Classification Reimagined Keeps NMFC System Modern and Up to Date

Erin Topper - April 28, 2023

One of the things that makes the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) system so valuable to the industry is NMFTA’s commitment to keeping it updated and relevant. For more than 65 years we have constantly monitored changes in the industry and in technology to ensure we kept the NMFC fresh.

That effort has hit a new level of intensity in the past six months.

“We’re trying to streamline and combine like-products so they’re all grouped together, instead of having numerous overly specific items that are difficult to readily classify,” said NMFTA’s Classification Development and Packaging Manager Erin Topper

The current version of this initiative is called “Classification Reimagined,” which began in October 2022 with a series of proposals published in Docket 2022-3, and it was met with positive response from the industry. So we kept the effort going with Docket 2023-1 in February 2023, and with Docket 2023-2 in June 2023, which will be issued on May 4, 2023.

As the NMFC moves exclusively to the digital realm in the form of ClassIT in 2024, it’s the perfect occasion to accelerate update efforts.

Specifics of the three dockets include:

  • Canceling items that are too specific or difficult to apply, especially when they cover only a limited volume of freight. We make these changes in favor of more general items that embrace a wider array of products and are easier to understand and apply.
  • Minimizing the number of generic groups, as well as the number of items within each group.
  • Defaulting to the standard, 11-subprovision density scale whenever an item presents no significant issues with handling, stowability, or liability and when the density distribution warrants it. Otherwise, a modified density scale or single class may be assigned.

Within each bullet point, of course, are a large number of specific changes, such as the elimination of numerous items or of entire categories, and the combining of others.

The updates were inspired in part by recommendations from the NMFC stakeholders. Another factor is the increased use of dimensioners by carriers, which – when coupled with forklifts – make it easier and faster than ever to capture accurate density data.

“We are listening to the industry in that the classification can be difficult when it comes to finding the appropriate item for commodities,” Topper said. “This effort will help to streamline the listing of commodities by grouping similar products together.”

While updating the classification system has always been imperative for NMFTA, Topper said the number of proposals increased in October as more opportunities for streamlining became apparent.

In addition to these updates, NMFTA is taking advantage of the digital platform that is ClassIT and seeks to include decision trees that simply can’t be included as part of a book in a future release of ClassIT.

And while “Classification Reimagined” may be a current effort, Topper does not expect it to end any time soon.

“I don’t foresee this ever ending,” she said. “This is just going to be the goal and the ongoing initiative.”

To learn more about the NMFC, visit

Erin Topper
Erin Topper

Erin Topper is Classification Development and Packaging Manager for the National Motor Freight Traffic Association, Inc. (NMFTA). She is responsible for: reviewing and updating the packaging-related content of the NMFC, as well as writing proposals to amend classification provisions; providing opinions for compliance with the NMFC’s minimum packaging requirements to carriers, shippers and other interested parties; serving as the staff liaison to the CRC’s Packaging Subcommittee; managing the classification development process; and leading the team that develops and presents NMFTA’s educational offerings, such as classification and packaging webinars. Ms. Topper holds both a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Packaging from Michigan State University. She is a member of the Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP), the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA), and ASTM’s D10 Committee on Packaging. Prior to joining NMFTA in 2005, Erin worked at a national LTL motor carrier and at an automotive packaging plant, and she did her internship at a General Mills-Green Giant frozen food plant.