Shipper in warehouse trying to calculate shipping costs

Freight Class Calculator - Stop Overestimating Your Shipping Cost

In business, sometimes you just need to know what something might cost you. After all, weighing your costs and benefits is a huge part of business planning, so it makes sense to seek out some answers to your dollar sign-related questions before accepting a new order or deciding whether or not to take on a new supplier.

If you’re a business owner or manager, you probably seek out these kinds of estimates often, and shipping costs are no different. Shipping costs can be easily overlooked when it comes to estimating your bottom line. You’ve probably even caught yourself giving that vague estimate off the top of your head another look.

Well, drop your pencils where they are ladies and gents because there’s a freight class calculator here to help you ditch that vague estimate once and for all.

In this post, we’re going to cover exactly how a freight class calculator works, as well as the different components to understand when it comes to NMFC classes and numbers plus frequently asked questions about using freight class calculators.

shipping company warehouse calculating shipping costs

What Is a Freight Class Calculator?

Before we get to how to use a freight class calculator, we want to talk a little bit about shipping itself.

If you’re here, you probably know a thing or two about shipping. So you might already be familiar with how we classify shipments. But in case you missed that lesson in Supply Chain & Logistics 101, let’s get into that first.

A Bill of Lading (BOL) will have all the information your carrier and anyone else along the way handling your freight needs to know in order to transport your freight safely, efficiently, and damage-free.

It’s kind of like those washing instructions on the inside of your clothes. The manufacturer puts that information there in order to tell you how to handle the items. Some clothes need more care than others and usually cost more, so they will have special washing instructions. Others are affordable clothes that can be tossed along with any other clothes into the washing machine.

Freight class is almost exactly the same idea, except when it comes to freight it’s the weight and size that we’re considering.

Bill of Lading (BOL) Basics

bill of lading example with highlighted sections


The BOL contains important information about everything from what and how much is being shipped to the destination information to who’s paying. It helps ensure a smooth, fair process from the time your shipment arrives at the origin facility to its delivery.

You can see why you’d want it handy, so that’s why we have an easy-to-access customer portal that allows you to get your BOL online, anytime.

This is especially important for LTL, or less than truckload, shipments. These shipments change hands more than once and are sharing truck space with other shipments that also need less than a full truckload of space, which means your items need to be easily identifiable and have the handling instructions clearly visible to avoid damage to the item. That way, you don’t end up with a bunch of broken freight at your destination.

Every LTL shipment is going to have both a freight class and an NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification) numbered code on that BOL, which both serve two equally important but distinct functions.

Freight class is a type of numeric classification system that’s used industry-wide to broadly categorize the contents of LTL shipments. There are 18 of these classes that start at a low of class 50 and range to a high of class 500.

On the flip side, the NMFC code is a numeric code that more specifically identifies the kind of commodity being shipped. Sometimes, you will also have a subgroup related to the NMFC code. A subgroup tells us even more about the commodity inside the shipment.

Think of it like this:

If you’re in a library, you can ask where to find fiction books, but that’s not going to help you zero in on a historical fiction book about the Second World War, now is it? That’s why the Dewey Decimal system is used — to help us classify where books should be stored, and how to find them in a standardized way.

Freight classes and NMFC codes serve the same purpose in commodity transportation.

By creating a standardized classification system, shippers and carriers are able to also create standardized pricing in order to make comparing shipping quotes more simple and more transparent. This is a benefit to the consumer as it allows for greater fairness and prevents carriers from charging their customers randomly.

A freight class calculator takes the guesswork out of classing your freight before preparing your Bill of Lading (BOL). It uses the characteristics of your shipment to determine where it falls in the 18 classes of freight. Some freight class calculators will help you assign an NMFC number as well.

As handy as a freight class calculator can be, remember that it’s important to always consult with your freight carrier about classifications as all calculators are simply an estimate, and reclassing your shipment later will cost you.

Factors That Determine Freight Class

Sometimes, rules or classifications can seem arbitrary or unimportant.

But when it comes to how to determine freight class, it’s important to understand the factors that affect each classification.

For example, you wouldn’t think that mailing candy canes would be all that different from cotton candy. They’re both candy, so what’s the big deal? Well, 100 lbs of candy canes can be densely packed into easy-to-handle boxes on a wrapped pallet, whereas 100 lbs of cotton candy are much less dense, but take up a lot of space in a truck and can’t easily be stacked. This will likely make the candy canes cheaper to ship than cotton candy because they are in a lower freight class.

So as you can see, some key factors will help determine freight class for your shipment, and your costs, too.

warehouse workers reviewing shipped goods

Those factors are:

  • Density
  • Stowability
  • Handling
  • Liability

Together, these factors are a measure of your shipment’s overall transportability.

