Chargeable weight: Actual Weight versus Volume Weight explained

Perhaps one of the biggest questions we get from new shippers concerns the calculation of volume weight. Even experienced shippers are sometimes surprised to find they are charged for a higher weight than what the shipment actually weighed.

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Billable or Chargeable Weight: Beyond the actual

The actual weight of the shipment (scale weight) is just one three factors used to determine the chargeable weight. The three elements used to determine the chargeable weight can include the highest of the following factors:

  • Actual weight: The weight of the shipment
  • Volume weight: Based on the size of the shipment (explained below)
  • Declared weight: The weight declared by the shipper

What is "volume weight"?

All delivery companies (including FedEx, UPS, USPS, Canada Post, Purolator) consider their cost based on the weight and size of an item. A large shipment that takes up a disproportionate amount of space can be just as costly to handle versus a smaller - yet heavier - item.


Low Density Cargo is charged higher than the actual weight.

One of the best ways to explain volume pricing is when a "really big shipment does not weight much." In industry terms, this is described as Low Density Cargo: Low density cargo, is charged at “volume weight” rather than actual weight.

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What is "chargeable or billable" weight?

Chargeable weight -or "billable weight" is the higher of actual or dimensional weight. Dimensional weight applies if the volume weight is greater than actual weight.

The formula most often used by Jet Worldwide to calculate volume weight:

Length x Width x Height (in cm)/ 5000 = dimensional weight in Kilograms

The actual formula to calculate the volume weight can vary by carrier and type of service. The volume weight of parcels sent via ground (versus air), for example, are often calculated via a different formula.

Check with your carrier to confirm their policy on volume weight and confirm how volume weight will be calculated for your shipment.

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Download printable ruler on letter size sheet of paper

Download printable ruler on A4 sheet of paper


Common Chargeable Weight Formula

The volume weight varies by carrier and method of transport but a common calculation for volume weight is:

Length x width x height (in cm) / 5000

Example:
A shipping a box that weighs 5 kg with dimensions of 50 cm x 40 cmx 35 cm
  • The product of the dimension in centimeters 50 x 40 x 35 is 70000
  • 70000 divided by 5000 = 14 kg volume/ dimensional weight
  • Volume or dimensional weight of 14 kg is larger than actual weight of 5 kg
  • Chargeable weight: 14 kg

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The Importance of "Declared Weight" and Chargeable Weight

It is important to be careful when declaring weights on your shipment as carriers do not automatically credit shipments when a shipper declares a higher weight than actual. For example, if a shipper mistakenly writes 10 kg in instead of 1 kg, they will be charged for 10 kg. Carriers are reluctant to credit the difference (and often refuse!) as their policy on chargeable weight declared weight in their chargeable weight calculation.

volume-weight-of-shoe-box-graphicAs mentioned above, the chargeable - or billable- weight of many carriers is based on the higher of the following three factors:

  • Actual Weight
  • Volume or Dimensional Weight
  • Declared Weight

ocean container on the oceanFor heavy freight shipments, the measurement used is "cubic Meters" or CBM.

Visit our related blog on volume weight and of calculating CBM


Package Measurements: Always round up - when calculating costs:

All carriers systematically scan and capture the weight and dimension of each package; rounding up to the nearest inch or centimetre.

It is important to note that carriers will not lower “over declared” dimensions. It is best to be accurate but not to over declare either the weight or dimension with the carrier.


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Written by Timothy Byrnes