If you’re using freight services for personal or business needs, you’ll need to know how to measure freight. Learning how to precisely measure your shipments and determine the cubic feet and density by hand or with a dimension calculator will ensure that your shipments stay within your budget and deadline. That’s why we’ve put together information on how to determine if you need freight services, what pallet dimensions and the standard pallet size are, and what to do once you’ve measured your shipment.

Defining freight

How do you decide if what you’re shipping is freight? The line between parcel and freight shipping is often subjective but in general, parcel shipping is for individual packages that you can easily ship through regular carriers like UPS or FedEx. Packages that are heavier than 150 pounds and bigger than 108 inches in length or 165 inches in length plus girth (2x width + height) are usually shipped as freight, although these numbers aren’t set in stone.

The shape of a shipment is another way to determine if something should be considered freight. Is what you’re shipping large and bulky, or smaller and more manageable? Bulky or oddly shaped items like furniture are probably better off shipped as freight. Shipments on pallets are also freight.

Why measuring freight accurately is important

Freight shipments are loaded into trailers or ocean containers to maximize the usable space, so your measurements need to be as precise as possible. If a company receives an inaccurate measurement and your shipment is a different size than they were anticipating, the shipment will need to be measured again. You could receive a different rate and the final price may be adjusted. The company’s plan for loading trucks and containers may change. All of these extra steps can throw off your budget or deadline.

How to measure freight

Because space is a key part of shipping freight, shipments are measured by cube, space, and density.

  • Measure the length (L), width (W), and height (H) of your item or items in inches. For irregularly shaped objects, measure them as if they’re in a rectangular box. Use the extreme points to get the length, width, and height.
  • Multiply L x W x H to get the cubic inches of your shipment. If you have multiple items, repeat this step for each and add all of them together.

  • Divide the total cubic inches by 1,728 to get the cubic feet of your shipment.
  • Weigh your shipment, and then divide the weight by the cubic feet to get the density or the ratio of weight to volume.
  • You can also enter your measurements into a dimension calculator if you don’t want to do the math by hand.

You may also need to know pallet dimensions. The standard pallet size in the U.S. is 40” by 48”. The height of your pallet shipment should be measured from the bottom to the highest point. When measuring the length, you’ll need to include anything that is hanging off the pallet.


What’s the next step?

Once you know how to measure freight, and have an accurate freight measurement, contact your freight service provider to receive a rate. They’ll need your measurements, origin, destination, commodity, and schedule.

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