Less-than-truckload freight classifications are used to classify shipments and determine standardized freight pricing. There are 18 classes used in freight classification ranging from 50 to 500, with class 50 being the least expensive and class 500 being the most expensive.
Many factors are used to determine a less-than-truckload shipment's appropriate freight class. A shipment's freight class is partially based on its dimensions: weight, length, height and density. Shippers should carefully calculate the dimensions of a shipment using mathematical formulas. Stow-ability is a quantifiable classification given to shipments based on how easily they may be loaded or stored. Hazardous items may be more difficult to ship due to the fact that they cannot be shipped along with certain other items. Items with protrusions or that are fragile or excessively heavy are also not easily transportable.
Handling is another aspect of shipping that plays a part in freight classification. Freight that requires extra care when being handled receives a classification denoting the difficulty of handling it. Freight that does not require care when handling receives a different classification. Liability is also a major factor when determining a shipment's freight class. Freight that is liable to be stolen, damaged or perish receives a special liability classification.
LTL shipping concerns freight that does not require a full trailer to transport. LTL shipping can occur with an airplane, train, or ship, but most often utilizes trucks, as they can move larger cargo faster and are not constricted by the strict time schedule of the railroad. Shipping by truck is also more cost effective, as many different orders can be moved by the same vehicle.
Trucks used for LTL shipping are typically enclosed with roll-up rear doors. Some trucks may be refrigerated. In-town drivers responsible for pick ups and deliveries use 53-foot trailers. Drivers using the interstate to carry freight across state lines use two trailers that are connected.
The cost of LTL shipping depends on the freight classification, weight of the cargo, and where the items will be picked up and delivered. Optional amenities, such as insurance for the cargo, are extra. An additional fuel surcharge also fluctuates depending on the current price of fuel.