NMFC and its Creators
NMFC stands for National Motor Freight Classification. This is a tool used to define what product gets shipped. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), created the NMFC numbers.
They’re an organization that keeps track of:
- All the commodities
- What their classification is
- The NMFC number
They keep what used to be a big book of these things. After, they update that book with new commodities that are being shipped. As well as what they’re doing, and what’s in them. The NMFTA also defines SCAC codes for carriers.
These are four-letter codes that are abbreviations for a specific carrier. For example, SAIA transportation would be S-A-I-A. It’s like a stock ticker. But, the part that we’re talking about is the NMFC numbers.
The NMFC number is usually a six or seven-digit number that tells us what that commodity is. For example, shoes would have an NMFC number, but boots would also have an NMFC number. Some of these items have subtypes as well. You would have specific plastic articles, and that’s a pretty generic NMFC number. Although you would have different densities. Which may have different subtypes that are associated with the same NMFC number. So, the NMFC number would have a dot and a number at the end of it, like a .1 or a .2. These are generally based on the density of the product.
Ingredients of an NMFC Number
NMFC number is usually defined by four main things:
1. Stowability of that commodity
Which is how easy it is to:
- Get in and out of the truck
- Put into a stack in the truck
- Layer other items on top of it when it’s in the truck
Density is important. Compare shipping a light and fluffy pillow to a heavy book. The different density takes up a lot more volume for the same kind of weight.
Handling relates to how difficult it is to move something in and out of the truck. As well as what amount of work it takes to move that along.
Pillows are harder to damage than TV screens. Shipping something with higher liability would change the NMFC number. This allows it to represent that element. NMFC numbers are important because they allow us to identify what that commodity is and how it’s used.
What an NMFC Number Represents
Every NMFC number will move down and represent a specific class. For example, an NMFC number would represent something like Class 60. When we set up LTL rates in US domestic, class is a big piece of that. If we start with the NMFC number, then we determine the class. This helps us go back and determine what the rate is. But, some carriers prefer to see the NMFC number overseeing the class.
These can be a little more specific. From the NMFC number, we can group them in more than the 16 available classes. So, by looking at an NMFC number, we have more specific information. As well as a wider range of commodities that we’re dealing with.
- An accurate rate
- An understanding of what the product is that we’re moving
- Knowledge of how the product is being moved
Helpful Tools for NMFC
So the question is, how do I figure out what my NMFC number is? There’s no easy way, but there are cool tools out there that help us. The most important thing is, we have to know something about the commodity. The traditional way is, there’s a book of NMFC codes that are published by the NMFTA. So, that book will show the products, and you can search through it like a catalog. Now, they also have another product called ClassIT, and ClassIT allows you to use that online.
ClassIT also has the capability of integrating into applications. There’s an API for it, as well as the ability to get that data and help build tools. This allows you to type in a commodity or a part of the commodity name, and then it’ll help come back and suggest a class.
There are also other products.
SMC-3 has a product called FastClass. With this, they’re able to show the NMFC and do look-ups through it as well.
In TMS’s, we need to know a class before we can move the freight. Especially if a TMS is running an LTL freight. So, that means we also need to know the NMFC number. We can determine this off of the dimensions of the product and the product type.
In the TAI TMS for example, we’ll:
- Take and read that product name
- Take the dimensions of that product
- Run them against our algorithms
- Help determine what the NMFC number and class
When Things Aren’t Adding Up
But what happens if the class gets entered and the dimensions don’t add up to the class? Our technology allows us to return to the user the point of mismatch in the class and density of the product. So then, from our TMS or TAI TMS, we’re able to send the NMFC number to the carriers, to help ease automation.
After, when we’re booking an order or getting ready to get a quote we’ll:
- Send that NMFC number across the carrier
- Get back a rate that’s specific to that number or that class
- Make sure that we’re getting accurate rates and accurate information of the shipment
- Store these NMFC numbers in a product catalog
So the first time that we enter a product, we can ask for the NMFC number or help search for that number. Then once it’s found we’ll have theses numbers already pre-populated and receive the products class, it’ll get divided up on a per-customer basis. This allows each one of your customers to have only their products and the NMFC’s numbers and the classes. Then, when we enter new shipments we’re able to populate the shipment details. This allows our carrier to see that we are giving them accurate ratings and information. As well as avoids having to put a burden on the user to look up that NMFC number or that class.