Understanding Your NMFC Code

October 5, 2018 by Mikayla Avila Vila
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We’ve discussed some about what goes into calculating freight costs, and freight class is one aspect that will be especially important for less-than-truckload (or LTL) shippers. These codes are pretty straight forward, but even a small mistake can lead to a big billing adjustment.  

…But What Is An NMFC Code?

LTL shipments are assigned a National Motor Freight Classification code, or NMFC code, to balance shipping costs against trailer space. This helps carriers determine the cost to ship freight. The NMFC was devised by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) to make sure that customers get an unbiased price when shipping by standardizing the freight shipping process. Freight can be sorted into 18 different classes based on its ease of transportability, ranging from low (class 50) to high (class 500).

Determining your NMFC code is also a matter of safety. Wrongly classified freight can lead to a dangerous situation concerning weight distribution or incompatible freight types. Not to mention wrongly classified freight will lead to avoidable the billing adjustments (and headaches!).

The NMFTA has no ownership over the transportation industry, and following NMFC codes is voluntary. By and large, LTL carriers in the business have embraced NMFC code rules.

What Determines Freight Class?

If you’re new to the freight industry you’ll quickly realize that we love our jargon, and we love a good acronym. To remember what goes into determining cargo’s NMFC code, we go by a little acronym known as SLED.

SLED stands for:

Stowability—This refers to an item’s compatibility with other items on the trailer. This can be in terms of packaging, whether the freight is stackable, or the type of freight being shipped. Anything perishable, flammable, or hazardous requires special consideration.

Liability—Liability refers to the value of freight and accounts for the probability of freight being damaged, causing damage, or being stolen. The greater the risk, the greater the freight class.

Ease of handling—How much care is needed to ship your freight? The level of difficulty or ease needed to ship your goods will affect the freight class.

Density—Density (pounds per cubic foot) refers to the measurable amount of space needed for an item. Smaller, denser items are usually cheaper to ship. One hundred pounds of feathers and one hundred pounds of bricks may weigh the same, but one hundred pounds of feathers will take up way more room. This is why carriers don’t always go by weight.

Some commodities may not have an NMFC code. These commodities are referred to as NOI, or Not Otherwise Indicated.

Let The Freight Class Experts Help

NMFC codes are an essential part of the LTL industry, determining the profitability of freight and ensuring that cargo ends up on the right trailer, with the right carrier, before it’s on the road.

If you’d like to deep dive into the world of freight class, visit these pages:

To learn more, call one of our expert freight agents at 800.716.7608, or get started on your instant freight quote today.

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