How to Calculate Pallet Size

by Alan Sembera; Updated September 26, 2017

When you ship items on a pallet, it's often necessary to determine the overall volume of the loaded pallet to come up with your final shipping costs. Freight companies use a rate formula that takes into account both the weight and size of your pallet, and the companies usually charge more for pallets that take up a lot of space in their trucks or planes. You can often cut costs considerably by preparing your pallet in way that takes up less space in the freight vehicle.

Step 1

Measure the area of the pallet base in square inches. These measurements are usually the same as the dimensions of the pallet itself. For example, if you use a standard 40-inch by 48-inch pallet, use those figures as your width and length to get a total area of 1,920 square inches. This applies even you place only a few boxes on the pallet and don't cover the entire surface. If any of your boxes hang over the edge of the pallet, increase your measurements to include the overhang.

Step 2

Measure the height of the finished pallet. Measure from the ground to the top of the highest item, making sure to include the height of the pallet itself in the measurement.

Step 3

Multiply the height times the area to find the pallet's overall volume in cubic inches. For example, if you use a standard 40-inch by 48-inch pallet, and the overall height of the pallet is 50 inches, the volume is 96,000 cubic inches (40 x 48 x 50).


  • Divide the cubic inches by 139 to determine the pallet's dimensional weight. For example, if your pallet takes up 96,000 cubic inches, divide 96,000 by 139 to get a dimensional weight of 690 lbs. Dimensional weight is a unit of measurement used by shipping companies to account for lightweight cargo that takes up a lot of space. You will use either the pallet's actual weight or its dimensional rate, whichever is higher, to determine the final shipping charge.

    You can often reduce the shipping charge by optimizing the way you prepare the pallet. For example, you should attempt to cover the entire surface of the pallet and keep the height of the packages as low as possible. If the pallet consists of only a few packages that don't cover the entire area, consider using a smaller pallet for the shipment. Also, if you have an odd box or two on top of an otherwise level stack, consider shipping those boxes separately to reduce the overall height of the pallet.

About the Author

Alan Sembera began writing for local newspapers in Texas and Louisiana. His professional career includes stints as a computer tech, information editor and income tax preparer. Sembera now writes full time about business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Texas A&M University.

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