What Freight Classes Mean for Your Business


Freight class is a system used in transportation to describe the type of cargo being shipped. The freight class is essential in determining how much you will pay for shipping and how your shipment will be transported.

Terms to know to understand freight classes:

  • FCL (full container load): This is the most economical way to ship products in large quantities. It involves loading your entire shipment into a standard 20-foot or 40-foot container, which can fit up to 20 pallets. The cost varies depending on how much space your cargo occupies in each container.
  • LTL (less than truckload): This option is best suited for those who need just one or two pallets of goods shipped at once rather than an entire shipment. It’s also more cost-effective than FCL since no charges are associated with transporting empty space inside the container. However, your goods will share container space with other small shipments to make up a full container.

Freight classes and how they’re determined

The freight class is a classification system that describes the type of cargo being shipped. The shipping industry assigns a freight class to every shipment to help determine the shipping cost.

 There are several factors that determine freight shipping class, such as:

  • Commodity and density
  • Stowability
  • Handling
  • Liability

There are currently 18 freight classes that range from Class 50 to Class 500. The lower the class number, the less expensive it is to ship. The type of commodity and the density are generally the most important factors in determining the class number.

Examples of the freight class and the commodities they represent include:

  • Class 50 – Nuts, blots, steel rods
  • Class 100 – Boat and car covers, wine cases
  • Class 250 – Flat screen TVs, bamboo furniture, mattresses and box springs

Accurately identifying the freight class for your shipment is essential for managing LTL freight and can help you avoid unnecessary costs.

Switching to another freight class

If there are any changes made to the contents of your shipment, you may need to change freight classes. For example, if you’re shipping hazardous materials, such as propane tanks and flammable liquids, there may be additional handling or liability charges that would be associated with a different freight class.

Any changes in the density or weight of your package may also impact the freight class of your shipment. If you’re unsure of what class is the correct one, check with your carrier. 

Preparing your cargo for shipping

Before shipping your cargo, you need to make sure that the packages are correctly packaged and labeled. You also need to have all the documentation required for shipping. The information your carrier needs for your shipment includes:

  • Date of shipment
  • Description of packaging type
  • Description of goods being shipped
  • Dimensions
  • Freight class
  • Estimated value

Ensuring that your cargo is properly prepared for shipping can help prevent obstacles in the shipping process and save you money.

Understand how it all affects you.

The freight class code allows carriers, customs authorities, and you to determine the type of cargo being shipped. Carriers use these codes to determine how much they will charge you for shipping. Customs authorities use them to assess duty and taxes based on the country of origin. In addition, some countries require that importers provide their classification number when importing goods into their country (for example, China).

For carriers and customs authorities to correctly classify your product, you need to know what type of freight class code it falls under so that they can assess accurate fees or duties on your shipment when entering other countries’ borders.

Knowing about freight classes can help you make more informed decisions about shipping costs and carrier options.

Additionally, knowing what type of cargo you’re transporting can help determine which carriers offer service options best suited for those particular types of goods. This helps ensure safe delivery without additional fees due to damage caused during transport or poor packaging choices made by yourself or third parties involved with handling arrangements before the pickup date.

Talk to your carrier for more information

You can find out which freight class code applies to your shipment by contacting the carrier or checking their website. The codes are usually listed on the packing slip or bill of lading (BL).

To get more help with freight and logistics, contact our friendly shipping experts at Sutton Transport, and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.

Call 800-472-6886 or request a quote today.