What is Dimensional Weight?

Dimensional weight is a shipment pricing method put in place by major carriers (FedEx, UPS, DHL and USPS) that, for most, first took effect in 2015 for packages shipped by ground and are smaller than three cubic feet. Dimensional (or dim) weight pricing is based on volume and not the actual weight of a shipment. It is calculated by determining the cubic size of a package: multiplying its length by width by height and dividing by 139.

With new freight cost calculations, for example, the standard billable weight for a one-pound package measuring 12 x 12 x 12 inches is 13 pounds. If estimated incorrectly, fines could be imposed. Some carriers charge shippers an additional fee if they don’t get their estimations right the first time.

What is dimensional weight

Dimensional weight policy changes are driven by a growing number of e-commerce shipments that are not being packed with consideration to density. This means that shipping containers are relatively large and lightweight compared to the items inside the container. Lots of unnecessarily large packages leads to full delivery vehicles that aren't being used to maximum capacity. Here are the most recent shipping changes from major carriers.

Carriers have technology specifically for measuring dim weight. A dimensionalizer or dimensioner scans each package and measures its dimensions. These measurements can make existing packaging cost more — especially when companies frequently rely on oversize corrugated boxes. But sometimes surcharges aren’t obvious. A “flap” fee, for example, may be applied to boxes that lengthen when collapsed or crushed.

What You Need to Know About Recent Dim Weight Policy Changes

Major carriers update dimensional weight pricing policies annually. Under the latest policies, packages less than three cubic feet in volume (previously excluded from dimensional weight pricing), will now be subject to dimensional weight surcharges. USPS will implement its first dim weight policy in 2019.

  • Under UPS guidelines, packages with a long side of 48 inches are subject to a dimensional weight charge.
  • Under FedEx guidelines, the surcharge applies to packages weighing more than 70 pounds, with a second-longest side of 30 inches or greater, or that are not fully encased in an outer shipping container, among other requirements.
  • Both FedEx and UPS have also increased the handling fee to $12. During peak season, the rates increase: FedEx increases this fee to $13.50 and UPS increases to $15.15.
  • New USPS guidelines went into effect January 27, 2019. The postal service implemented dimensional weight pricing for priority mail packages, with an exception for packages 1,728 cubic inches and smaller. Effective June 23, 2019, for packages over 1 cubic foot (1,728 cubic inches), the dim weight divisor will adjust from 194 to 166, representing a 14% increase in volume cost. Also as of June 23, 2019, dim weight pricing will be added to all shipping zones for Priority Mail, Parcel Select and Priority Mail Express for all packages over 1 cubic foot.

How to Combat the Impact of Dimensional Weight Pricing

The good news is that by proactively optimizing packaging solutions based on dimensional weight pricing policies, retailers and manufacturers can combat the financial impact of dimensional weight pricing — all while significantly improving product protection, sustainability and customer experience.

Sealed Air offers multiple packaging solutions to help companies lower costs and protect products from the impact of dimensional weight prices.