Once you have joined the TSMT team, you’ll be trucking items that are all coded by freight class.

To help take the guesswork out of shipping prices, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) publishes one set of fair rates for all consumers.

The NMFTA publishes this set of rates as the National Motor Freight Classification® (NMFC®) system. It uses numbers for items in any less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments. These numbers are commonly called freight class codes.

Freight Class Codes

There are 18 freight class codes. They run from 50 to 500. The right code for any item will be based on four factors:

1. How dense are the contents?

A density calculation accounts for the item’s measurements and weight. Low-density items have higher code numbers. So code of 500 might apply to a box of ping pong balls—a low-density piece of freight.

A piece more than 2 but under 4 lbs. per cubic foot would get 250—a mid-range item.

And a quite heavy, dense piece, over 12 but under 15 lbs. per cubic foot, gets a low number: 85. If the density is 15-plus lbs., the number goes down to 70.

2. How easy is the item to stow in the truck?

3. How easy is the item for the carrier to handle?

4. What are the legal liabilities in case of damage?

In other words: How fragile or perishable or subject to theft are the items?

The above four factors tell how difficult an item is to move by trucking. A low number (class 50) means a low shipping price. Such an item has low value, is easy to handle and stow, is dense, and not fragile.

Freight class codes also help determine if hazmat-certified drivers must truck it. There are other special handling needs too. And new items are introduced to the market often. So freight class codes can change over time.

Getting It All Right

Third-party logistics (3PL) providers help to classify a shipment. They need facts from the trucking company to assign the code. Getting the details right at the start saves the time, cost, and hassle of adjusting the rates later.

The details are:

  • Size and density – Know the size of all pallets and extra shipping materials as well as individual items.
  • Exact Commodity – What’s getting moved? If flooring, for example, what kind? Hardwood? Tile? What material?
  • Packaging – Will pieces be trucked in boxes, free-standing, or on a pallet? What packaging protects the items? Freight class codes depend on this information.

Understanding freight class codes will support third-party logistics planners. The result? A good trailer packing job that’s easy to unload.