As there continues to be a driver shortage, and the demand for freight shipping increases, freight pricing is moving from weight to freight density. This is because carriers that are charging shippers based purely on the weight of their product are losing space and money along with it.

So what exactly is freight density? Lets review what it is and how it will affect your freight costs.


What is Freight Density?

Freight density is the space an item occupies in relation to its weight. 

This is determined by dividing the weight of the item in pounds by the volume in cubic feet.  You find the total cubic feet by taking height x width x depth and diving that number by 1,728 (the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot).


Freight Density Equations:

(height x width x depth) = cubic inches

cubic inches / 1728 = cubic feet

cubic feet / weight = freight density


For example, your 60” by 52” pallet has a height of 48” and a weighs 425lbs. (60 x 52 x 48)/ 1,728 gives you a volume of 86.66 cubic ft. You would then take your weight of 425/86.66 to give you a density of 4.90. This would be in the 175 freight class.


What is Dimensional Weight Pricing?

Dimensional weight pricing also takes into account the space occupied by the package, along with its weight, not just its weight alone. It takes into account its freight density. Whichever is larger between the dimensional weight and the actual weight is the billable weight.

For example, if a customer purchases a watch, and the warehouse packages the time piece in a considerably larger box than needed, then based on dimensional weight pricing the shipper will be charged much much more for this package. The package is more than likely very light and taking up unnecessary amounts of space that could be used for other products on the truck.


How Does Freight Density Affect Your Classification?

Freight classes are designed to help form common standard freight pricing for shipments, which is can be helpful when utilizing many brokers, carriers and warehouses. Freight classes are defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) and are based on weight, length, height, density, ease of handling, value and liability from things like theft, damage, breakability, and spoilage.

Density: Estimated Freight Class:
Less than 1 400
More than 1, but less than 2 300
More than 2, but less than 4 250
More than 4, but less than 6 175
More than 6, but less than 8 125
More than 8, but less than 10 100
More than 10, but less than 12 92.5
More than 12, but less than 15 85
More than 15, but less than 22.5 70
More than 22.5, but less than 30 65
30 or greater 60

Check out Federal Carrier’s Freight Density Calculator. It can help you estimate your freight class.


How Does Freight Density Affect Freight Cost?

The price at the end is going to be based on whichever is greater, the dimensional weight or actual weight, as stated above.

When the dimensional weight is larger than the actual weight, it could seem unfair to the shipper. It will look like you are paying for imaginary weight. The important thing to remember is to make sure packages as small as they can be. You want to get your dimensional weight to be less than your actual weight. The higher your density, the less space it takes on the truck and the lower your classification. This will decrease your rate for every hundred pounds you ship. The more dense your package is, the lower risk of potential damage along with potential cost savings.


Why Is Freight Class Important?

Freight class will help you determine shipping costs for carriers. Freight class assignment is very important, especially when carriers and shippers are handling a combination of heavier goods and fragile materials. Having ways to help you determine classes will ultimately allow you to optimize all levels of shipping regardless of the consignment itself. If the incorrect freight class is used, this can cause a mess that will ultimately delay any shipment you send.


Other Freight Shipping Cost Factors to Consider

Besides freight density, there are hundreds of determining factors when it comes to the shipping cost, here are a few:

Travel Distance – Typically, the greater the distance your consignment has to travel, the more it will end up costing.

Travel Speed – Quick delivery of a consignment will always come at a cost.

FAK (Freight All Kind) – is a simple method of pricing that will group together many different classes and allow you to group them into a single class. FAK is most commonly used as a tool for shippers who ship mixed pallets.

Special Delivery Requirements – Some of your consignments may have special requirements and involve a need for something that the shipper may deem above and beyond. If this is the case, the shipper will possibly add a hefty premium to the cost of delivery.

There are so many more factors that can increase the price of a shipment. While all of these things should be taken into account, one of the most important things you can do when it comes to your shipment is knowing the freight density of your shipment and the freight class it falls into. Knowing both of these things will help you plan your shipments better and also avoid any extra costs that you may not have been expecting while driving.

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