How to Calculate Cargo in Cubic Feet


Cargo is commonly calculated using a combination of volume (total space in cubic feet or meters) and payload (total weight). A cubic foot is the space occupied by a cube with 1 foot width, length and height. You can calculate the total cubic feet of a cargo shipment by calculating the cubic feet of each item and adding them together. Since cargo is often palletized or boxed, you must also consider the pallets when factoring the total cubic feet.

Things You'll Need

  • Industrial floor scale
  • Measuring tape or stick
  • Find out the space restrictions of your cargo shipping company and shipping method. For example, palletized cargo shipped in a container cannot exceed the height of the container.

  • Palletize and arrange the items for shipping according to the shipping company's restrictions. Record the number of pallets as well as the number of free items. This information can prove helpful in determining a price quote.

  • Weigh each pallet or free item on an industrial-sized floor scale. Record the value.

  • Measure the height, width and length of a pallet of items or free item in feet with a measuring tape. If measuring in inches, divide by 12 to convert to feet. Include the pallet and any other protruding sections in the measurements.

  • Multiply the height, width and length together to determine the cubic feet of that item.

  • Repeat steps 4 and 5 for all pallets of cargo.

  • Add the cubic feet of all pallets of cargo to determine the cubic foot sum of all the items.

  • Add the weight of each pallet and item together to determine the payload or total weight of the cargo.

Tips & Warnings

  • Take measurements from the most extreme points of the items, as any overhang will prevent you from placing the pallets directly next to one another, creating dead space.

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  • Photo Credit Cargo truck image by Canakris from
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