How to Determine Freight Class

The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system is a standardized method designed to give consumers a uniform pricing structure when transporting freight. There are 18 classes that a shipped package may fall under with class 50 being the least expensive, to class 500 as the most expensive. The number assigned to an item is important to freight carriers in determining the tariffs, which in turn determine the price charged to you. Online calculators are available with instructions on how to determine freight class so that everyone can easily understand the process.


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    Learn the things that will determine the freight class of your item, including loadability and handling characteristics, weight, density, and the product's susceptibility to damage.
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    Determine the basic description of the freight being transported. Be able to describe what material the item being shipped is made of.
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    Know what kind of container your item will be shipped in. There are many different types of allowable packaging systems for freight including, but not limited to, pallets, drums, reels, crates, tubes, or bundles.
    • You will also need to specify to a shipper if the contents of the package you are shipping need a lift gate to load it onto a truck.
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    Determine if your package contains hazardous materials that need to be shipped in a specialized manner. The U.S. Department of Transportation's code of federal regulations, title 49 defines hazardous materials.
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    Measure the length, width, and height of the object to be shipped.
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    Weigh the object being shipped with its packaging. Sometimes a weight must be estimated, especially if the object cannot be packed until you have determined its class and know the packing requirements.
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    Determine the density of the shipment by calculating the pounds per cubic foot. Some online calculators will do this step for you by asking for the weight and dimensions of the shipment. You should calculate the density yourself to double-check any quotes given to you.
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    Find an online calculator to determine the object's freight class if the NMFC classifies your item as "density rated". If not density rated you do not need this step you can skip to step 9 or 10 to allow a carrier, broker or the NMFC to assist you in finding the correct number.
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    Fill in the boxes with the appropriate values, and push the submit button.
    • If you are using a calculator with a particular shipper, you may have to sign in or create an account.
    • Some shippers will ask that a telephone number or email address be supplied so that they can call you with a quote for the freight class of your package.
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    Contact the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) to get help in determining freight class.


  • Each NMFC number should have a corresponding piece count on your bill of lading.
  • Have an accurate appraisal of the shipment's value on hand to supply to the shipper in case something happens to the shipment in transit.


  • Be aware that you may estimate the weight and dimensions of a package. However, the shipper will weigh it after if has been picked up and you will be liable for any extra charges if the item falls into a different freight class.
  • Be aware that NMFC item numbers given to you by any other party besides the NMFC are subjective. Different carriers will interpret item numbers differently. To be absolutely sure it is best to check with the NMFC OR cross checking your determined class with a density rated item (such as plastic 156600) by plugging the density of your shipment into a calculator and comparing to the density chart.

Things You'll Need

  • Packing material
  • Tape measure
  • Scale
  • Online calculator

Sources and Citations

Article Info

Categories: Travel