How Freight Carriers Used Geometry to Redefine Weight

Craig Freeman
Outside of the IDS Fulfillment Center

A Brief History of Shipping Weights


For years, the price to ship something depended on one major factor: actual weight. Weight (in theory) correlated to the fuel used to move the item on a ship/plane/truck. Then a major shift happened in the world of shipping trends. Major players who are shipping a lot of low-weight items in somewhat large packages entered the scene. Soon ships/planes/trucks were full of packages, but carriers were not making as much money. So, looking for a way to make more money, dimensional weight was adopted.


How to Find Dimensional Weight


Unless you are involved within your company’s logistics, the concept of dimensional weight may be foreign to you, but how to find it should not be too much of a stretch. Let’s revisit our early days of learning geometry. Volume, for a standard rectangular package, can be found by multiplying the length x width x height (LxWxH). Be sure to round all measurements up to the nearest whole number. Now, take that volume and divide it by something called a Dimensional Divisor. What is it? A number created by carriers to help find dimensional weight. By default, it is typically 166 or 139, depending on the carrier. Round your result up to the nearest whole number and you have found your dimensional weight


Dimensional Weight v. Actual Weight


Okay, so can we ship a heavy item in a small box to cheat the system? No. Even though we found the dimensional weight, every package still has an actual weight. So the carrier compares the Dimensional Weight and the Actual Weight (rounded up to the nearest highest pound) and chooses the highest as the Billable Weight. This is where you can apply the rates you negotiated with your carriers to find out the true cost for your package.




  1. Keep track of your weights! Know not only the weight of your products, but the packing and shipping materials. Let’s say your product weights 1.5 lbs, your packaging is .25 lbs and your packaging material weights on average ..20 lbs. so you have a 2 lbs package, after being rounded up. But sometimes, your packer gets carried away and adds a little bit to much packaging material, thinking they are doing a good thing by adding extra protection. Maybe they add .30 lbs of packaging material, now you have a 2.05 lbs package, that is actually a 3 lbs package, costing more to ship.
  2. Analyze your packaging! It is important to know the average dimensions of your average orders and shape your packaging around that. Have mostly 1, 2 and 5 unit orders? Create packaging that fits those average order sizes. If you have durable items, such as clothing, consider envelopes/mailers.  Shaving an inch off any dimension of your packages can end up saving you money, but just be sure to consider average true weight in your analysis.
  3. Negotiate your Dim. Divisor! While negotiating rates with carriers, include your dimensional divisor in that conversation. Since algebra tells us that a higher dimensional divisor is better, it is an easy way to reduce your dimensional weight.


Confused? Do not worry. Contact IDS Fulfillment and let us handle the logistics, so you can do what you do best – focus on growing your brand and your business!


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