NMFC Codes

What's the Difference between NMFC Codes vs LTL Freight Class

LTL shipments are assigned a National Motor Freight Classification code, or NMFC code, to balance shipping costs against trailer space. IT is important that you Find NMFC Codes when shipping your item. This helps carriers determine the cost to ship freight. The NMFC code 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 freight classes based on its ease of transportability, ranging from low (class 50) to high (class 500).

What’s the Difference between NMFC Codes vs LTL Freight Class
While Less Than Truckload (LTL) and full truckload freight shipping have several similarities, there are a few key differences, including how shipments are quoted. To better calculate accurate LTL shipping costs, LTL commodities are broken up into several categories, known as freight class. In this article, we break down the basics of freight class and NMFC codes so you can better understand the role they play in LTL shipping and more accurately estimate the costs associated with shipping different commodities.

What Is an LTL Freight Class?

Freight class is an industry-wide numeric classification system used to categorize commodities transported through LTL shipping.

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association defines the freight classes and makes them available through the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC).

Why are NMFC Codes and Freight Class Important to have on your BOL

When shipping LTL or volume shipments, all freight commodities are treated equally. Different products will have different freight classes, and your shipment’s freight class will have a significant impact on your rate and limited liability in the chance it gets lost or damaged during transit.

Accurate LTL quotes, require accurate freight classes.

Due to the fact that the LTL carrier will load and unload your product multiple times from trailer to trailer, and multiple shippers’ freight will ride in the same trailer with yours, each pallet’s specifics — weight, dimensions, packaging, fragility, and whether it’s stackable — all matter to the freight carrier. These factors determine how efficient your shipment is to move, how much effort it will take the carrier, and therefore, how much your shipment will cost. This is not the case in full truckload shipping, since your freight is not offloaded in-transit, does not share trailer space with any other shipper’s product, and involves only one driver and piece of equipment, regardless of the space your product occupies. LTL carriers will often re-weigh freight, and you are charged based on the space your product takes up on a trailer. If you get the freight class wrong, you will end up paying more (or less) than you are anticipating. Understanding which freight class your commodity falls into is the key to getting an accurate quote.

How Freight Class Impacts Shipping Costs

High density items (i.e. steel bars) will have a low freight class (e.g. 50) while low density items (i.e. ping pong balls) will have a high freight class (e.g. 500).

The lower the freight class, the lower the cost per pound in shipping — 50 is the least expensive freight class. The higher the freight class, the higher the rate — 500 is the most expensive freight class.


There are 18 different freight classes, ranging from Class 50 to Class 500

Freight Density Calculator

What Commodities Make Up Each Freight Class?

Here are the 18 freight classes and the types of commodities they represent:


NMFC Code vs. Freight Class: What’s the Difference?

Every commodity has both a freight class and a NMFC code. Freight class represents a category of items while NMFC codes relate to specific commodities within each of the 18 freight classes.

For example:

  • Bricks: NFMC code = 32100.2, Freight Class = 50

  • Steel Pipes: NMFC code = 51200, Freight Class = 50

Though each commodity has a freight class of 50, they have different NMFC codes.

NMFC classification is based on four main factors:

1. Density

Density refers to the weight per cubic foot of each piece, or the space an item occupies in relation to its weight.

Commodities with a higher density fall into a lower freight class and are easier to ship because they are more compact.

High-density commodities are, therefore, cheaper to ship than bulky, low-density items.

2. Handling

Handling relates to any unique handling or care requirements needed during transport.

Fragile or hazardous items may require special accommodations, which means they will fall into a higher freight class and cost more money to ship.

Size, weight, and shape can also impact the ease of handling, thus increasing the cost of shipping.

3. Stowability

Stowability accounts for how a commodity can be loaded and transported with other commodities.

If freight is hazardous, perishable, flammable, oddly shaped, or too heavy, it can be difficult to ship alongside other items.

If an item is difficult to stow with other items, it will have a higher freight class and be more expensive to ship.

4. Liability

Liability covers the likelihood of freight theft, damage, or damage to nearby loads.

If a commodity is perishable, has hazardous properties, or is combustible, for example, it will have a higher liability and will cost more to ship.

When combined, these four factors determine a commodity’s NMFC code.

Why NMFC Codes Are Important

NMFC codes are important because they help LTL carriers understand how difficult or easy it will be to ship a particular commodity.

Freight class primarily takes density into account. NMFC codes, on the other hand, get much more specific and account for a variety of factors that impact the efficiency of the shipping process.

Here are some of the factors NMFC codes consider:

  • Weight, Length, and Height

  • Commodity Type

  • Density of the Freight

  • Ease of Handling

  • Value and Liability

  • Packaging

How to Determine an NMFC Code for Your LTL Shipment

To find a specific NMFC code, you can use an NMFC classification tool, such as ClassIT, and go through the following steps.

1.Search for the commodity within the tool. (Be specific, and input the plural form of the item if no results are found.)
2.Select the commodity/NMFC that best fits the freight you are shipping.
3.Calculate the density of your commodity with a freight calculator (you will need to know your commodity’s exact length, width, height, and weight).
4.Select the correct class based on the density of your commodity.
Keep in mind, if your calculation is inaccurate, it can significantly impact your shipping costs.

How to Get an Instant LTL Freight Quote

Once you know the freight class, weight, and dimensions of your commodity, you can determine the cost of shipping your LTL freight by utilizing the instant quote feature within CoyoteGO®.

With this tool, you can input your accessorials and add multiple commodities to a single shipment.

For more information on how to instantly quote shipments directly from your desktop, take a look at the shipment management chapter of our CoyoteGO Guidebook.

Learn How this E-Commerce Shipper Cut LTL Costs by 35%

By working with Coyote, this rapidly growing business was able to improve their LTL service while cutting their spend.

Their dedicated LTL operations team makes it easy, freeing up this entrepreneur to focus on adding customers instead of generating BOLs.

Find out how Coyote made LTL shipping easy.

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