Packing and Determining Freight Class

Packing and Classing

Every business owner knows the hassle of damaged products in freight shipments, but did you know that you can also incur extra charges for incorrectly classing a shipment? Whether you are a veteran of freight shipping or a growing business that is starting to ship freight, these difficulties can be hard to address. One mistake in your freight shipment planning can cost your company hundreds or thousands of dollars. Using a freight class calculator is appropriate for density based commodities.  There are a lot of variations depending on the commodity being shipped, what form it's in and how its packaged.  To ease this problem, it is best to be armed with some knowledge of the freight shipping process. With these details in mind, you will be able to efficiently prepare any shipment and save yourself from unnecessary charges and lost product.

Stacking the Pallet

A correctly stacked pallet starts with the packing. Be sure all items are in the correct box size with room for inner protection if needed. If the box is too big, it could crush your product; and if the box is too small, products could break out of the packaging. Once all of the boxes are packed and sealed, it is best to label each box with both the shipping and receiving information in case the pallet is broken down.

Stacking a pallet is the same no matter what products you are shipping. Always stack the boxes to the same size as the pallet. The boxes should not hang over any edges of the pallet. Start with the largest, heaviest boxes. Don’t put light boxes on the bottom of the pallet. This can cause them to be crushed by your heavier boxes. Always build the pallet in layers, stacking the heaviest boxes on the bottom and the lightest boxes on top. 

Pallet Packaging

Now that the pallet is stacked, the boxes need to be secured to the pallet. You can secure the boxes in a number of ways. The most popular methods are:

  • Plastic Banding
  • Stretch Wrap

Plastic Banding is a good way to keep oddly-shaped products from falling over. Stretch Wrap is widely used and is the best choice for shipping pallets with standard boxes and packaging.

Steps for Securing a Pallet:

  1. Attach the Pallet: When wrapping the pallet, be sure to attach the pallet with the boxes. Instead of tying a knot, roll the plastic into a rope and wrap it around 1-2 corners of the pallet. This ensures a tight hold, while making pallet deconstruction easier after delivery. 

  2. Wrap from the Base: Start wrapping at the base of the pallet. Wrap tightly to ensure a snug fit. Work your way up from the base; making sure that each new layer is tightly overlapping the previous layer.
  3. Check for Sturdiness: Make sure the pallet is sturdy. If not, consider adding another layer or two. Once finished, tear the stretch wrap and fold it under the pallet. 

Your pallet is now ready to ship. You will need to weigh the pallet and measure the dimensions. You should always attach a pack slip to each pallet shipped, along with another address label or two. Any special directions (fragile, hazardous, do not stack, etc.) should be added at this time. If your shipment cannot be stacked on, it is always best to add a “DO NOT STACK” cone before shipping.

Classing Your Shipment

The next item on your shipping task list is freight class. Classing is a standardized categorizing system that gives carriers and shippers a uniform pricing structure. Anyone in the shipping industry will agree that classing correctly can be a difficult task and can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start.

Every commodity in the United States is assigned a National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) along with a class number for Less Than Truckload (LTL) shipments. A few factors go into classing freight correctly to ensure you won't incur any extra charges from your carriers.

The first step and most important factor of freight class is locating the NMFC. The NMFC numbers are assigned based on the actual commodity being shipped and the material it is made out of. You will also need to know how the commodity is packaged, how it is protected for transit, and if the commodity is new or used.

The majority of NMFC classes for LTL shipments are density based, and each NMFC can have multiple densities. To calculate this density: 

  1. Calculate your dimensions in inches (length x width x height). The result is the total cubic inches of the shipment. If you have more than one pallet, add the total cubic inches of each pallet.
  2. Divide the total cubic inches by 1,728 (1 cubic foot). The result is the cubic feet of the shipment.
  3. Divide the weight (pounds) of the shipment by the total cubic feet. The result is the pounds per cubic foot. Match this density to your NMFC code. 

It's safe to use a freight calculator to determine density, but each commodity has different parameters with regard to its density and class assigned. All the NMFC codes and associated classes can be located on (subscription required).

Having the correct freight class, associated with the proper NMFC codes on your Bill of Lading (BOL), will insure you won’t receive a rebill for higher freight charges.  Your best option is to contact your logistics specialist and request their assistance. Logistic specialists have NMFC codes readily available to them, along with the knowledge and experience to provide you with the correct classing.

If you are not sure how to class your freight correctly, our agents are standing by.  Contact us if you need some help.  

Classing Questions to Keep in Mind

  • What commodity is being shipped?
  • How is that commodity packed or protected for transit?
  • Is the commodity being shipped new or used?
  • What are the weight and dimensions of your pallet?
  • What is the density of your pallet?
  • Do you have more than one pallet in your shipment? 


Shipping freight and determining freight class can be a stressful process but it doesn’t have to be. Arming yourself with this information will be very beneficial to your shipping decisions and processes. Whether you ship on your own, use a 3PL, or have a dedicated logistics manager, these steps will help ensure that your shipping process is simple every time.

Do you have any questions about freight or new suggestions for blog topics?