How Cargo Works: Actual, Dimensional and Chargeable Weight

Question: How is the weight of my cargo calculated?

In general, the cost of shipping your cargo is based on the following factors:

  • What it is (commodity)
  • Where it’s going (routing)
  • How fast you want it to get there (service level)
  • Its weight (how heavy the cargo is)
  • Its dimensions (the volume of the cargo)

While the commodity, routing and service level of your cargo can be determined ahead of time, the shipment itself must be brought to the cargo facility to be weighed and measured before a final price can be determined. To do this, the shipment is first placed on a scale and weighed. The weight recorded on the scale is the actual weight. Then, the length, height and width of the shipment (in inches) are measured and entered into the computer. The computer then multiplies these three numbers and divides the result by 194. This number is the dimensional weight.*

Dimensional weight = Length x Height x Width / 194

The actual weight and dimensional weight are then compared, and the greater of the two weights is used to calculate your rate. This is called the chargeable weight.
Typically, the actual weight will exceed the dimensional weight, and thus would be used as the chargeable weight. However, in the case of a shipment that is light but large in volume (i.e., a box of Styrofoam) the reverse would be true – the dimensional weight would exceed the actual weight. In this case, the dimensional weight would be the chargeable weight.
Understanding the difference between actual and dimensional weights is important in calculating the cost of your shipment, especially when shipping things such as surfboards, large car parts, and uneven-sized items. Be sure to use our rate calculator at, or feel free to call us, for general estimates. Please keep in mind that the final calculations are determined at the cargo facility.
*The dimensional weight formula of L x H x W divided by 194 (domestic) or 166 (international), is an industry standard used by most airlines.