Know Your LTL Classification: How to Avoid Reclassifications that Cost You Money


For today’s shippers, determining freight class can be a high-stakes affair. By following a few simple guidelines, shippers can ensure that they get their freight classification right on the first try, rather than endure costly reclassifications. Though it seems complex, through education and ultimately experience these processes can be easily attended to and shippers can feel confident in their LTL freight classification. 

The Ins and Outs of LTL Freight Classification

Let’s start with the basics, such as the factors that determine LTL freight class and the 18 freight classes.

What Factors Determine LTL Freight Class?

The classification of Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) freight is crucial to accurately determining shipping costs and ensuring that your products are transported safely and efficiently. Let’s take a closer look at the four key factors that determine how LTL freight is classified: dimensions, weight and packaging, stowability, and handling.

  •  Dimensions: The size of your product is a significant factor in determining how LTL freight is classified. It is measured by the length, width, and height of your product, including any packaging. The size of your product will affect how much space it takes up on the shipping truck, which will impact the cost of shipping. If your product exceeds the standard dimensions for LTL freight, it may require special handling or even require shipment as a full truckload.
  • Weight and Packaging: The weight of your product, including any packaging, is another critical factor in determining how LTL freight is classified. The weight of your product affects the overall density of the shipment and will determine the rate of shipment. Additionally, the packaging of your product plays a vital role in ensuring the safe and secure transport of your goods. It is essential to package your products carefully to avoid damage during transit.
  • Stowability: Stowability refers to how well your product can be packed and stacked on a shipping truck. If your product is difficult to stack or requires special handling, it may be classified as difficult to handle, which can impact the cost of shipping.
  • Handlidng: The final factor in determining how LTL freight is classified is handling. Some products require special handling due to their fragile, hazardous, or perishable nature. If your product requires special handling, it may be classified as hazardous or fragile, which will affect the cost of shipping.

The 18 Freight Classes 

The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system categorizes different types of freight into 18 freight classes based on the aforementioned factors. The freight class helps to determine the shipping costs and handling requirements for each shipment. Let’s take a closer look at the 18 freight classes:

  1. Perishable food items
  2. Automobiles and automobile parts
  3. Clothing and fabrics
  4. Beer and beverages
  5. Office furniture and equipment
  6. Medical supplies and equipment
  7. Construction materials and equipment
  8. Heavy machinery and equipment
  9. Raw materials and commodities
  10. Small appliances and electronics
  11. Books and printed materials
  12. Furniture and home goods
  13. Farming and agricultural equipment
  14. Metal products and machinery
  15. Building materials and supplies
  16. Aircraft parts and equipment
  17. Hazardous materials
  18. Miscellaneous and unique items

5 Steps to Avoid Reclassifications that Cost You Money

Avoiding costly reclassifications in LTL is a matter of accurate weighing measuring, using appropriate packaging methods, precise measurements, considering density, and finding the right partner. Here are five steps to help avoid costly freight reclassifications.

Step 1: Ensure Accurate Weighing 

The first step in ensuring a successful LTL shipment is to measure the package accurately. This includes not just the weight, but also the dimensions of the package. Carriers often have strict rules about maximum weight and size limits for LTL shipments, and failing to adhere to these rules can result in costly delays or even damage to the goods.

Unlike full-truck-load, it’s not just the one customer that carriers must account for, adding a layer of complexity and increased need for accurate measurements. Carriers need to plan their routes and loads carefully to optimize efficiency and reduce costs. If a shipment is larger or heavier than expected, it can throw off the carrier’s entire plan and cause delays for other customers. On the other hand, if a shipment is smaller than anticipated, the carrier may not be able to fill the truck to capacity, resulting in inefficiencies and higher costs.

Step 2: Use Packaging to Your Advantage

To ensure the accuracy of freight classification information, it is crucial to identify the contents of the shipment and the manner in which they are packaged. Even if the contents of two shipments are identical, the use of different packaging methods, such as shipping on a pallet or LTL shipping in a box, could lead to different freight classifications. Meticulous attention should be paid to the packaging method deployed and ensuring that all relevant details are precisely conveyed to the carrier.

Step 3: Precise Measurements Save Time and Money

Freight carriers have varying definitions and measurements of a “standard” pallet, leading to misclassification and increased shipping costs, delayed deliveries, and penalties due to freight reweighs.

To avoid these issues, it is vital to measure everything precisely. Even a few inches off can cause problems, so it’s wise to adjust the freight class or use smaller packaging when necessary. By being cautious and careful with measurements, shippers can achieve a smoother and more cost-effective shipping process.

Step 4: Be Diligent About Density

When shipping commodities with varying weights, it is important to consider density (weight divided by volume) in determining the freight class. This is especially true for items such as car parts and machinery, which have a wide range of weights. Accurately calculating the density of the shipment and providing precise details when booking an LTL freight transportation ensures proper freight classification.

For example, if a shipment of car parts weighs 1,000 pounds and takes up 50 cubic feet of space, the density would be 20 pounds per cubic foot. This information is crucial in determining the appropriate freight class for the shipment, which in turn determines the shipping cost.

Step 5: Find the Right 3PL For Your Shipment

By considering key factors such as carrier relationships and expertise, shippers can select a 3PL that will best meet their needs.

First, it is important to select a 3PL that has established carrier relationships. A 3PL with strong relationships with multiple carriers can provide shippers with more shipping options and competitive rates. These relationships also help ensure that shipments are delivered on time and with minimal disruptions – especially in the LTL sector.

Another crucial factor to consider is the 3PL’s expertise in LTL shipments. The ideal 3PL partner should have extensive knowledge and experience in managing LTL shipments, from freight classification and carrier selection to tracking and delivery. This expertise ensures that the 3PL can provide valuable guidance and advice to shippers throughout the shipping process, helping to avoid costly mistakes and delays.

Finally, shippers should look for a 3PL partner that offers technology solutions to streamline the shipping process. This can include features such as online booking, real-time tracking, and electronic document management. These solutions can save time and reduce the risk of errors and miscommunications.

American Group Can Help You Avoid Freight Reclassifications

LTL freight classification is crucial to determining shipping costs, avoiding costly reclassifications, and ensuring the safe transport of your goods. By paying attention to dimensions, weight and packaging, stowability, and handling, shippers can accurately classify their freight and reduce the risk of delays, damages, and additional costs. By following the 5 steps outlined above, shippers can avoid reclassifications that cost them money, and ensure their freight is classified correctly from the start.

If you want to ensure that your LTL freight is correctly classified, get a quote from American Group today.