Integral to the National Motor Freight Classification® (NMFC®) are internationally recognized specifications, rules and requirements for the proper packaging of goods moving by motor carrier.

The packaging provisions in the NMFC fall into three basic categories:

  • General packaging definitions and specifications
  • Specifications for packages that have been approved expressly for the transportation of certain commodities
  • Performance-based packaging criteria
The general packaging definitions and specifications are for commonly used packages, such as bags, crates, drums and of course fiberboard boxes. These provisions are found in various rules within the NMFC and set requirements for the construction and integrity of the package. For instance, the Item 222 series of rules enumerates the requirements for fiberboard boxes, including size and weight limits, the strength of the fiberboard used, and the box manufacturer’s certificate (BMC) that must appear on all conforming boxes.

The NMFC also provides specifications for literally hundreds of packages that are authorized expressly for the transportation of certain commodities. These are essentially exceptions to the general packaging definitions and specifications, and each is assigned a unique package number. Through laboratory testing and/or actual test shipments, these numbered packages have been proven to offer adequate protection in the motor carrier environment for the transport of particular commodities.

As an alternative to the provisions described above, the NMFC allows shippers the option of developing performance-based packaging. Performance testing criteria are detailed in two NMFC rules: Item 180, Performance Testing of Shipping Containers, and Item 181, Furniture Package Performance Testing. Both allow new package designs to be used immediately upon the successful completion of the stated laboratory tests. New packages can thus be put into service more quickly to solve chronic damage problems or otherwise address specific packaging needs. Only those package-testing laboratories registered with the Commodity Classification Standards Board (CCSB) are authorized to test packages in accordance with Items 180 and 181. And only those successfully tested packages that have been reviewed by and registered with the CCSB can be certified under Item 180 or 181, and bear the required certification symbol.

To register a packaging lab with the CCSB, please complete the application and fax to (703) 683-1094. Shippers requesting certification of their packages must also be registered with the CCSB, which can be done by completing the application and faxing it to (703) 683-1094.

Periodically, NMFTA offers webinars to educate the public on proper packaging of freight for transportation in the motor carrier environment. NMFTA's next packaging webinar series, containing three modules, is scheduled to begin November 1, 2017 at 1:00pm Eastern Time. Click here to print the registration form. For further information or if you have a packaging-related question, please contact Erin N. Topper, Packaging Consultant.