Sometimes it’s difficult to understand what the different cargo classifications are for truck carriers. Even the MCS-150 form that carriers fill out doesn’t provide a definition for each cargo classification. As such, we wanted to create a visual guide to each cargo class. This guide will give a definition of each cargo class and let you know the types of trucks that each cargo is loaded onto.
To use the guide and learn more about a cargo / commodity type, select the ‘+’ next to the cargo type name:
General Freight is the most common cargo classification. It typically refers to cargo that is palletized and the equipment used to carry it is usually a box truck, container or dry van.
Household goods is privately owned property placed in living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and other rooms of a house. It belongs to an individual or his / her immediate family. Typically household goods are transported in a dryvan or box truck.
Metal: Sheets, Coils, Rolls
Metals are any of a number of class of elementary substances such as gold, silver, or copper. For transport purposes, it is typically in stacks of sheets, coils or rolls. It’s typically transported on a flatbed trailer.
A motor vehicle is any road vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine such as an automobile. There are specialty trailers called ‘Vehicle Transporters’ that can carry multiple motor vehicles.
Drive Away / Towaway
The Drive Away / Towaway classification is used by towing companies. These companies tow automobiles, buses, and other tractor trailers. They sometimes are also used as assist vehicles on difficult terrain for heavy cargo movements.
Logs, Poles, Beams, & Lumber
This cargo classification includes, but is not limited to, dimensional lumber sold at home centers and builder supply companies, utility poles, and raw logs. With the exception of logs and poles, the majority of the cargo is transported via flatbed trailers. Logs and Poles are typically transported via ‘log trucks’, which are speciality flatbeds that have support beams running alongside the length of the bed.
Building Materials are goods that are used in the home construction process. This cargo classification is often confused with the ‘Construction’ classification, which includes not only materials but also the equipment used during the construction process. This cargo is typically transported on flatbed trailers.
Mobile homes are large house trailers which is generally parked in one particular place and used as a permanent living accommodation. Mobile homes are typically transported with a just a power unit although they are sometimes transported on a ‘step-deck’ or ‘low-boy’ trailer.
Machinery & Large Objects
Machinery and Large Objects is a fairly broad cargo classification containing goods and equipment used in factories, plants, and construction locations. The types of trailers used for this cargo type also vary greatly from flatbeds and dry-vans to 13 and 19-axle trailers.
Fresh produce generally refers to the crops produced at farms including fruits, vegetables, grains, and oats. The goal of ‘fresh’ produce is to have the products arrive in the same state as when originally harvested.
Liquids / Gases
Bulk Liquids and compressed gases are typically transported in tanker trucks. These include goods like liquified natural gas, water, petroleum and ethanol.
Intermodal containers are standardized shipping containers. The most common sizes are 20 and 40 feet long and these are designed for use on truck, rail, and ocean. The benefit is that the cargo contained within the container does not need to be loaded / unloaded between different modes of transport. For trucking, there are specialty container chassis designed to transport containers.
Passenger transport refers to public transportation. The over the road form refers to buses which are operated both by municipalities and private companies.
Oil Field Equipment
Oilfield equipment is used in the extraction of petroleum, or crude oil, from the ground. This equipment is transported using flatbeds and heavy-haul equipment.
Livestock (farm animals) are typically transported in ventilated box vans/trailers and are still alive during transport. There are speciality trucking companies, both for-hire and private, with this equipment.
Grain, Feed & Hay
Grain, Feed, and Hay includes products for both humans and livestock. The cargo is typically transported in ‘hopper’ (open-top) trailers.
Coal / Coke
Coke is a high-carbon content fuel made from coal. Both coke and coal are transported in open hopper trailers.
Meat products include pork, beef, poultry and fish. These products are transported in refrigerated vans sometimes packaged and sometime raw/pre-processed.
Garbage, Refuse, Trash
Garbage is handled both by municipalities and private companies. There are specialty trucks (not to be confused with dump trucks) which haul the waste to waste treatment facilities.
This cargo classification includes “letters and packages conveyed by the postal system.”
Chemicals refer to a compound or substance that has been purified or prepared artificially. Chemicals are transported using closed ‘vessels’.
Commodities Dry Bulk
Dry bulk refers to cargo that is shipped in large, unpackaged amounts. In small quantities however, these commodities are packaged in large bags called flexible intermediate bulk containers (commonly referred to as ‘Super Sacks’). The truck equipment is used as hopper or vessel trucks.
The refrigerated food classification refers to any food product that needs to be temperature controlled during transport. The trucks used are primarily dry-vans which have an internal refrigeration unit. The common industry term is a ‘Reefer Truck’.
Beverage transport is the movement of packaged liquids intended for human consumption. These beverages are transported in ‘reefer’ trucks or dryvans.
Paper products are typically shipped in rolls or stacks of sheets. Due to the potential exposure to moisture, these products are typically transported in dry vans.
This cargo classification refers to many of the vehicles used for work on public utilities.
This cargo classification refers to the transport of equipment used for farming. It includes both farm vehicles and the tools used to perform farming tasks. This equipment is transported on a variety of trailers including, but not limited to, flatbeds, dry-vans, and step-deck trailers.
This cargo classification refers to the tools & equipment used in the construction industry. This cargo is transported via flatbeds, step-decks, and specialty heavy-haul equipment.
This cargo type refers to the drilling supplies used during the well drilling process. These are specialty trailers including the drilling rigs, mud pumps, air compressors, and other components.