Shipping: Dead weight vs. cubic weight charging

Carriers charge on the greater of the deadweight or the volumetric (cubic) weight of an item being sent.

  • Cubic weight is calculated using a formula to multiply the three dimensions (length x width x height) by a ‘cubic conversion’ factor.
  • The cubic conversion factor varies, however the most commonly used in Australia is 250kgs/m3 for domestic shipping (but can be as low as 200kg/m3 for international services or as high as 333kg/m3 for bulk/general services).

To convert the cubic measurement to a ‘cubic weight’ in Kg, multiply the m3 (cubic metre) amount by the applicable conversion rate:

Example (once item is ‘packaged’):-

Conversion rate: 250kg/m3
Item deadweight = 10kgs
Item dimensions = 40 x 40 x 40cms
Cubic measurement = 0.40 x 0.40 x 0.40 = 0.064m3.
0.064m3 x 250kg/m3 = 16kg cubic weight

Therefore in this example the carrier would use a charge weight of 16kg (as this is greater than the 10kg deadweight).


Items on pallets:

If you send items on pallets or skids, please note the carriers will charge for the full ‘base’ dimensions of the pallet/skid. A standard sized pallet in Australia is generally 117cm x 117cm in width and length (approximately 15cm in height) and roughly 40kg in weight.

Therefore, if you are sending a product that weighs 50kg and has dimensions of 70cm wide x 80cm long x 100cm high, once it is shrink-wrapped to the pallet you would need to declare the weight/dimensions as:

Weight: 90kg (50kg product + 40kg approximately for pallet)
117cm width (width of the pallet)
117cm length (length of the pallet)
115cm height (100cm product + 15cm approximately for pallet)

Product with ‘weird’ shapes:

Sending products where it’s not easy to calculate the 3 dimensions can be difficult. Be aware the carrier will always use the ‘longest’ length of any dimension.


Triangle shaped products:-
Due to this item’s triangular shape it can be difficult to calculate the dimensions. The length of 100cm should be used as well as the 40cm width, and then the ‘height’, which you cannot see in this example, should be the final dimension (100 x 40 x height).


Cylinder shaped products:-

Products like golf clubs or aerials quite often are sent in packaging tubes. For these products (as in the example below) the length should be declared as 120cm and the width and height should both be 10cm (120 x 10x 10cm).


It’s important to know about ‘cubic charging’ however don’t get overly worried about it if you use an ‘online courier company’; as most of these businesses will factor in ‘cubic charging’ in their pricing when you use their Quote Calculators to obtain shipping quotes.

Tips to cut down on freight costs

Try to pack your goods as ‘densely’ as possible to minimise ‘cubic charging’. If for example you sell pillows and you have always packaged the items in a box with dimensions 60x60x60cm, consider sourcing boxes that are slightly smaller (e.g. 50x50x50cm) as this can save you considerably in ‘cubic charging’ in the long run.

  • However, as enticing as it is to save on freight charges by doing this, do not sacrifice the consistency of your packaging as this could lead to a worse outcome (i.e. damages). Always provide adequate packaging internally to protect your products against knocks and bumps in transit.