Why are NMFC Codes - and Freight Classes - Important to My Business?

Keeping track of your freight classification is a critical part of the shipping process. If you're using the wrong classification codes, you may not have the most accurate rate for your less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments. At Old Dominion Freight Line (OD), we urge shippers to make sure you use the accurate freight class and understand the classification system by going to www.nmfta.org for a complete overview of their procedures.

What is the NMFTA?

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) created the Freight Classification Development Council (FCDC), made up of five current NMFTA employees. The FCDC's job is to develop and manage guidelines that help all LTL carriers manage these varying products, through a system called the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC). The council frequently updates the NMFC throughout the year - three times - with new updates. Shippers should always be understanding why the NMFC changes occur and how to stay on top of the latest classifications.

What are NMFC Codes?

A NMFC code, or number, is applied to a very specific set of items to help keep track of them based on their properties - there are four factors used to determine an item's NMFC number:

  • Handling - the ease at which an item (or group of items) can be moved into and out of a truck. The less heavy, or less fragile, the item is, the less expensive it is to move it. This includes any special care or attention necessary to safely and efficiently handle the good.
  • Stowability - how well an item travels with other items. If an item is non-hazardous, is not heavily regulated by the government or does not come packed in an odd shape, then it is easier to move other items with it and therefore less expensive to ship.
  • Liability - how likely a shipment is to break in its packaging, break other items it might come into contact with, or expire during delivery, as measured by the commodity’s value per pound, liability to damage, perishability, propensity to damage other freight with which it is transported, and propensity to spontaneous combustion or explosion.

And perhaps the most important factor:

  • Density - an item's weight per cubic foot. In general, the denser a shipment is, the cheaper it is to ship because it takes up less cube on the trailer.

An item will have both a very specific NMFC code and a broader freight class to assist both LTL carriers and shippers about what to expect when transporting the goods. You can learn more about how the FCDC makes its classification decisions in its operating procedures resource.

Why has my NMFC number changed?

The NMFC reflects the reality of innovation - businesses are changing how they make their products, using more lightweight materials. For example, using plastic in lawnmower assembly, where in years past, much more metal was involved. The cube may not have changed much for a mower, but if the weight of one is less, so is its density. A revised class may be appropriate if the data supports that conclusion.

How do I track new or updated freight classifications?

The Freight Classification Development Council is transparent about the process of reviewing codes and providing updates to shippers. Perhaps the best place to start is to monitor the council's website for its next meeting agenda The FCDC also posts full dockets of its decisions, detailing the research that went into classification changes. You can see the most recent updates, along with a list of the freight classes for shipping by density, here. We strongly recommend shippers bookmarking this website for quick reference throughout the year. You can also reach out to your Solutions Specialist with any questions.

How do I make sure my Bill of Lading is accurate?

It is also important to keep an eye on your Bill of Lading. If you notice any classification changes, check with your LTL freight carrier to see what they think may have changed. Your carrier should be a good partner in helping you better understand how these updated classifications may impact to your business.

Watching for NMFC updates may sound like an arduous task, but it does not have to be. By keeping an eye on the outcomes of tri-annual FCDC meetings, and staying in contact with your LTL carrier, you can prepare for classification changes without breaking a sweat.

Need More Information?

Contact us by email or simply call 1-800-235-5569 to be connected to an Old Dominion customer service representative.