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Your dimensional weight primer

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UPS has changed how it calculates shipping costs. Here's what your business needs to know.

To determine the shipping cost for UPS Ground and UPS Standard to Canada packages, UPS now uses dimensional – or dim – weight. (UPS has used dim weight for UPS Air services and UPS Standard to Mexico ground services for years.) The billable weight is now the dimensional weight or the actual weight, whichever is greater. So, it is important for you to enter both your package's dimensions and weight into the UPS shipping system. This will reduce unexpected correction charges to your invoice.

Dimensional weight takes into account the amount of space a package occupies and will apply if the space occupied is more than the actual weight. 

Dimensional weight takes into account the amount of space a package occupies, and dim weight will apply if the space occupied is more than the actual weight. Why the change? E-commerce shipping trends have led to a decline in package densities – companies often ship smaller items in larger boxes. With these less-dense packages, cargo space isn't filled as efficiently and cost per package increases.

Tip: Evaluate your company's packaging to see whether reducing package size and excess packaging materials can lower your shipping costs. UPS® Packaging Solutions can help customers optimize the size of packaging to minimize dimensional weight while ensuring packages are protected in transit. Or, consult the UPS Packaging Advisor for more information.

How to calculate dimensional weight in pounds

  • Multiply the package length by the width by the height.  
  • For domestic packages, divide by 166. For international shipments, divide by 139.  
  • Round fractions up to the next whole pound.  
  • Your UPS shipping system will calculate the billable weight for you.  

Learn more about dim weight.

The UPS Solutions Resource Center for Small Businesses also offers advice on efficient packaging and shipping.

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Reader Comments

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Michelle
"E-commerce shipping trends have led to a decline in package densities – companies often ship smaller items in larger boxes." "Evaluate your company's packaging to see whether reducing package size and excess packaging materials can lower your shipping costs." We have been shipping our lightweight product packed to the edges of the boxes and have been paying for it for years. Because of dimensional weight, we've been charged 61 lbs. for a 24 lb package, in the past, the only way we could save our customers money was to ship lesser quantities. We made these changes to adjust in years past, and now... we are faced with the same problem! As a manufacturer we cannot sell lesser quantities than we are, or we would be shipping no product! And now the shipping costs are doubled to us and therefore our customers... How will we survive? Maybe UPS needs to distinguish their discounts and dimensional rates based on individual accounts. A manufacturer shipping a full case of product should not be punished because online retailers use too much packaging material!
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Barbara G
Just another way for the carriers to increase their profit margins. FedEx is also changing how they account for dim weight. When you package in smaller boxes, you also have to make sure there is still enough protection and packing materials to protect the shipment .... if you don't the carrier won't pay your damage claim due to "improper or inadequate packaging." It's too bad we can't charge the carriers for the frustration they cause for us and our customers!!! I recommend everyone call their UPS rep and demand to renegotiate their discount rates due to these changes.
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Wendi Cooper
This is extremely detrimental to our business. We have an item that is an odd shape, very light at 1.3 pounds, but the shape dictates a larger box. UPS just back charged us $7,000 for package shipped since 1/1/15. Our standard ship rate was $8.80 - it's now $13.20. That is our entire margin of profit. Who does this hurt? It hurts the small business as customers don't want to pay shipping and handling to begin with, now that shipping has increased substantially. Our only solution is to create a custom size box to avoid the larger dims to accommodate our item with a standard size box. Or we could boycott - LOL.
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Gayla
Makes total sense to me, too! Never did understand why someone would ship a tiny little object in a large box. This will make some people think about what they ship in what box. We always ship in the smallest box possible - glad to see others will have to do the same now! Also, why would UPS, or any other courier, want to have a truck load of boxes that are 16x14x8 if their customers could reasonably ship the same pieces in 12x12x4 boxes? It just makes sense to make this change.
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WEST AUSTIN
Makes total sense to me. It is the efficient way to run a business. How many times do you get a tiny object inside a huge box. If the post office ran like this...........we would not be asked to subsidize them.
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Denise
Instead of being more efficient this will cost more and add more labor due to cutting down boxes and putting in dim weights.
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The Depot/Rick
Bad idea, it takes too long to put in the dimensions for every box.
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