FedEx and UPS announced a year ago the dimensional weight of a package will be calculated when determining the final rate for shipments. Starting in 2017, FedEx will take the change a step further and will increase the potential dimensional weight on all domestic shipments, with UPS likely to follow.
What exactly is dimensional weight?
I have gone over Dimensional Weight in the past, but we will go over it again to keep everything in context.
Dimensional Weight is a weight assigned to your shipment based on its volume rather than its actual weight. This is important because FedEx and UPS will charge you for whichever is “heavier”- the dimensional weight or the actual weight.
This encourages shippers to use the smallest possible packaging for their shipments to ensure the actual weight of their shipments is less than the dimensional weight, helping with various logistical issues of shipping like space available on shipping trucks.
However, these dimensional weight rules only benefit UPS and FedEx, and make it more likely for shippers to pay a higher rate on their shipments.
Tip: you can find the dimensional weight for various package sizes using our dimensional weight calculator.
The changes coming to dimensional weight in 2017
With the new rate and surcharge increases coming in 2017 to both UPS and FedEx, FedEx has changed part of their formula when calculating the dimensional weight of a package. It used to be Length x Width x Height all divided by a denominator of 166 for domestic, and 139 for international shipments. Now, they are switching to 139 for all shipments. Smaller denominator = heavier weights across the board. Here are some examples:
With various box sizes shown here, you can see smaller packages are affected less, while larger boxes can jump up 1 to3 pounds in dimensional weight. Add this 1-3 pound increase to the proposed rate increases, Zone and Rate calculations, and you are looking at a substantial increase across the board for your orders.
What can I do to avoid these changes?
Not much can be done at the moment. UPS hasn’t announced the same change yet, but UPS follows FedEx’s policy changes (and vice versa) virtually every time. Given past policy changes, I expect it won’t be long before UPS changes their dimensional weight formula to match FedEx’s new formula very soon.
USPS is currently the only major shipper that doesn’t factor dimensional weight into their main shipping services. With Priority Mail, the actual weight of the package is still the deciding factor when calculating rates. USPS also has a volume based shipping service that focuses on volume rather than weight (Flat Rate Green with ShippingEasy). This service gives you the choice of focusing on volume over weight without the drawbacks imposed by UPS and FedEx.
This is just another way UPS and FedEx can add small charges to shipments that might fly under the radar for many sellers (including things like Residential Surcharges, unusual size surcharges, small rate incremental increases, fuel surcharges, etc). It’s up to sellers to optimize their shipping to avoid extra surcharges on their invoices, or look for specific shipping services that don’t add these surcharges.