Rise of the machines: How dimensionalizers are revolutionizing LTL.

January 30, 2019

Historically, LTL carriers have based their rates on a complicated system of freight classes that factor in the size, weight, value, stowability and handling needs of the commodity. For the most part, shippers and carriers could look up their shipment from a list of freight classes and use it to generate a quote.

Since LTL shipping is essentially renting space on a trailer, doesn’t it make more sense to charge based on the space your shipment occupies, though?

That’s the idea driving carriers to implement dimensionalizers, technology that can accurately measure the dimensions of freight and charge customers accordingly.


What exactly is a dimensionalizer?

A dimensionalizer is an automated system that can precisely measure the dimensions of a shipment in seconds using lasers. Combined with a scale, dimensionalizers allow carriers to quickly and efficiently calculate the density of a shipment. 

Dimensionlizers came on to the scene about 10 years ago. Those systems were often temperamental, requiring freight to be perfectly oriented to work. As the technology has matured, they’ve become a seamless part of operations at nearly every major freight terminal.


What are the advantages?

Density-based pricing results in a far more equitable system for both carriers and shippers. Shippers pay for the part of the trailer their shipment occupies – and only for that space. 

Dimensionalizers also remove human error from the equation. Shippers no longer have to make educated guesses about the freight class of their commodity. Plus, with machines providing precise measurements, there are fewer disputes.  

Invoices are far more likely to match your original quote, as well. The data carriers are constantly gathering can provide more accurate quotes about future shipments and better service overall. It also provides significant efficiencies at the carrier level, which they can use to keep rates as competitive as possible.


What should shippers do if density-based pricing raises their spend?

As carriers adjust pricing based on density, some shippers have encountered rate adjustments or are seeing their freight’s spend increase – particularly those with irregular freight. There are a few things you can do to help mitigate any impact to your budget.

  • Adjust your packaging.

    If possible, get your shipment’s footprint as small as possible and ensure it follows NMFC requirements. Consider hiring a packaging consultant who can take a thorough look at your situation.

  • Consider alternative shipping methods.

    If LTL is proving costly, ask whether there’s a way to make full or partial truckload service a more cost-effective alternative. Sometimes consolidating multiple shipments into a single truckload can prove far more efficient.

  • Explore new technologies.

    New apps can provide fairly accurate dimensions of a shipment using your phone’s camera – essentially acting as your own portable dimensionalizer. They won’t lower the cost of your shipment, but they can help ensure there aren’t any costly surprises; carriers often tack on fees and penalties if the dimensions you provide don’t match what they calculate.

  • Work with a freight service provider like Freightquote.

    Freight service providers work with carriers who use dimensionalizers day in and day out. We factor density-based pricing into our quotes, ensuring accuracy.


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