What Are NMFC Codes? Read This Simple Guide to Find Out

Whether you frequently use LTL shipping or only send LTL freight once or twice a year, you’ve most likely heard of freight classes. However, hearing about freight classes and freight classification isn’t enough.

As a small business and member of the transportation industry, it’s important to have a sufficient level of understanding of freight classes as well as NMFC codes. Let’s take a closer look at NMFC codes often used with LTL freight and LTL shipping.

What Is Freight Class?

Freight class is a standardized way the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) classifies LTL freight and cargo. These freight classifications are imperative because they help establish a commodity’s transportability. 

Closely related, the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is the standard that enforces this system.

There Are 18 Different Freight Classes

Freight classes can range anywhere from 50 up to 500, and all commodities can be grouped into one of 18 freight classes when shipping LTL. And the freight class of your cargo is directly related to the potential cost of shipping. In other words, the higher the freight class, the more expensive a load will be to ship. 

It’s Important to Get the Right Freight Class for Different Freight Types

Because the freight class is directly related to LTL rates, shippers should always work to get the correct freight class. When shippers use the wrong freight class, it can result in reclassification and higher shipment costs. 

On the other hand, providing carriers with the right freight class can help avoid delays and ensure on-time delivery. Simply put, it makes dollars and sense to get freight classification right. 

What Factors Determine Freight Class of Specific Commodities?

The NMFC determines freight class by utilizing four factors that outline key characteristics of a shipment:

  • Freight density
  • Freight handling
  • Freight liability
  • Freight stowability

Together these four characteristics underpin the NMFC classification system and help determine the transportability of any cargo or freight.

Freight Density

In the world of LTL shipping and transportation, freight density represents the amount of space a commodity takes up. Freight density in LTL shipping is reported in pounds per cubic foot, total cubic feet, or cubic feet.

This measurement helps quantify the weight of a commodity relative to the amount of trailer space needed. To determine freight density, LTL carriers divide total cubic feet by a commodity’s total weight in pounds.

Some commodities are not based on density and will have a pre-defined corresponding class. On the other hand, other commodities are based on density. Here is the general rule of thumb:

  • Freight with lower density will generally have higher freight classes, 
  • Cargo with a higher density may be assigned a lower class based on the classification system.

Freight Handling

When it comes to the price of your LTL shipping costs, handling is a major factor. Simply put, cargo and freight that is easier to handle will have a lower LTL cost. 

On the other hand, extremely large, oddly shaped, difficult to stow, or harder to handle are likely to be assigned a higher class and have higher shipping costs.

Freight Liability

Freight liability refers to the risk associated with transporting your freight or the potential costs of associated freight theft or freight claims. For example, cargo that is more likely to be damaged or stolen will most likely be assigned a higher freight class.

Another freight liability consideration is whether it’s likely to damage other freight, resulting in damaged freight claims. In terms of freight liability, cargo that is hazardous, involves dangerous chemicals, or is perishable maay all have greater liability concerns, which potentially means a higher class.

Freight Stowability

The fourth key factor that impacts freight class is how well the cargo could be transported with other freight. Freight classified as flammable, perishable, or hazardous material will be more difficult for LTL carriers to ship with other freight, which can increase the shipping cost.

One way you can improve the attractiveness of the stowability of your freight is through packaging. When your freight is easily stackable, it can result in more cost-effective freight classifications by a transportation company.

How Does Freight Classification Impact LTL Shipment Costs?

In the world of LTL logistics and NMFC classification codes, the lower your class, the more cost-efficient your cargo will be to ship. Simply put, cargo that has a freight class of 50 will be more cost-effective to ship than items with a freight class of 500

What Are NMFC Codes?

Every LTL item you are shipping will be assigned an NMFC code. The NMFC code is very similar to UPC or PLU codes that are used in retail stores. 

As such, every product will be assigned an NMFC code or NMFC number. For instance, corrugated boxes may be assigned NMFC codes of #29250, while something like engineered wood flooring may have NMFC codes of #37860. Another example is a laptop, which may be assigned an NMFC code of 2.5, whereas electrical cords could be assigned an NMFC code of 65.

Why Are NMFC Codes Important?

NMFC codes are important because they help LTL carriers understand how easy or difficult it will be to transport the commodity. While freight class largely takes density into account, the NMFC codes consider several other factors, such as: 

  • Packaging
  • Commodity type
  • Height, length, and weight
  • Ease of handling
  • Density of freight
  • Value and liability

How Is NMFC Code Related to Freight Class?

Simply put, the NMFC code will tell you how to class your item. While some items can have a permanent class, other cargo could be classed based on value, packaging, density, or other factors. If an item is density-based, it means the density of the freight will determine the class. 

Where Can I Access NMFC Codes?

You can access NMFC codes through the NMFC classification database. This national database is always being continuously updated. The NMFC code is important because it is the first step in determining your freight class.

How to Determine the NMFC Code for an LTL Shipment? 

To find the NMFC code for a specific commodity, you can use an NMFC classification tool. 

  1. The first step is to search for the commodity within the tool. Make sure you are very specific. If you are unsuccessful, consider inputting the plural form of the commodity. 
  2. Choose the right commodity NMFC that best matches the freight you are shipping. 
  3. Calculate the density of your commodity with a freight calculator. You will need to know the commodity’s exact height, width, length, and weight. 
  4. Choose the right freight classification based on the density of your commodity. 

Contact On Track Freight Systems Today

We get it, understanding freight classification, NMFC codes, and supply chain lingo can be difficult. Even frequent LTL shippers may struggle to understand supply chain terminology. Fortunately, you’re not alone when it comes to full truckload or less-than-truckload freight shipping.

At On Track Freight Systems, we are one of the leading carriers in the New York and New Jersey area. As the premier LTL and FTL freight carrier, we offer a full range of logistics services designed to move your cargo from one point to the next and beyond with efficiency and speed. 

We offer affordable and fast logistics services and freight shipping solutions throughout the United States: 

Regardless of the point of origin or destination, On Track Freight Systems is your one-stop LTL and FTL carrier solution. 

Contact us today to learn more about NMFC codes or to request a free quote.