How to Calculate Pallet Shipment Size and Weight

23 October 2019

We’ve all seen those shipping commercials advertising how easy it is to send something over great distances. What most of us don’t notice, however, is that each and every one of them use Flat Rate boxes, which are pretty small.

You can fit very few things in these boxes, so chances are your shipping won’t be as easy as shown in the ads. Whether you’re an online merchant or major retailer, you probably already know that shipping is never that easy.

Particularly with larger merchandise, where dimensional weight also plays a role, shipping costs can easily get out of hand. To help calculate your transportation expenses ahead of time, we’ll go over how transportation companies charge their customers more in-depth.

Weight, but Not Really

The big workaround that courier companies use in order to keep their businesses profitable is the concept of dimensional or “dim” weight. Before anything else, note that this is not the weight of your package, but rather a variable that is based on its volume. To find out the dim weight of something you want to deliver, all you have to do is multiply your packages’ height by its width and its length (so its volume or cubic size) and divide that by a number that tends to vary across distances, regions, and companies.

For shipments that go across the United States, the dim weight is usually divided by 166, whereas for international ones, it’s done by 139, which makes them a bit more expensive. Volume is actually the quantity of space that your package is taking up. For a standard 30x15x15 box, your volume is 6,750 cubic inches. If you want to ship it across the U.S., divide the number by 166 and the weight that you’ll be charged for is 40/41 lbs.

By coming up with the idea of dimensional weight, courier companies shifted the focus from how heavy your merchandise is to how much space it takes up. Unless other conditions are met. To make it more convenient, they make use of high density storage similar to Radio shuttle racks

When You Don’t Use Dim Weight

This is where things get a bit more complicated. Dimensional weight is not always used or is sometimes used in tandem with other variables as well. Usually, if your goods are transported via air service, they will always be subject to dimensional weight. Air travel is more expensive, so your fare will also be steeper.

However, if the company can ship the item via ground service, dimensional weight only comes into play if your package is at least 3 cubic feet or roughly 5,180 cubic inches. Our example was clearly above that, but a smaller, 30x10x10 box will be under. In that case, the actual weight of the container will be the one that is used in the calculation of your bill. The latter example actually works in the favor of customers, since the weight of your package will almost always be smaller than its cubic size, unless you’re packing some really dense stuff.

The Price of More Cubic Space

This is the reason why the pallet is the basic unit load of the shipping industry – it’s easy to handle and it’s also much cheaper to ship, since it goes in a container, on a major cargo ship. Freight lines usually operate with two categories: full container load (FCL) or less than container load (LCL). The same idea applies as with domestic couriers, namely, there is a point beyond which dimensional weight, rather than actual weight, is the billed size. A multitude of variables are used to decide when this is the case, from the particular route to the conditions of shipment.

Even so, sea freight rates tend to be quite low when calculated on a per unit or per pallet basis. You can further cut down on these costs by looking out to see when fuel prices are lower, as well by avoiding regional and/or seasonal hikes in prices. Commonly, the prices are established on a per-month basis.

Freight companies also tend to charge much less for your air shipments. However, in order to use these, you must be bringing in some serious, warehouse-level loads through the clouds. Your pallets will usually be subject to a dimensional weight that is divided by 5000 or even 6000 in the case of air travel. It’ll still cost a bit, but significantly less than with UPS, for instance.