When shipping a less-than-truckload (LTL) shipment, one of the first and most important things to consider is how the shipment is defined by the trucking industry. In the world of shipping, products are defined according to their makeup, and each product definition is called a classification. The classification of freight plays a large role in calculating shipping costs.

How many different classes are there? The National Motor Tariff Association (NMTA) established 18 different classes ranging from 50 to 500. The classes are: 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 77.5, 85, 92.5, 100, 1120, 125, 150, 175, 200, 250, 300, 400 and 500. The lower the class, the lower the shipping rate will be because they’re very dense freight that’s easy to handle and difficult to damage. Higher classes represent less dense freight that tends to take up more space. Therefore, the higher the class, the higher the rate will be.

Before a class can be determined, there are four characteristics about the freight that need to be evaluated. These four characteristics determine your LTL freight class.

Density and Value

Density guidelines assign classifications based on the weight per cubic foot. For example, classification 50 is assigned to freight that weighs 50 pounds per cubic foot, and freight less dense than 1 pound per cubic foot is classified as 500. The density is the space the item occupies in relation to its weight.


Generally, most freight stows well in trucks, trains and boats. However, there are some articles that are regulated by government or carrier policies and some items cannot be loaded together. For example, hazardous materials have specific regulations and are shipped in a specific way. Items with excessive weight, length or shape can make it impossible to load with other freight. The stowability classification represents the difficulty in loading and carrying the item.


Most freight is loaded using special mechanical equipment and posses no handling difficulties. Some freight, however, is more difficult due to its weight, shape, fragility or hazardous properties. This freight requires special attention. The handling classification represents the ease or difficulty in loading and carrying the freight to assigned items.


The liability classification is the probability of freight theft or damage as well as the probability of damage to adjacent freight. Cargo that’s perishable or prone to spontaneous explosion is classified based on liability and assigned a value per pound, which is a fraction of the carrier’s liability. When classification is based on liability, density is also considered.

The classification of your freight plays an important role in calculating how much transporting costs will be. Classifying the freight correctly is extremely important because if a product is classed incorrectly, the owner of the item could end up paying too much for shipping or they could violate transportation law, which would lead to hefty fines.