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Deconstructing Dimensional Weight

May 26, 2020 8:00:00 AM

Don’t let weight get the drop on your invoices. Here’s how to think dimensionally.

How much does your package weigh? If you’re shipping a smaller package and replied, “That’s the number on the scale, right?” then you’re probably correct.

However, if your package meets a certain size-to-weight ratio, then simply reading the scale is only part of the picture. Dimensional weight (sometimes abbreviated to dim weight) also factors in how much space your package takes up in the carrier’s vehicle.

Imagine sending a few textbooks in a box not much bigger than its contents. Now, picture wrapping a peanut and placing it in a box big enough for a TV. That peanut delivery will be more dimensionally expensive because it takes up space your carrier could have used to fit in more packages.

Since dimensionally large packages take up room where other deliveries — and thus, more carrier profits — could have been placed, the dimensional shipper pays a higher price to offset the loss.

Dimensional weight via FedEx

FedEx charges both by dimensional weight and actual weight (the reading on the scale) depending on the situation. If the dimensional weight is larger, that’s the one your shipping department will be charged for. FedEx also has one calculation method that applies universally to deliveries in the contiguous United States, Puerto Rico and international shipments.

Shippers must multiply their package’s length by width by height in inches. These figures should be rounded up if the measurements aren’t exact to the inch. This provides the cubic size of the package. This figure is then divided by 139 to find the total cubic dimension of the delivery.

FedEx offers a dimensional weight calculator for quick inquiries. They also recommend that any customer uncertain about their figures bring packages to a FedEx location. Staff there can assess dimensional weight and offer advice on the right packaging materials.

If you want your business to calculate dim weights better, the FedEx Packaging Lab provides an analysis of your current shipping practice to help optimize dimensional weight and other factors.

Dimensional weight with UPS

UPS will also charge shippers based on whichever is greater: dimensional or actual weight. Shippers should be aware that UPS also says its method of calculating dimensional weight is subject to change without notice.

In addition, UPS reminds customers that small network packages exceeding UPS weight and size limits won’t be accepted for transport; UPS Freight will be required. Stay on the right side of those limits by keeping packages under or up to 150 lbs., up to 165 inches in length and girth (combined), and up to 108 inches in length. Exceeding these will incur an Over Maximum Limits charge. For 2020, that’s an $850 bill per package!

UPS asks sellers to determine dimensional weight by multiplying the package length, which is its longest side, by width and height. Figures should again be rounded to the nearest whole number to reveal the cubic size in inches. To get the dimensional weight in pounds, the cubic figure must be divided by one of two figures based on UPS rate type: 139 for daily rates or 166 for retail.

UPS advises applying some extra dimensional thinking if you ship irregularly shaped packages. Treating them like a rectangle is the best way to assess them, which means measuring height, length and width from the item’s extreme points.

Dimensional weight pricing with USPS

Length, width and height in inches are also how USPS calculates dimensional size but with the added factor of girth (the distance around the thickest part of the remaining non-length sides measured in inches). For rectangular packages, girth is width multiplied by 2 plus height multiplied by 2. For cylinders, girth is the circumference.

USPS dimensional limits stop at 108 inches in length and girth combined, but Retail Ground items can go up to 130 combined inches. Weight isn’t a factor unless it exceeds 70 lbs. However, if the package size is between 108 and 130 inches, it will be charged at the oversized price. USPS recommends using its price calculator to see exactly how much that would be for you.

USPS does provide customers with Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Envelopes and Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes and Boxes. These are provided free of charge and can help save time if the package weighs under 70 lbs.

Don’t dread dimensional thinking

Dimensional weight is a valuable concept for your shipping department because it helps avoid paying to ship fresh air. Thinking dimensionally makes you more aware of the amount of packaging materials you use, and that attention means savings on your shipping spend and good news for the environment.

Signing up with 71lbs offers even more opportunities to streamline your shipping logistics and save money typically lost through underperforming carriers, uninformed contract deals and much more. There’s no sign-up fee or monthly charge, so get in touch to see why more than 5,000 customers would recommend it.

At 71lbs, we focus on two things: a) helping customers save money on shipping, and b) helping customers understand their shipping costs. We provide refunds and savings on shipping insurance, freight and imports, among other benefits. Our automated dashboard displays easy-to-understand shipping costs and insights so you can make better business decisions. Drop by the contact page to get in touch!

Topics: dimensional weight, package dimensions, shipping fees

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