Have you ever had to ship something, like, say, an elephant? Hey, you never know. But before shipping something of substantial weight and size, you would need to find not just the weight of the great beast, but also the volumetric weight. So just lift—maybe push—that elephant onto your volumetric scale. Dilemma: those don’t exist.

Volumetric weight (also called dimensional weight but volumetric sounds better) is what we use in the shipping industry to get a better idea of how much it will cost to ship your package, and how much space it will take up. While the weight is worth knowing, there are other components that are also important. Here’s how we come to the volumetric weight:

Length x Width x Height ÷ 138.4 = Volumetric Weight

Let’s break it down. If your package measures 12 x 12 x 10, then the volumetric weight is 11 lbs rounded up to the nearest pound.

But there’s a bit of a catch. Say your shipping a 16lb bowling ball in that same 12 x 12 x 10 box. You might be thinking that that’s a good deal. A 16lb package at an 11lb price point. Not exactly. See, volumetric weight and actual weight are measured and compared, and whichever comes out higher is what gets used to decide the cost. 

So Then Why Does Volumetric Weight Matter?

At a glance, you might think that this is some grand conspiracy to heighten shipping costs on lighter packages. It’s not. Well, we don’t know for sure…we’re looking into it. Actually, measuring volumetric weight is beneficial for both parties. For our courier partners, finding the package’s volume and density allows for better planning in the plane’s cargo space. The cargo hold won’t be over bulked, and your package won’t get left in a loading bay awaiting the next flight.

For the shipper, shipping with volumetric weight in mind influences economical and environmentally conscious packaging practices. Preparing a fragile shipment can be nervous work, but more times than not, shippers over package upping the cost for the bigger box, extra padding and thus a larger volumetric weight. 

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Ian Roantree

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