Dimensional weight

Dimensional weight

Dimensional weight, used in shipping and freight, is a billing technique which takes into account the XYZ axis dimensions of a package.



Shipping costs have historically been calculated on the basis of gross weight in kilograms or pounds. By charging only by weight, lightweight, low density packages become unprofitable for freight carriers due to the amount of space they take up in the truck/aircraft/ship in proportion to their actual weight. The concept of Dimensional Weight has been adopted by the transportation industry worldwide as a uniform means of establishing a minimum charge for the cubic space a package occupies.

Weight Calculation

Dimensional weight is a calculation of a theoretical weight of a package. This theoretical weight is the weight of the package at a minimum density chosen by the freight carrier. If the package is below this minimum density, then the actual weight is irrelevant as the freight carrier will charge for the volume of the package as if it were of the chosen density (what the package would weigh at the minimum density). Furthermore, the volume used to calculate the Dimensional Weight may not be absolutely representative of the true volume of the package. The freight carrier will measure the longest dimension in each of the three axis (X,Y,Z) and use these measurements to determine the package volume. If the package is a right-angled rectangular cuboid (box), then this will be equal to the true volume of the package. However, if the package is of any other shape, then the calculation of volume will be more than the true volume of the package.

Dimensional weight is also known as DIM Weight, volumetric weight, Cubed Weight, etc. Freight carriers utilize the greater of the actual weight or dimensional weight to calculate shipping charges. Dimensional Weight is calculated as (Length x Width x Height) / (Dimensional Factor). Measurements can be made all in inches or all in centimeters, but the appropriate shipping factor must also be used.

Shipping factors for imperial measurements represent cubic inches per pound (in3/lb) while metric factors represent cubic centimeters per kilogram (cm3/kg). These are the inverse of the package density. Dimensional Weight is applied when the actual product density is less than the minimum density represented by the chosen factor. Dimensional Weight is representative of the weight of the package at the minimum density accepted by the freight carrier.[1] Shipping factors are not only different for imperial and metric measurements, but also for shipment mode and in some cases between different customers. Shipping factors will be available from your freight carrier. Some common factors are listed below.

Imperial Shipping Factor examples:

  • 166 in3/lb = 10.4 lb/ft3 - common for IATA shipments
  • 194 in3/lb = 8.9 lb/ft3 - common for domestic shipments
  • 216 in3/lb = 8.0 lb/ft3
  • 225 in3/lb = 7.7 lb/ft3
  • 250 in3/lb = 6.9 lb/ft3

Metric Shipping Factor examples:

  • 5000 cm3/kg = 200 kg/m3
  • 6000 cm3/kg = 166.667 kg/m3
  • 7000 cm3/kg = 142.857 kg/m3

When calculating the dimensional weight with metric measurements, the Length, Width, and Height are measured in centimeters (cm) and the result is stated in a nominal kilogram (kg) dimensional weight band (usually rounded up).

Some Calculations for Major Courier/Shipping Companies are as follows:

  • DHL: (L cm x W cm x H cm)/6000
  • FedEx: (L cm x W cm x H cm)/6000 (new) or /5000 (old, still used in Asia) for international shipments, (L cm x W cm x H cm)/7000 for domestic shipments
  • UPS: (L cm x W cm x H cm)/6000 or /5000 depending on certain import/country criteria
  • Canada Post (L cm x W cm x H cm)/6000 or (L in x W in x H in)/165[2]

(See external links for the DHL, FedEx, and UPS dimensional weight calculators)


Using dimensional weight calculations, a freight carrier will charge for lightweight (low density) packages as if they had a greater weight (the weight of the package at the minimum accepted density).

For example, a box of clothing shipped internationally which weighs 10 pounds, and measures 18 x 18 x 18 inches, would be charged as if it weighed 36 pounds: (18 x 18 x 18)/166 = 35.1 pounds which is then rounded up to 36 pounds. This is the weight the package would theoretically weigh if it had a density of 166 in3/lb or 10.4 lb/ft3. (18 x 18 x 18) = 3.375 ft3 x 10.4 lb/ft3 = 35.1 lb.

