Buckle up, friends! This is going to be a blog full of regulatory information that will fill your brain with everything you’ll ever need to know about….NMFC codes! We’ll try to make this as interesting as we can.

First things first: NMFTA

For those of us in the logistics and transportation industry, NMFTA is a household name. It stands for the National Motor Freight Traffic Association. This is a nonprofit membership organization that has headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Members are motor carriers operating in interstate, intrastate, and foreign commerce. NMFTA has 18 freight classes ranging from 50 to 500, and all LTL carriers acknowledge the product’s classification assigned by the NMFTA.

And how about the NMFC?

The NMFTA publishes the NMFC, the National Motor Freight Classification, which is a standard that provides a comparison of commodities moving in commerce. 


NMFC freight classes will streamline freight categorization as well as pricing—for the entire industry. When you use a code, it’s a standard that all other businesses and partners can understand, so your shipment is classified in a way that will give you the most accurate pricing. This standardization and regulation in the freight industry means that everyone is speaking a common language, which makes communication much smoother.

When is NMFC most important?

The NMFC rating is more important when shipping quantities that are less than a truckload (LTL). Trucking companies combine LTL shipments to fill a truck and make a trip as profitable as possible. If a shipment is a full truckload, then the shipper should be able to negotiate a better price.

How are NMFC codes used?

Every product that is moved by an LTL carrier has an assigned freight class and NFMC number. 

There are four factors that are used to classify products:


  • Density: The density is the cubic weight per cubic foot of each piece in a shipment.



  • Stowability: The stowability describes how stable the shipment will be when loaded into the truck, and how the freight can be loaded with other freight.



  • Handling: How the freight will be handled, including any special handling requirements outside normal procedures, must be taken into account. Is the shipment fragile? Hazardous? Etc?



  • Liability: Each shipment must be considered for the probability of freight theft, damage, or damage to other (nearby) loads.


Do I have to use NMFC codes?

Yes. Need we say more?

In all honesty, it’s beneficial to everyone to have common language and identical classifications in the transportation and logistics industry. You’ll thank us, trust us.

Who is responsible for determining classifications?

It is the carrier’s responsibility to know what cargo is on every trailer and the details of every shipment (both class and weight) of the commodities onboard each trailer.

Did you know?

Tobacco is classified as a food stuff. You cannot load it with any other cargo that may contaminate it, like fertilizers, paint, powders, and many other commodities.

Up next: BOL

The Bill of Lading is a legal document issued by a carrier to a shipper that details the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried. The BOL also serves as a shipment receipt when the carrier delivers the goods at a predetermined destination.

NMFC and BOL, so what?

NMFC codes and classes, along with proper freight descriptions on the BOL, is necessary to ensure the carrier loading trailers with shipper’s freight is always in compliance with Public Safety Federal Regulations.

Talk to me about pricing

The NMFC code/class impacts the price of the shipment, not surprisingly. As we mentioned earlier, there are 18 classes that your shipment could fall into, ranging from the lowest class (50) to the highest class (500). In general, items on the scale in class 50 are sometimes called “clean freight” and are low value, easily handled and stowed, and are very dense. These items have the lowest costs because of their size and low risk. Items that fall closer to 500 are usually low-density (like ping pong balls) or very high-value items, like antiques. These items are more expensive to ship.

Other considerations

There are a few things to consider when determining what freight class code your shipment falls into.


  • Exact Commodity. You should know exactly what you are shipping. If it’s flooring, be specific: is it hardwood, tile, or brick?
  • Packaging. How will your items be shipped? Do they fit on pallets? Are they in boxes? How will you protect the items in your shipment and ensure they don’t break?
  • Size. Take into account the dimensions of the shipment as well as the weight. What size is each pallet or free-standing item?


Mislabeling consequences

We all make mistakes, but when it comes to classifying your shipment if you mislabel your freight, the company, the carrier, and the consumer all pay the price. This can cause delays during the shipping process or increase pricing down the line, and consumers don’t want to have to cover the cost of these mistakes. That can be costly for everyone!

Have we covered it all? Anything we missed? If you have any questions or comments, contact us, we’d love to share more information with you if we can.