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LTL 101:Density and Prices

LTL 101:Density and Prices

Density is very important in selecting freight class. Some carriers will rate based on density if the commodities’ National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) is a density based item.

With these NMFC density based rating carriers the general rule is anything under 48 inches high will be calculated as 48 inches and anything over 48 inches but under 96 inches will be calculated as 96 inches for density purposes.

Please see the actual wording from one of the carrier’s rules tariff below:

Density – Method of Determining

  1. Where rates are applicable according to the density of articles as tendered for shipment, the word ‘density’ means ‘pounds per cubic foot’ (PCF). The cubage of loose articles or pieces or packaged articles shall be determined by multiplying the greatest straight line dimensions (not circumferential) of length, width and height in inches, including all projections, and dividing by 1728 cubic inches (one cubic foot) to determine the number of cubic feet of the article. The density shall be determined by dividing the weight of each article, piece or package by the cube of such article, piece or package.
  2. A vertical dimension (or height) of not less than 48 inches (given the article does not exceed 48 inches in height), or 96 inches if the article exceeds 48 inches, shall be used in determining the cube of any unity on top of which other freight cannot be loaded because of:
    1. The nature of the article; or,
    2. Packaging or lack of packaging, used; or,
    3. Palletization in ‘pyramided,’ ‘rounded off’ or ‘topped off’ manner; or,
    4. Specific instructions by the shipper on the bill of lading, or by labels on the freight (Do Not Stack label or cone), or by the consignee, to the effect that no other freight is to be loaded on top of the article, including, but not limited to, the following: Do not stack, top load only, do not top load, top freight, etc.
    5. If the load bearing surface occupies less than 50% of the surface area (greatest length and greatest width of the article).
  3. The weight per cubic foot relates to the density of each shipping package or piece and not to the shipment as a whole.


Say you were shipping 1 pallet of sheet steel, or NMFC 175120, which is a density based item.So how could this affect your shipment?

  • The dimensions are 144” L x 45” W x 18” H
  • The total weight is 550lbs.
  • This equates to 8.1 PCF & Class 100
  • In turn, sub 6 would be selected for this NMFC (175120-6)

However, if you change the dimensions based on the carrier’s rules tariff above, you now have the following:

  • The dimensions are 144” L x 45” W x 48” H
  • The total weight is 550lbs.
  • This equates to 3.1 PCF & Class 250
  • In turn, sub 3 would be selected for this NMFC (175120-3)