We’re back with part II of the LTL shipping guide. There’s so much for us to cover on this topic, we had to split it in two! In case you missed it, check out part I here. Part I covered how LTL shipping works, the shipping circle, how much LTL shipments weigh, how the rates are determined, common LTL terminology, and LTL pricing. Part II is going to do a deeper dive into freight classification, density calculation, freight classes, FAK’s, shipment weight, and accessorials. Let’s dive in!

Freight classification

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) classifies every product into one of the 18 classes. This list is called the National Motor Freight Classification (NFMC). Why should you care? When it comes to LTL shipping, the NFMC rating is important because trucking companies combine LTL shipments to fill each truck and make each trip as profitable as possible. If a shipment is a full truckload, the shipper should be able to negotiate a better price.

Four factors are used to classify products:

  • Density. When you consider an LTL shipment of pillows vs. a shipment of textbooks, you can see why the pillows would cost more to ship. Get it? Two tons of pillows might fill half the truck, while two tons of books fit on one pallet. By taking the pillows, the trucking company limits what else can fit into the truck. So…determine the density of your shipment. Freight classes of LTL shipments are determined, in part, by densities. Use inches as a standard measurement. Multiply the length by width by height of your shipment to calculate density. The result is the total cubic inches. Divide the cubic inches by 1,728. The result is the cubic feet of your shipment. Divide the weight (in lbs) by the total cubic feet. This is your density.
  • Stowability. This is how stable the shipment will be when loaded into the truck. Both pillows and textbooks are considered to be very stable because it’s unlikely that they will shift as the truck travels down the highway.
  • Handling. Freight that is easier to load and unload gets lower rates. For example, if the textbooks are loaded on a pallet that can be loaded into the truck with a forklift, the rate will be lower than if they are in cases that have to be loaded by hand.
  • Liability. If the trucking company has less risk, should the shipment get damaged, the shipper will pay a lower rate. For example, neither the pillows nor the textbooks will be damaged if they fall from a loading dock. However, a load of glassware will probably be destroyed.

Density-based LTL freight classification

While stowability, handling, and liability are all still taken into consideration, density-based freight classification is primarily driven by the weight of the shipment and how much space on the trailer the shipment is occupying. This is referred to as the Pounds per Cubic Foot (PCF). The below chart illustrates the classification association based on the PCF for density-based classification commodities.

Sub 1 Less than 1 400
Sub 2 1 but less than 2 300
Sub 3 2 but less than 4 250
Sub 4 4 but less than 6 175
Sub 5 6 but less than 8 125
Sub 6 8 but less than 10 100
Sub 7 10 but less than 12 92.5
Sub 8 12 but less than 15 85
Sub 9 15 but less than 22.5 70
Sub 10 22.5 but less than 30 65
Sub 11 30 or greater 60

Density calculation

To calculate density, you must divide the total weight of the shipment by the total cubic feet the shipment is occupying. You get the total cubic feet by multiplying L*W*H of the pallet, then divide by 1,728 (the total cubic inches in one cubic foot).

Let’s look at an example:

A single pallet of shirts weighs 1,000 lbs and the dimensions of the pallet are L=48”, W=48”, H=48”. What is the density:

  • 48*48*48=110,592 cubic inches
  • 110,592 cubic inches/1,728 (cubic inches in one cubic foot)=64 cubic feet
  • 1,000 lbs/64 cubic feet=15.6 lbs per cubic feet (PCF)
  • 15.6 PCF is class 70 freight

Now we’ll look at some cheap vs. expensive freight class examples:

Cheap: 2,500 lbs of bricks

  • Very dense items
  • Low per-lb value
  • Very easy to transport
  • Freight class=50
  • The lower the freight class, the cheaper it is to move

Expensive: 500 lbs of blue-ray players

  • Expensive to replace if damaged, lost, or stolen
  • Less dense
  • More expensive to transport
  • Unable to stack other freight on top of them due to potential for damage
  • Freight class=125

Most expensive: 200 lbs of ping pong balls

  • Not dense
  • Very fragile and greater potential for damage
  • Freight class=500
  • Higher freight class is more expensive to ship


Freight of all kinds (FAKs) is an agreement between the carrier to the shipper (not necessarily to the broker) to ship multiple items with differing freight classes under one class.

Why FAKs?

FAKs were set up to help shippers who ship multiple products at varying freight classes to move all of their products under one weight class. It helps with easier pricing and billing communication between the carrier and the shipper/broker. It also removes the hassle of looking up multiple NMFC numbers of individual items for each shipment.

Shipment weight

To provide accurate LTL pricing, you must have accurate shipping weights. This includes both the weight of the product PLUS the weight of the pallet or crate that the product is carried on/in. If the weight listed on the BOL is incorrect, you might get hit with an additional cost from the LTL carrier. They’ll bill you again for the re-weighted amount.


Accessorials are any service in addition to a standard dock-to-dock move. Examples include:

  • Lift gate pickups or deliveries
  • Non-commercial or residential pickups or deliveries
  • Inside pickup and delivery
  • Military base pickups and deliveries
  • Arrival notification and delivery appointments

7 keys for accurate rate quotes

To provide your customers with the most accurate rate quotes, be sure to always have the correct:

  1. Originating zip code
  2. Destination zip code
  3. Pick up date
  4. Package type & number of packages (pallets, crates, boxes, drums, etc.)
  5. Freight class
  6. Total weight of the shipment
  7. Accessorials for additional services when applicable

Overwhelmed? If so, we understand! It’s a lot of information. Give us a call at 855.218.7LTL (7585) to talk about your specific shipment and get a quote today!