In the table below, we have outlined how these factors specifically affect your freight class determination.


How it Determines Freight Class


  • Density measures weight per cubic foot or how much space something takes up in relation to weight.
  • High-density items are more compact and easier to ship, therefore less costly to send out.
  • Low-density items are bulkier or more awkward and therefore more expensive to ship.


  • The level of ease the commodity can be loaded and unloaded, as well as how it's shipped with other items refers to its stowability.
  • Perishable, flammable, or highly breakable freight is hard to stow among other freight.
  • Due to the challenges of less stow-able cargo, it will be more expensive to send and in a higher freight class.


  • How much special attention needs to be given to your shipment is one factor that goes into handling.
  • Fragile or hazardous cargo can require extra handling and time.
  • The less easy it is to handle your freight, the more it will cost you and the higher the freight class will be.


  • The risk of theft, freight damage, or damage to other items in the LTL shipment you take on by carrying specific freight refers to its liability.
  • More liability equates to more costs and a higher freight class.

Table Content Source

How to Calculate Freight Class

Before you get that packing tape out of your holster, you’re going to need to know how to calculate freight class.

If you’ve ever sat through a geometry class, you may recognize the formula for how to calculate freight class as the formula for volume and density of a shape. These are actually the two basic principles of any LTL freight class calculator out there!

Ultimately, you are calculating how much space your freight takes up in relation to its weight as part of the factors that determine shipping class.

In order to calculate freight class, you will need to:

  1. Measure your freight carefully, including the height, width, and depth.
  2. Measure the weight of your freight in pounds.
  3. Multiply the height by width by the depth (i.e. 5’ x 2’ x 4’) to get your volume in cubic feet.
  4. Divide your weight by the total volume to get pounds per cubic foot.

Once you have freight density, you can class your shipment by consulting a table like the one below, which will allow you to see where your freight falls. For example, if you had a density of 18 lbs per cubic foot, you would have an estimated freight class of 70.

Consult the table below for an estimate of where your freight falls.

Density Is Greater Than or Equal To (lbs)

And Less Than (lbs)

Estimated Freight Class























































Table Source

No matter what your shipping class calculator tells you, always talk to your carrier first, as these are often just estimates of freight class, and being wrong can cost you... Reclassing fees are fees applied to shipments of freight that are not identified correctly on the BOL, so avoid those and consult your carrier for the most correct freight class.

Freight Class Calculator for Multiple Pallets

Whether you're shipping in dry van or flat deck transportation, you often need to send multiple pallets of freight at a time by LTL shipping.

Ensuring you’ve got the right freight class is important, so you’re going to need to make sure you follow these tips for using a freight class calculator for multiple pallets to make sure you get it right:

  • Make sure you measure each piece from pallet edge to edge to edge and don’t assume all pallets will be the same size.
  • When working with multiple pallets, calculate the volume for each piece. Add the results of each piece together to get the total volume of your order.
  • Don’t forget to add each of the pallets’ weights together as well to get a cumulative total to work with.

After you use a freight class calculator for multiple pallets, be sure to consult with your carrier to make sure everything is ready to ship properly.

employee analytics freight class density

Using a Shipping Class Calculator

If you’re looking for a shipping class calculator you probably know plenty about freight density, NMFC codes, and LTL shipping, but let’s rewind in case you’re new to managing logistics and need to get an understanding of why these things are so important.

The thing is, you can’t just decide to slap a label on your pallet of goods and call it a day.

When information about your shipment is incomplete, it can create problems for the people handling your shipment along the way.

That’s why freight density is important in LTL shipping and not so much in FTL shipping.

In LTL shipping, your order will be loaded and unloaded a handful of times before making it to your destination. It will also share truck space with other shipments, so it’s important to know exactly what you’re working with in terms of size, weight, packaging, how fragile it is, and if it can be stacked or not. That way, the carrier gets the full picture of what it will really cost to move your shipment.

For example, some commodities can be heavier, more complex, or just more fragile to move and that can incur more costs simply because it takes more effort to load and unload.

Once you know your freight density, you can translate that to what it means for your freight class. From there, you can get the NMFC coding right to ensure your shipment is well marked to be handled properly and less likely to be reclassed.

When you work with us, we can help you ensure your classing is right, and then give you an instant online cost quote.

Freight Density Calculator

When you use a freight density class calculator, you’ll need to have the following information about your freight close at hand:

  1. Total Weight (LBS)
  2. Length
  3. Width
  4. Height

Once you’ve taken those measurements, you can head to our freight density class calculator and enter them into the boxes provided.

freight class calculator example

Then, once you’ve entered all the dimensions, you will be able to see the total volume of the shipment, the total density of the shipment as well as an estimated freight density class.