Several programs are available to calculate dimensional weight: Measurement Technology DIM Weight Calculator or Dim Weight Calculator

Practical application

Dimensional weight favors shippers of dense objects and penalizes those who ship lightweight boxes. A box of unpopped corn kernels will likely be charged by gross weight; a box of popcorn will probably be charged by its dimensional weight. This is because the large box of popcorn takes up a lot of space but does not fill up a vehicle's capacity in terms of weight, making it an inefficient use of space.[3]

Shippers avoid dimensional weight charges by using smaller boxes, by compressing their goods, and by reducing the use of packing materials.

Commercial Use

Dimensional weight is commonly used for invoicing by air freight forwarders, truck carriers, as well as all commercial airlines worldwide. In 2007, DHL, FedEx, United Parcel Service and USPS adopted the dimensional weight system for ground services.[4]

In May 2007, the United States Postal Service (USPS) adopted dimensional weight, calling it "Shape Based Postage Pricing". This rate system is designed to charge more for lightweight items, and also to recover costs involving manual sorting and handling, since many postal machines are built to handle flats. This system would charge much more for mailing a parcel than a flat envelope. It encourages mailing books and DVDs in flat paperboard or plastic envelopes, rather than padded mailers.[5]

Such companies use automated systems called dimensioners for calculating both dimensional and actual weight and invoice their customers accordingly. More and more transport and logistics companies including warehouses and retailers are investing in dimensioning equipment for calculating the dimensional weight of their packages in order to keep in line with their carriers and avoid back charges.[6]

External links


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Weight (representation theory) — In the mathematical field of representation theory, a weight of an algebra A over a field F is an algebra homomorphism from A to F, or equivalently, a one dimensional representation of A over F. It is the algebra analogue of a multiplicative… …   Wikipedia

  • Weight — This article is about the physical concept. For other uses, see Weight (disambiguation). A spring scale measures the weight of an object (according to the operational definition) …   Wikipedia

  • Volumetric weight — Volumetric weight, also known as Dimensional weight is used to used by postal companies and other freight industries and courier services around the world to invoice for the actual space that a parcel, package or pallet takes up in a vehicle or… …   Wikipedia

  • Two-dimensional nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy — (2D NMR) is a set of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) methods which give data plotted in a space defined by two frequency axes rather than one. Types of 2D NMR include correlation spectroscopy (COSY), J spectroscopy, exchange… …   Wikipedia

  • Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis — Two dimensional gel electrophoresis, abbreviated as 2 DE or 2 D electrophoresis, is a form of gel electrophoresis commonly used to analyze proteins. Mixtures of proteins are separated by two properties in two dimensions on 2D gels.Basis for… …   Wikipedia

  • 5 dimensional warped geometry theory — Introduction The 5 dimensional warped geometery theory is a braneworld theory developed by physicist Lisa Randall and Raman Sundrum while trying to solve the hierarchy problem of the Standard Model. This model is called RS 1 in the physics… …   Wikipedia

  • Dimensioning — is the process of measuring the cubic space that a package or object occupies. It is the method of calculating dimensional weight for the storage, handling, transporting and invoicing of goods. Vehicles and storage units have both volume and… …   Wikipedia

  • Volume — The volume of any solid, plasma, vacuum or theoretical object is how much three dimensional space it occupies, often quantified numerically. One dimensional figures (such as lines) and two dimensional shapes (such as squares) are assigned zero… …   Wikipedia

  • Dimensioners — are weighing and volume measuring systems for measuring three dimensional or cube shaped objects such as packages, parcels, pallets, cartons or boxes. Dimensioners are an important part of a much larger logistical system in a distribution center… …   Wikipedia

  • Shape-based postage pricing — On May 14, 2007, the United States Postal Service (USPS) implemented a rate and structure change to combat rising processing costs. In addition to increasing their current postage rates, the USPS unveiled a major structural change to the way… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”