Every item that is shipped in the United States is assigned an NMFC number, which stands for National Motor Freight Classification. While there are certain item-specific NMFC numbers that clearly define certain products and items, it is always best and safest to quote and price shipments based on their density as this can often prevent re-classifications.
Often times, even if dimensions and weights are correct, a carrier may examine a shipment and determine that the item should be classified as part of a full range density NMFC number rather than a product-specific NMFC number. While this can be challenged and disputed with the carrier, it is far tougher to win a dispute of this nature than it is to win one based off of weight and density (provided ample, adequate and correct evidence can be provided to make the dispute).
There are three basic types of NMFC numbers.
1. Full Range Density Based
A Full Range Density NMFC, such as 156600 which covers plastic articles (any items made of plastic), works off of the density chart previously used to determine an item’s density. These are the most common types of NMFC’s that carriers will rely on to properly classify freight that is transported on their trailers.
2. Partial Density Based
A Partial Density-Based NMFC, such as 133300 which covers machinery and machine parts, takes density into account when factoring in the classification. These NMFC’s, while still basing their calculation upon pounds per cubic foot, are not as strict. The item must still be what it claims to be but the density range used for classification is a bit broader allowing items that would normally be classed at say 100 can be shipped at a 92.5 and items that would normally ship at Class 85 to be shipped at Class 60, often saving you a great deal of money.
3. Item Specific
These NMFC’s are not density-based but meet strict product guidelines. A good example of such an NMFC would be 25855. This NMFC is a 125 classification but in order to use this NMFC, the product must meet strict guidelines. The wording of the NMFC states, “Broilers, Grills, Roasters or Stoves, cooking, portable, outdoor type, charcoal burning, steel, 12 gauge or thicker, SU, in boxes, Individual boxes for units must not exceed 50 united inches (length, width, and depth added).”
If you are shipping this exact item and it meets all of the criteria then this NMFC should not be a problem. However, if it fails to meet even one of the stated criteria, it is likely that the carrier would re-class the item based on a Full Range Density or Partial Density NMFC relating to this product, such as 26350. At this point, the shipment could be reclassified from a 125 to as high as a 200, resulting in a significant price increase. (View our density class chart here.)