NMFC Codes vs. LTL Freight Class: How do they work?

NMFC Codes vs. LTL Freight Class

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In order to fairly and accurately determine shipping costs, freight shipments are categorized by “freight class”.  National Motor Freight Classification codes (NMFC), on the other hand, further classify the contents of a shipment within the category of freight class. Therefore, two shipments might be categorized in the same freight class while they also have vastly different NMFC codes based on the specific items within the shipment.

Does that make sense?

Let’s take a deeper look at what NMFC codes are, how they are determined and how they are applied. For our example of what this looks like in action, we will be applying NMFC codes to the LTL freight class. 


LTL Freight Class: What is it and How is it Determined?

Freight class differentiates shipments into one of 18 categories, from 50-500. The following table gives a breakdown of the 18 freight classes with example items and weight range per cubic foot (density) listed for each class:


Class Examples of Items Shipped within Class Weight Range per Cubic Foot
50 Extremely durable items such as nuts and bolts >50 lbs
55 Bricks, hardwood flooring materials 35-50 lbs
60 Beverages 30-35 lbs
65 Books, some car parts 22.5-30 lbs
70 Some food items 15-22.5 lbs
77.5 Tires 13.5-15 lbs
85 Pharmaceutical products 12-13.5 lbs
92.5 Computers, larger kitchen appliances 10.5-12 lbs
100 Car/motorcycle covers 9-10.5 lbs
110 Some artwork 8-9 lbs
125 Smaller kitchen appliances 7-8 lbs
150 Bookcases 6-7 lbs
175 Textiles, clothing 5-6 lbs
200 Sheet metal 4-5 lbs
250 Mattresses, TVs 3-4 lbs
300 Wood tables, chairs 2-3 lbs
400 Light fixtures 1-2 lbs
500 Very light/fragile materials or very valuable objects           <1 lbs


While the above table is not an exhaustive list, it gives some ranges and general ideas about the types of items that fit into each freight class. A rule of thumb for determining freight class costs is that the higher the class, the higher the cost. While freight class mostly considers the density of the shipment, other shipping factors are also considered by the carrier.

Understanding exactly how your freight is categorized and why it is categorized that way is critical in calculating the price of shipping so that you don’t get stuck with extra costs at the last minute.  


NMFC Codes: What are they and how are they determined?

NMFC codes further classify shipments within the freight class to which they belong. These codes were created in an effort to have fair and standardized rates applied to all shipped commodities.  In general, the NMFC codes are based on a number of criteria that include:

  • Dimensions
    • Dimensions of an object refers to the height, weight, and length of the item.
    • Factors into difficulty in stowing and maneuvering objects.
  • Density
    • Density refers to an object’s mass divided by its volume.
    • Density is different from pure weight.
  • Handling difficulty
    • Are the items extremely fragile? Are they durable? Do they contain any hazardous materials?
    • Handling difficulty will determine if objects can be stowed with or next to other objects.
  • Value/liability
    • Are you shipping gold or cement? Is there a chance that it would be a target for theft?
    • These factors are extremely important in calculating cost as they can significantly change the overall price of shipping.
  • Packaging considerations
    • Does the packaging require any special accommodations? Can the items be stored with other items based on their packaging?
    • The fragility or durability of the packaging itself can factor into the cost of shipping.


Still Confused about How to Determine your NMFC?

Luckily, you have a number of options available to you to help in determining the correct NMFC codes for your unique shipping needs:

  • The NMFTA (National Motor Freight Traffic Association) provides a nearly exhaustive list of items and codes here.
  • You can call the NMFTA directly at (703) 838-1810.
  • The manufacturer of your product likely knows the NMFC number, you may consider reaching out to them directly.


Final Thoughts

When shipping any commodity, there will be a cost. However, the more knowledgeable you are about freight class and NMFC codes, the more money you’ll be able to save during the shipping process.     


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