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What Is Freight Density?

February 6, 2020
 By Ask Truckload
Process What Is Freight Density?
Last Modified: May 12, 2023
What is freight density? Freight density is how much space an item takes up in a truck in relation to its weight.

Over the past few years with the incredible growth surge that is apparent in the world of eCommerce, there has been a rather significant increase in demand for freight shipping. It seems that because of all of this change added to the decline in the number of available drivers, now freight prices are being decided based on density rather than weight.

Freight density is how much space an item takes up in a truck in relation to its weight. It is important to know that you can determine freight density by doing a little math. Freight density is the weight of the item in pounds, divided by the item’s volume in cubic feet.

It has been discovered that many carriers are, in fact, losing vast amounts of money along with space. This all comes down to simply charging by weight. In this article, we are going to be taking a comprehensive look at freight density and everything that’s involved in it. 

What Is Freight Density In Shipping?

To put things simply, freight density refers to the amount of space that an item may occupy in relation to its shipping weight. There are a lot of complications when it comes to freight density, but they will be explored as the article goes on.

While we’ll take a look at freight class later on, it’s important to note that shipments that take up a lot of room for their weight, will, in fact, have a higher freight class and ultimately cost more to ship. 

If, however, a shipment is heavier yet more compact, then it will fall into a lower freight class and cost much less to ship. While it may seem simple enough, freight density in shipping does get far more complicated, as you will see as the article goes on, but fret not, by the time you have reached the conclusion, you will be educated fully in the ways of freight density.  

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How Do You Calculate Freight Density?

How Do You Calculate Freight Density

While there are many online calculators that enable you to calculate freight density simply, it is always worth knowing the method so you can quickly work out things for yourself should you need to. 

In this section, we will be breaking down the density calculation method of working out freight density.

Step 1. Take the shipment and measure the height, width, and depth in inches. You should be measuring to the farthest points of the shipment, which should include any packaging and skids. If your shipment has multiple pieces, please ensure that you repeat the process for each piece.

Step 2. Take the three measurements from step one and multiply them so your equation should look like this (measurements height x width x depth). The result of this part of the equation will be equal to the total number of cubic inches of the shipment. As previously mentioned in step one, if your shipment has multiple pieces, then multiply the height, width, and depth for each piece. Once you have all of the multiplications for every piece in your shipment, then add them all together. This will give you the total cubic inches, or the volume, of your entire shipment.

Step 3. At this point, you will take the total number of cubic inches and divide that number by 1,728. 1,728 is the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot. The result is the total number of cubic feet of your shipment.

Step 4. This step is where we will find the density of our shipment. We now divide the total cubic feet by the weight of our shipment. Once you have performed this part of the equation, you will be left with pounds per cubic foot or the density of the shipment.

Remember, for multiple pieces to a single shipment; you should add them together before dividing the cubic feet of the shipment. You should also round fractions to the nearest full number when it comes to cubic feet.

Here is an example of how your equation should look:

If the skid weighs 600 pounds with dimensions of the pallet at  40 inches x 40 inches x 40 inches:

  1. Multiply 40" x 40" x 40" = 64,000 cubic inches
  2. Divide 64,000 by 1,728 = 37 cubic feet
  3. Divide 600 pounds by 37 cubic feet = 16.2 pounds per cubic feet, i.e., the shipment density.

What Does Freight Class Mean?

When it comes to freight class, it’s a standardized system of classification that is used for commodities that are transported via an LTL freight shipping (less-than-truckload). It is also important to know when purchasing truckload shipping services. This freight class system goes a long way to make sure that all customers only receive an unbiased price when they opt to ship via freight.

Freight class assignment is applied to a shipment based on the total density of the freight being shipped, or the specific commodity that is in transit.

What is an NMFC Number for Shipping?

What is an NMFC Number for Shipping

NMFC numbers (or codes) were created when transportation regulators came to realize that there was a dire need for a more effective form of standardization. In a shared effort to create a fair measure for freight pricing, the NMFTA (National Motor Freight Traffic Association) created a classification system for every type of freight.

When it comes to how many of them there are, well, we will touch on  that in a little while, but what you should know is that all of the classes are defined with a number that sits between 50 and 500. While people are often baffled by these numbers, they are, in fact, essential when it comes to carriers being able to define any tariff that should be associated with any shipment. The codes will also help the carrier set the shipping rates that are to be delivered to the customer.

How is NMFC Determined?

The National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is determined based on four different factors:

Density - The density of the shipment is the total amount of space that the consignment takes up relative to its overall weight.

Stowability - If an item has extreme weight, overly large or hazardous, the consignment may be difficult to stow on a trailer. In this case, the cost of the shipment would rise.

Ease Of Handling - If the person carrying the shipment decides that the freight is difficult to handle, this may place the consignment in a higher class.

Liability - From time to time, the freight may be perishable or extremely fragile. In some cases, some shipments may even be temperature controlled, if any of these are the case, then the shipment may be assigned to a higher class.

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When Is the NMFC created?

When Is the NMFC created

If you are looking to determine the NMFC number of your shipment, then your first port of call will be to contact the shipper that you use. The company that you use, providing they are using the provisions of the NMFC in their business, will be able to help you with your NMFC number and determine any shipping costs involved. 

How Many Freight Classes are There?

