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How to determine freight class: A comprehensive guide


What is LTL shipping?

What is freight class?

Factors that determine freight shipping class


Commodity and density: Some commodities are not based on density and have pre-defined freight classes. However, other commodities are density-based. This is determined by the total cubic feet divided by total weight in pounds. Freight with a lower density results in a higher freight class.


Stowability: Assuming you have packed it properly, most freight should be fairly easy to stow in trucks, trains, boats, and planes. However, some items are regulated by the government or can’t be loaded with other items. Freight that is excessively heavy, is too long, or has odd protrusions can be difficult to load, especially with other shipments. Shipments should also have clear load-bearing surfaces to make them easier to stack with other freight. Essentially, if an item is difficult to load, it will have a higher freight class, which will increase the overall shipping cost.


Handling: Freight goes through various checkpoints and distribution facilities before it reaches its final destination, and a properly packed shipment generally shouldn’t run into any problems. While equipment can load most freight without issue, items that are hard to stow and goods that are heavy, fragile, awkwardly shaped, or hazardous require special handling to prevent damage or harm to workers and other freight. The carrier may categorize freight that’s more difficult to load or carry as a higher freight class.


Liability: Liability refers to the probability that any piece of freight may be stolen, damaged, or damaging to other freight in its proximity. For example, perishable cargo or freight that may be prone to sudden explosion or combustion is a higher liability, which is valued per pound.

Understanding density-based freight class

How to calculate your freight density


Measure the length, width, and height of your shipment. Remember that this measurement includes pallets and other packaging around the actual shipment. Round up to the next inch. You will have to repeat this step for shipments that have multiple pieces or pallets.


Multiply the height, width, and length measurements you just took. This gives you the total cubic inches of the shipment. Divide this number by 1,728 to convert cubic inches to cubic feet. If you have several different pieces, multiply the length, width, and height of each individual piece. Add the cubic measurements for each individual piece together to get the total, then convert to cubic feet if necessary.


Determine the weight of the shipment in pounds. Divide the weight by the total cubic feet of the shipment to get the pounds per cubic foot, or density. For multiple pieces, add the total weight of each piece before dividing by the total cubic feet.


Once you have the freight density, use the following LTL freight class chart to determine the freight class.

Freight class codes chart

Preparing your goods for LTL shipping

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