How Business Can Be Impacted By National Motor Freight Classification

May 17, 2012

Although many truck drivers know about National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), few know about how it can impact a business. These are industry standards that are created and maintained by the National Classification Committee. This entity is made up of representatives from 100 carriers that are elected by the more than 1,000 participating carriers. Their activities are regulated by a department within the Department of Transportation, the US Surface Transportation Board.

Freight class is actually determined by several factors. Density, handling, liability, and the ability to stow goods are all part of the criteria used to determine classification. Cargo that is higher in density is lower on the freight class scale. Therefore, density is one of the most crucial measures. However, if special handling is required, stow-ability may override density in importance.

Another factor that is of great importance is liability. This would include such considerations as whether or not the cargo is perishable, valuable, combustible, or explosive. This would also override all other classification factors. Once the type of cargo is determined the Commodity Standards Classification Board (CCSB) then determines the dollar value. This then becomes part of the carrier's liability. This entity can also help transporters find the best fit for each load they carry.

Hand-in-hand with these standards are requirements that are designed to ensure that goods are protected, handled, and stowed, in a safe and practical way. In documents distributed by NMFC, the manner of classification and packaging of commodities as well as how to file claims and their disposition are outlined. Additionally, the North American Uniform through Bill of Lading and Uniform Straight Bill of Lading are included.

So, how can this impact a trucker's business? It's important to remember that transportation companies that reference or use any provisions contained in the NMFC must participate. This would include commodities, rules, packaging specifications, classes, and especially bills of lading. Based on this participation, shippers such as freight forwarders, brokers, and motor carrier partners much verify that they are complying with NMFC regulations.

It is not uncommon for issues to arise, especially when freight charges based on the NMFC are billed by carriers that do not participate. This leads to claims that are based on uncertainty about charges owed because of confusion. These disputes often lead to litigation that can extend the time it takes for transporters to collect their money.

The Commodity Classification Standards Board (CCSB), National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA), and Surface Transportation Board (STB) are three entities that are there to help. Since the classification system and how it impacts shipping rates can be so confusing, knowing there is someone in the trucker's corner can bring peace-of-mind in addition to clarification of how these regulations affect individual drivers.

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