Last updated: 11/5/2021
When it comes down to it, freight is all about numbers. What are the dimensions of your shipment? What’s the volume? The weight? How do I calculate cubic feet? How much will fuel cost? How can I determine freight class? Will my pallets fit in a 40′ container? Find the answers to these questions and you’ll know how to estimate your freight costs—and optimize your budgets.
We worked with our pricing team to put together some quick explanations of the most common freight math you’ll need. We’ll show you how to calculate the cubic feet of your shipment, figure out if your freight will fit through the opening of a container, and more. With just a few simple formulas, you’ll be on the road to becoming a freight math expert in no time.
Calculating Cubic Feet
(a.k.a. the Volume of Your Shipment)
In the world of freight, being able to calculate the cubic feet of your shipment is clutch. Cubic feet are a measure of volume—how much room your shipment takes up. This figure is especially important when it comes to:
Now that you understand why it’s important, let’s walk through how to calculate your shipment’s volume in cubic feet.
Calculating Your Fuel Cost
Not knowing the price of fuel up front can lead to some unwelcome surprises when the time for payment rolls around. Be sure to ask your carrier which rate they will use when shipping your goods. With this information and the simple formula below, you’ll know exactly how much you’re expected to pay before you even see your invoice.
Total ocean charges × rate = Fuel cost
In other words, if the current rate of fuel is 24.5%, you will multiply your total freight charges by this percentage. For example, let’s say you are shipping your newest product less-than-container load over the ocean. Your shipment is a total of 450 cubic feet, and your total ocean charges (without fuel) are $1,575. Your calculation will look like this:
$1,575 × .245 = $385.88 in fuel charges
Want to know the total cost, including fuel charges? Here’s a little shortcut: add 1 to the fuel rate percentage before multiplying:
Total ocean charges × (fuel rate + 1) = Total cost
$1,575 × 1.245 = $1,960.88 total cost
Easy, right? We recommend using a calculator (we always do!) so you know your calculations are accurate. You’ll be able to project and forecast your revenue and costs more precisely.
Finding the Density of Your Shipment
(and Why It Matters!)
Once you’ve calculated the volume of your shipment in cubic feet, you’re already halfway to determining the density of your shipment. But before we dive into the math, let’s talk about why density matters. Density is one of the four factors that determines the freight class of your shipment. Freight classification is one of the ways the industry simplifies and standardizes the shipping process. A commodity’s freight class determines its packing requirements, ensuring that everything gets shipped safely. Perhaps most importantly to you, freight class is also used to calculate shipping cost, which is why it’s critical to understand your shipment’s density.
Finally, ocean freight forwarders will look closely at your density to know how your goods will fit into their mix. This is especially true when it comes to LCL shipments, and it can significantly impact your ocean freight pricing.