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.
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.
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:
And perhaps the most important factor:
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.
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.
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.
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.