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How to Control Shipping Costs Based on Dim Weight

August 28, 2014


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In 2014, shipping giant Federal Express announced they were moving away from charging for actual weight of shipments to charging for the total volume a package consumes—referred to as dimensional weight. Under dimensional weight measurements, all packaging space costs money regardless of the actual weight of a package. Previously, dimensional weight was only used for airfreight shipments. In a matter of months, all shipments—air and ground—began to use dimensional weight as the measure of charging for parcels.

FedEx made the change to dim weight measurement in 2015, and other major carriers were soon to follow. How has this change impacted package shipping costs, and what can you do to keep your costs under control?


What is dimensional weight?

Dimensional weight is the term used to speak of the theoretical weight of a package. The concept of dimensional weight was adopted years ago by the transportation industry worldwide as a way to establish a charge for cubic space, not just actual weight.

In 1979, FedEx (after lobbying for two years) saw Congress pass Public Law 95-163 enabling FedEx and other cargo airlines to use larger aircraft with no geographic restrictions on routes. Since this law was implemented, shipping carriers have seen a global business boom. 


What changed?

So what does this mean for anyone sending single parcels via airfreight or ground shipping methods? Primarily, the need to preplan packaging solutions used for shipping has never been more important.

Under the old model, companies shipping large, bulky items light in weight (think pillows, sweatshirts, etc.) were being under-charged for the space that the package took up on planes, trucks, and rail. However the volume used still had a substantial cost in handling, fuel, and maintenance, which is why FedEx and UPS gravitated toward charging by dimensional weight.


What's the solution?

Moving away from billing on actual weight and moving toward billing on dimensions means that choosing the right sized box to fit the needs of the product is even more important. Although they save money up front, stock boxes may not be the best solution because shipping will be higher in the long run. Custom sized boxes are the best solution to decreasing dimensional weight, reducing cost and removing substantial shipping charges.

Custom packaging is a great opportunity to shave down on box size, decrease void fill, or to add a couple of additional SKUs to meet specific needs of various sized products. In doing so, retailers and distributors will save costs on the void fill, labor, freight charges, and most likely the box itself.


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