This classification directly impacts your shipping costs, compliance with industry standards, and the overall efficiency of your shipping process. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the essentials of LTL freight class determination. By the end, you’ll clearly understand how to classify your freight correctly, avoid common pitfalls, and ultimately optimize your shipping expenses. 

“Freight classification isn’t just about fitting into a category. It’s about understanding the nature of your shipment and how it interacts with the universal standards set by the freight industry.” - Cargobot Expert

With an accurate LTL freight class, you not only ensure you’re paying the right amount for shipping but also protect your freight from potential damages caused by improper handling.

Let's dive into the fundamentals of LTL freight class, understand the factors that influence it, and learn the precise steps to determine your shipment’s class efficiently.


Why Cargobot is a Top-Notch Option for LTL Shippers 

Cargobot Freight Tracking Screen

Choosing the right partner for LTL shipping can significantly impact your efficiency, costs, and overall logistics management. Cargobot stands out as a top-notch option for LTL shippers for several compelling reasons: 


Advanced Technology and User-Friendly Platform 

At Cargobot, we leverage cutting-edge technology to provide a seamless and efficient experience. Our user-friendly platform allows you to easily book and manage your shipments, ensuring you can handle logistics with minimal hassle.

This translates to more time for you to focus on other essential aspects of your business. 


Comprehensive Freight Services 

From small packages to oversized freight, Cargobot offers a wide range of services tailored to meet various shipping needs. We cover all bases, ensuring that every aspect of your shipment is handled with precision and care.

Whether it's coordinating with LTL carriers or managing specific handling requirements, we've got you covered. 


Transparent Pricing 

Understanding and managing shipping costs can be daunting. Cargobot offers transparent pricing so you know exactly what you're paying for.

Our pricing models are designed to be fair and competitive, reflecting our commitment to providing value for your money. 


Real-Time Tracking and Updates 

Stay in control and keep track of your shipments in real-time with our robust tracking systems. Cargobot provides timely updates, giving you peace of mind and the ability to address any issues promptly.

This level of transparency and communication is essential for maintaining smooth operations. 


Exceptional Customer Support 

Our team of dedicated professionals is always ready to assist you with any concerns or queries you might have.

At Cargobot, we believe in building lasting relationships with our clients through exceptional customer service, ensuring you receive the support you need when you need it. 


Compliance and Safety 

Safety and compliance are non-negotiable in the freight industry. Cargobot adheres to stringent safety and regulatory standards, ensuring your shipments are handled in accordance with industry best practices. Our commitment to compliance helps mitigate risks and provides assurance that your freight is in safe hands. 

Partnering with Cargobot means leveraging a platform that prioritizes efficiency, transparency, and customer satisfaction. Whether you're new to LTL shipping or looking to optimize your current logistics strategy, the company is here to help you navigate the complexities of freight shipping with ease and confidence.


Ready to Get Started? Request a Quote Today! 

Cargobot Customer Rep

Don’t let the complexities of LTL freight class determination hold you back. With Cargobot, you can quickly and easily obtain a quote for your unique shipping needs. Our platform provides you with all the tools and information required to streamline your freight operations.

Click here to request a quote and discover how Cargobot can transform your shipping experience.


Topics: LTL