Dimensioners: Trucking’s Smart Technology


Shipping costs are an important line item in a shipper’s budget. Shippers are always looking to find the lowest rate with the best quality carrier. There are various ways to calculate rates for shipments and various tools to use in order to determine them. Traditionally, rates have been exclusively tied to what a shipper declares as the size and weight of the freight. Of late, however, carriers across the country are adopting the use of dimensioners, which Saia has utilized since 2014. Implementing this technology in our terminals has enabled the company to operate with accuracy, thus strengthening its billing processes and improving safety and efficiency.  Get your questions about dimensioners answered below:


Simply put, a dimensioner is a machine that uses sensors to quickly measure the exact dimensions of a piece of freight for billing purposes.

The dimensioner is crucial to the shipping process because it directly impacts the consistency of a carrier’s internal billing system and the charges that are passed on to the customer. It also enables further improvements to various aspects of shipping procedures.

“This system helps us gather information to improve productivity, load planning and invoicing accuracy,” commented Lloyd Rawson, director of weighing and research at Saia. Through the use of the dimensioner, alternative pricing methods can be offered that center solely on the amount of space a shipment occupies on the truck rather than having to determine the specific National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC) number and class for a product.


Dockworkers driving forklifts are most likely to use the dimensioner on a daily basis. The forklift carries the pallet over to the specified area and places it directly beneath the dimensioner. The dimensioner’s sensors are then used to collect the size of the freight. Three dimensioning heads are stationed so that as the laser scans, it can detect all three sides (H x W x L) of the freight and gather those dimensions collectively. Additionally, the scale on the forklift calculates the weight of the freight and communicates with the dimensioner to determine the pounds per cubic feet. This data is automatically collected in the system and is then used to calculate customer costs. As the entire process takes only seconds, the dockworker can continue to move the load throughout the cross stock system without unnecessary delay.


The biggest benefit for customers is the pricing accuracy this technology provides. It helps to properly price lanes and keep the billing process accountable. Precisely measuring and classifying freight prevents customers from being charged too much or not enough. Additionally, as NMFC is only used in the United States, offering density-based rates through the use of a dimensioner is convenient for those customers who ship internationally.

The most common misconception of the dimensioner is the belief that carriers utilize this technology in order to charge customers more. In reality, this is not the case. Dimensioners provide accurate data that is reflected in the charges billed to the customer — sometimes even leading to a reduction in price.

“Utilizing a dimensioner in our terminals enables us to operate with accuracy when planning our labor and loads,” said Rawson. “We are able to cut costs and pass those savings along to our customers, and ultimately provide better service for them.”

 To better understand how Saia uses and benefits from a dimensioner, watch this quick video.



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