If you’re considering shipping with LTL – or have already decided to do so –, NMFC codes are definitely something you want to know about. By being informed of the freight class of the items you are transporting, you will be a lot closer to figuring out the cost of your shipment.
NMFC (National Motor Freight Classification) is a classification system used in US for ground freight designed by the NMFTA (National Motor Freight Traffic Association), a nonprofit organization of motor carriers. It works as a sort of grouping or grading method through which commodities are categorized.
The aim of the NMFC numbers is to provide a comparison of commodities being shipped by classifying items. This should guarantee fair measures and standardize prices which, in turn, will facilitate negotiations between shippers and carriers.
Items are grouped into one of 18 classes: 50 being the lowest and the cheapest and 500 being the highest and the most expensive. Here you will find a complete list of items and their classification.
The main factor that is used to assign freight class for commodities is “transportability” or, in other words, each item’s transportation characteristics:
This refers to the amount of space needed for an item in relation to its weight and it is measured in pounds per cubic foot. Therefore, commodities that are bulky will usually be more expensive to ship than compact shipment, which will be assigned a lower class.
The level of care that commodities may require regarding their handling during transit is another point considered in NMFC. So, if an item is fragile or hazardous, it will most likely fall into a higher class and will increase your shipping costs. Furthermore, other shipment characteristics such as size, weight and shape will contribute to determining how easy or how hard your freight will be to handle.
This aspect has to do with how easily your commodities can be placed and transported in a truck. For instance, if your freight is heavy or extremely large, it will probably be harder to stow on a trailer. In addition, with LTL shipping, your goods travel alongside other shippers’ freight so if there is an item that can’t be shipped with certain materials, this will probably result in a price increase.
The more prone an item is to suffering damages, theft or causing damage to other freight during shipping, the higher the freight class will be. In other words, the riskier and more sensitive your goods are, the more you will pay for your shipping.
Because of all of the above, NMFC establishes a minimum packaging standard. This should ensure all items are appropriately protected and can be handled and stowed in a safe and viable manner so as to resist the usual adversities in LTL shipping.
The NMFC also contains several rules related to the filing and disposition of claims, which is why they’re essential if it becomes necessary to deal with freight claims – a common occurrence in freight shipping. This, along with the standardization in pricing that NMFC codes provide, is why you should definitely make sure you have yours right in your next LTL shipment.
"Customs duties play an important role in your international shipment. How they're determined and calculated varies from country to country"
Klaus Lydsal, vice president of operations at iContainers