As we have already discovered, the freight class of the item you are shipping is a huge factor in being able to determine how much your freight shipment will cost. 

When it comes to freight classes, there are 18 in total and as we briefly touched upon, they range from 50, which is the cheapest and 500, which, as we are sure you have already worked out, is the most expensive.

When it comes to finding out what goes in which class, then as you can imagine, from time to time, that can get rather complicated. If we try and generalize, then we can say that if an item is heavy, compact, and not really fragile, then it will fall into a lower class. 

If an item is lower in density, takes up more room, and may be susceptible to damage, then this consignment will be given a higher freight class and costs more to ship. 

How Do You Calculate Freight Class?

When it comes to being able to determine freight class, at this time, we have kindly armed you with all the tools you will now need to help you determine freight class. 

For example, if we take a look at our earlier equation:

  • Multiply 40" x 40" x 40" = 64,000 cubic inches
  • Divide 64,000 by 1,728 = 37 cubic feet
  • Divide 600 pounds by 37 cubic feet = 16.2 pounds per cubic feet, i.e., the shipment density. 

Why Freight Class Is Important

Why Freight Class Is Important

As we have seen throughout this article, ultimately, freight class will aid in the determination of shipping costs for carriers. The assigning of freight classes properly is imperative, especially when carriers and shippers are to be handling combinations of heavier goods and fragile materials. 

Through the course of this article, we have seen that total freight shipping costs can have many factors in its final determination. Of all of these factors, we have seen that the most important thing will always be the freight class. 

Having methods at your disposal to help you decipher between classes will ultimately allow you to optimize all levels of shipping regardless of the consignment itself. 

You should also have taken from this article the importance of getting the freight class right. If the incorrect freight class is used, this can often cause a backlog of issues that will ultimately delay any shipment you send. So, it may be beneficial for you to put in a little extra time and training for your employees and brush up as much as possible on freight classification.  

What Else Do You Need to Know about Freight Density?

While we have examined freight density in detail, there will always be so much more for you to know. In this article, we have outlined everything you need to know, but there is so much more you could get to know. 

For example, while we have broken down costs and factors, we have only mentioned but a few of the things that are taken into account when it comes to determining the costs of shipping based on freight density and class.

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In actual fact, there are hundreds of determining factors when it comes to the shipping cost, and some of these include:

Freight Class - An obvious one to begin with that has been one of the primary discussion points of this article.

Freight Density - Another of the things we have looked at in-depth today.

Travel Distance - In a lot of cases, when it comes to shipping, you will find that the greater the distance your consignment has to travel, the more it will cost. Need more information about freight shipping routes? Get your cargo on the road with our handy map.

Travel Speed - If you are looking for a consignment to be delivered quickly, you will always find that this comes at a cost.

FAK - FAK or Freight All Kinds, is a simple method of pricing that in its essence will group together will group together many different classes and allow you to amalgamate them into one 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. Learn more about special delivery requirements, including white glove delivery service.

And there are so many more things that can increase the price of your 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 density of your shipment and also the code it will fall into. 

Knowing both of these things will enable you to plan your shipments better and also avoid any extra costs that you may not have been expecting.   

Why Carriers Are Using Density-Based Pricing - Consignment handlers are using density-based pricing systems as, first and foremost, it promotes efficiency during the packaging process. Before the introduction of classifications and freight density, may businesses would simply package their shipment in the most convenient box for them, regardless of its dimensions. With the introduction of density-based pricing, there has been a considerable number of companies that have thought more carefully about their packaging and have started to use smaller packaging and attempt to confine more items to a single box.

With companies making small changes like this, significant amounts of room are being saved on loaded trailers. Now companies are thinking more about shipping; it has been demonstrated that the carriers are gaining more space per vehicle and overall having to put far fewer vehicles out on the road.

Density-based pricing has already become incredibly popular throughout the industry and has been adopted by companies using air, land, and sea. 

Remember - The final thing that you should always remember is the vast difference freight class can make to your company. While in the past three separate consignments, all weighing the same would have had the same cost, this is no longer the case. Three single weight shipments would rise in cost depending on the classification. For example, if you have three, 50 lb shipments, and the first cost $75 sitting in class 50 if the second falls in class 125 and the last in class 500, you should expect the price to double and for class 500, possibly even double again.

Shipping Freight with R+L Global Logistics

Whatever your shipment may be and whatever size, classification, or density, you should always be mindful of the shipping company you use. 

In today’s world, there are literally thousands of options when it comes to shipping, but it’s imperative to you and your shipment that you find the right company to get your shipment to its destination quickly and safely.

R + L Global Logistics provides a trusted shipping service that can cater to every shipping need. Whether you are sending temperature-controlled shipments locally or a fragile consignment halfway around the globe, then R+L Logistics will be able to meet your demand with ease and, at the same time be able to give you a clear and concise quote based on the density and classification of your shipment.

If you find that you are still a little on the confused side when it comes to both your shipments density or its classification number, then do not hesitate to contact R+L Global Logistics and you can be sure they will happily be at your disposal to ensure you get an accurate quote based on the details that you provide them with. 

They know that you count on them to get your deliveries to their destination without a hitch, so if you are looking for a freight solution that is relentless when it comes to customer satisfaction, then get in touch with R+L Global Logistics today. Call us at (866) 353-7178 or get a freight quote online today!

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

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