Talk about a ton of useful information!

Be careful, though. The freight class given is often an estimate, and to find the true class you’ll need to speak with your carrier (like us) to avoid reclassing fees later.

NMFC Class Calculator

Just like freight density calculators, using an NMFC class calculator can help you stay on top of what it will truly cost to ship your commodity.

An NMFC class calculator is a tool that will help you look up which specific number is assigned to your raw materials or finished product as a more specific identifier to use alongside the freight class. Each NMFC number has a corresponding freight class, so it’s important to get that right so you can class things properly.

Some commodities have a sub-class that needs to be noted on the bill of lading as well, which is again why it’s important to make sure that your shipment is classed appropriately or else face hefty reclassing fees.

Let’s take a look at the category of assembled furniture, for example. You may have chairs that are unupholstered to ship. Those may have a freight class of 300 and an NMFC number of 80770, whereas if you have upholstered assembled chairs, those could have a freight class of 200 and an NMFC number of 79255.

We bet you wouldn’t think a little upholstery could make much of a difference, but that’s essentially the point of an NMFC number. It gives the carrier the exact information they need to both price your shipment fairly and handle it appropriately.

So you can see why it’s key to not only use an NMFC class calculator but to also confirm it is correct with your carrier. At Moto Transportation, we will work together to make sure that your shipment is classed correctly to avoid the frustration of reclassing fees as much as possible.

cross border shipping truck driver

LTL Freight Class Chart

If you’re just starting out in your shipping journey, you’re probably looking for a rough idea of what your transportation costs are going to be.

While no two freights are exactly the same, the freight classing system is like a kind of scale that will use various factors to weigh where your freight should fall no matter what you’re sending. An LTL freight class chart is a handy guide to this weighted system.

The LTL freight class chart below shows how commodities can be ranked from least expensive to ship to most expensive to ship. Generally, that means items with the lowest density will have the highest freight class, and therefore the highest price to ship. This can be anything from rare antiques to ping pong balls. On the other hand, high-density, compact items like nuts and bolts or bricks are easily stowed and not much of a liability so they are cheaper to ship.


Example Commodity

Freight Class

Least Expensive to Ship (easy to ship and, or, lower value items)


Most Expensive to Ship (very high value of items or items that take up tons of space but weigh little)

Nuts, Bolts, Steel Rods

Class 50

Car parts and accessories

Class 60

Boxed paper, food items

Class 70

Crated machinery, Doors, CDs & DVDs

Class 85

Wine cases, caskets, boat, and car covers

Class 100

Small household appliances (i.e. toaster, blender, kettle)

Class 125

Clothing, couches, metal cabinets

Class 175

Engine hoods, bamboo furniture, mattresses and box springs, and flat-screen TVs

Class 250

Garment hangers, deer antlers

Class 400

Ping pong balls, Gold dust, Rare Antiquities

Class 500

FAQs About Using a Freight Class Calculator

How Do You Determine Freight Class?

In order to determine freight class, you need to know your freight’s density first. Then, you can see where your freight will be classed based on that number by consulting a table or freight class calculator.

Is a Shipping Class Calculator the Same as an NMFC Class Calculator?

No, but they are related. A shipping class calculator tells you which freight class your shipment is in based on its density and an NMFC class calculator will tell you which NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification) number your freight is. They are both descriptors of your freight.

Are Freight Class Calculators Accurate?

As much as freight class calculators can help you estimate your freight costs, they are just that — an estimation of your freight class. So, you need to make sure that you contact your freight carrier in order to make sure it is correct and to avoid reclassing fees later.

shipping company reviewing truck loads for delivery


Now that you know all there is to know about using a freight class calculator, as well as the important facts behind it like what factors determine freight class, the NMFC classes and numbering system itself, and of course how to calculate freight class, you’re ready to apply that knowledge to your business and take charge of your logistics.

If you’re looking for someone to help you take charge and build your business’ very own logistics and supply chain A-Team, we can help.

Moto Transportation is the most adaptable, scalable, and competitive freight shipping service across Canada and the United States.

Our core values are the set of principles that all of our business decisions are made on, and we believe in:

  • No Bullshit: We don’t lie, we get to the point and we don’t hide behind empty promises
  • Being Stupid Smart: We’re always learning, we're founded on innovation and we're emotionally intelligent when dealing with our partners and customers
  • Get’er Done: We take ownership and follow up, we are team players!

If that sounds like your idea of extra strength shipping relief, then let’s talk about what Moto can do for your business and help take things to the next level in your shipping department.