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How to Calculate the Cost of Freight Shipping

How to Calculate the Cost of Freight Shipping

To calculate the cost of freight shipping varies depending on a few factors. At first, it might seem overwhelming, but once you understand what goes into it, it’s actually pretty simple. Let’s take a look at the factors, break down how to get a quote, and help you calculate the best rate for your shipment.

Should I Choose FTL or LTL?


When it comes to freight shipping, there are two basic categories – full truckload (FTL) and less-than-load (LTL). The primary difference between the two options is whether or not the shipper is paying for the entire truck space or just a partial portion.

Full truckload shipping is what it sounds like – one shipper rents space in an entire truck to ship their load. This could mean that the shipper either has enough items to fill an entire truckload or they have a partial truckload (PTL) but prefer to use a single, dedicated truck. FTL shipping is typically ideal when businesses have 10 pallets or more to ship or when they have fragile packages that they want to be shipped alone.

Benefits of Full Truckload (FTL)

  • Shipment remains in the same truck from point A to point B

  • Faster than LTL shipping (by a long shot)

  • Ideal for fragile items, or those that need special handling (such as frozen foods or fresh produce, for example)

If an FTL shipment sounds like the best fit for you, contact a shipping specialist now by calling 800.716.7608 to review your options.

On the other hand, less-than-truckload shipping combines shipments from multiple customers into one truckload. It is a more budget-friendly option than renting the space of the entire truck because each shipper only pays for the space that his or her load occupies within the space.

LTL shipments typically make frequent stops and unload and re-load goods. Sometimes logistics companies will try to add your shipment to a regularly scheduled route that’s heading in the same direction to save the shipper money. FreightCenter typically works to select a carrier that takes regularly scheduled routes between carrier hubs.

Benefits of Less-than-Load (LTL)

  • More budget-friendly than FTL

  • Ideal for small businesses

  • Generally delivered in mornings, with pickups typically occurring in the afternoon and at night

  • Most popular way to ship

Calculate Freight Shipping Density


If you will be shipping LTL freight, follow these next steps to determine your cost. The primary factors that impact LTL freight shipping costs include height, width, depth, and weight. In other words, density.

Step 1: Weigh your item in pounds. If you have multiple items, add the total weight of everything together.

Step 2:  Measure the height, width, and depth of each item being shipped. If your package isn’t a perfect square or rectangle, use the farthest points as your point of reference.

Step 3: Multiply H x W x D to get the total cubic inches (or feet) of your shipment. If you are shipping multiple items, calculate the cubic measurement for each piece. Add the results for each piece together to get the total cubic inches or feet for your shipment.

If you need to convert inches to feet, divide the total number of cubic inches by 1,728 (the number of cubic inches in a cubic foot) to get your total in cubic feet

Step 4: Divide the total weight of your shipment by total cubic feet. The result is pounds per cubic foot, also known as density.

Use our Freight class density Calculator to easily make these calculations.

Calculate Freight Shipping Class


Four factors determine a shipment’s freight class: density, stowability, handling, and liability. To help categorize shipments, the National Motor Freight Traffic Association publishes the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), a tool that helps determine freight class for shipments.

There are 18 total freight classes that are represented by numbers ranging from 50 to 500.

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Density is the primary factor that affects a shipment’s freight class. This refers to the pounds per cubic foot that we calculated in the section above. Generally, items that have a higher density fall into a lower freight class, meaning they have a lower cost.


Stowability refers to how easy it is to stow the item that you are shipping. For example, items that are in an unusual shape, like a kayak or piano, are more difficult to stow than an item that is in the shape of a box. Additionally, shipments that contain hazardous materials may not be able to travel alongside other items. Basically, the more difficult it is to stow an item, the higher the shipping cost will be.


Handling is another important factor to consider when determining shipping costs. As mentioned earlier, LTL shipments are frequently unloaded and reloaded at various stops, making each shipment’s handleability an important factor. The greater the difficulty in handling, the higher the shipping cost will be for the shipment.


Items that are more likely to be damaged, stolen, or hazardous to other freight shipments are going to have a higher shipping cost than those that do not come with the same risk.

Get a Quote using our Quick Quote Tool


Have questions about how these factors will determine your shipment’s cost? Call 800.716.7608 to speak with one of our shipping experts today, who will be happy to guide you through the process.

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