Webinar – Logistics Uncomplicated: Breaking Down the Impact of NMFC Changes

Freight Classification & NMFC Rules

Regardless of how much industry experience you have, determining freight classification and staying in line with the National Motor Freight Traffic Association’s (NMFTA) rules can be frustrating, especially if you get it wrong. However, determining your shipment’s freight class is a critical step in effectively managing your supply chain. Not only does class determine your hard cost, but it’s also a vital factor when it comes to dealing with possible claims or disputes.

Our transportation experts address the most common questions and areas of confusion that relate to freight class and NMFC rules, uncomplicating the process for you. Although it may seem like Logistics 101, it’s crucial to refresh your knowledge of ever-changing shipping criteria.

Frequently Asked Questions on Freight Class

What are freight classes and why should you care?

Freight class was created to help standardize freight pricing for LTL shipments, regardless of the warehouse, carrier or broker used. The class is based on the shipment’s density, stowability, handling and liability. Together, these characteristics establish your asset’s “transportability.” Class qualifications are determined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) and are frequently updated.

There are 18 classes that a shipment may fall under, with class 50 being the lowest and class 500 being the highest. The class assigned to a shipment is essential to the carriers in determining the price charged to shippers. Similarly, the freight class indicates the type of product you are shipping and affects the overall shipping process. It also allows drivers to determine what kind of products they are carrying and the processes needed to do so correctly.

What does the term “NMFC” number stand for?

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association’s (NMFTA) Commodity Classification Standards Board (CCSB) publishes amendments to the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) classes up to three (3) times per year. The NMFC number represents the specific classification a shipment falls under and is necessary to have ready when scheduling a shipment.

While the NMFC number is critical to determining how your shipment will need to be processed, it ultimately determines the price as well. If the NMFC number is not accurately calculated, you run the risk of ending up with more significant issues with the carrier (who monitors this practice regularly).

What are density-based items?

As the density of your materials increases, the LTL freight class lowers, leading to lower shipping costs. Some items are only classed based on density, such as aluminum, as the less dense the material is, the more fragile it can become, requiring a different shipping process. The key to density-based shipping is to pack the items as compactly as possible. The more weight you can distribute to one area, the lower your freight class will be, which can potentially lower your overall cost. While not all carriers ship by density only, those who do often have better financial results.

What causes the class to change?

When shipping density-based items, it is crucial to keep in mind that the NMFC class will change depending upon the exact weight or dims of the shipment. For example, if you’re shipping pallets of fabric to two different locations and the weight is different, the two shipments will generally have different classes, which will be reflected in the price.

Why can’t my carrier use the same class FAK as my manufacturer?

Freight All Kinds (FAK) refers to a consolidated cargo shipment where items of different classes (regardless of weight, bulk or value) are shipped in a single truckload and charged a single rate. FAK was implemented to facilitate more straightforward pricing and billing communications between the carrier and the shipper. Negotiating FAK is a considerable advantage in securing the lowest shipping rates, but it is hard to come by.

As a result, we are often questioned why a client’s manufacturer’s FAK cannot be applied to their shipment. The reason is simple; each FAK is created for a particular shipper by a carrier and applied to a pricing contract. These are predetermined agreements on a per-request basis. If you believe you could benefit from a FAK, talk to your Ascent Representative for more details.

How do freight class and NMFC numbers affect my shipment?

Your product’s NMFC number identifies the freight class, which in turn determines your shipping charges. For this reason, it is critical that you know the correct NMFC number and freight class both to receive accurate freight charges and to ensure that the carrier does not reclass your shipment, which could result in a higher shipping charge. 

How do I determine freight class and NMFC number?

All classes and NMFC numbers are cataloged in the NMFC Tariff for freight carriers. Any freight carrier can look this information up for you. Additionally, you may call the NMFTA directly at 703.838.1810 or contact the Ascent Global Logistics team for more details. 

How is the LTL class of shipment determined?

Each type of freight is evaluated on density, handling, liability and stowability.

  • Density: Pounds per cubic feet. Typically, high density equates to lower freight class and vice versa.
  • Handling: The ease of moving a product between LTL terminals, looking at fragility and packaging.
  • Liability: Ability to be damaged, ability to damage adjacent freight, perishability. Greater liability equates to a higher freight class.
  • Stowability: Can the freight be stacked or turned to maximize space, or do its dimensions or nature require it to be shipped separately? Pallets that are more difficult to store will be given a higher freight class and, in turn, cost more to ship.