Dimensional Weight Isn’t Exactly Weight

Posted by Marty Boyer on

472.1 million.

That is the approximate number of pieces of mail the United States Postal Service says it processes and delivers Monday–Saturday. That’s a lot of letters, tubes and boxes traveling every day, costing businesses millions of dollars in the process. Now, imagine how much more those items may be costing companies using the wrong boxes either because they are too big or overpacking them to ensure the goods arrive in perfect condition.

The Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region, like many major metropolitan areas, has thousands of businesses that ship items around the world on a daily basis. With so many items going in so many different directions, some are destined to be incorrectly packed in boxes that are full of wasted space in the name of convenience or caution – but it doesn’t have to be that way.                                                                                                                     

Deliver your customers top-notch service without burying yourself with the costs of doing business by using these tips to properly pack your packages today.


Watching your weight isn’t just good for your health; when it comes to saving on shipping costs, it’s essential – and learning the ins and outs of dimensional weights is a significant way to keep down costs when moving your products to their next destination. Ship, weight and size affect all packages, but they really affect large ones and can vary per shipping service, too.

Here's some basics to help you understand some critical weight-related terms in dimensional weight, balloon and oversized pricing.

Dimensional weight is the amount of space a package occupies in relation to its actual weight and, depending on the service, it can end up costing you a lot when it comes to shipping. FedEx charges customers based on whether or not a packages dimensional weight or its actual weight is greater; UPS has a similar pricing scheme based on billable weight being the greater of dimensional weight compared to actual weight. Another way to think about this is that your package is paying for the space that it occupies on the truck versus its actual weight, which is why the term “dimensional weight” can be confusing. The United States Postal Service (USPS) defines its dimensional-weight pricing, based on cubic capacity of a package rather than the weight. For most domestic parcels, the calculated dimensional weight may be applied if it exceeds 1 cubic foot in volume. For the non-mathematically and measurement inclined, a cubic foot is a space that measures 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot, or 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches in simpler terms. (Here’s a quick, simple video that explains it further.)

On a different note, using a box that’s too big for a light item can be expensive as well. If a large package is light, it could still be charged as a heavier-weight item based on International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards. Thus, even if you have a really light package, the height, weight and/or depth of it can result in it being very expensive since other commercial carriers use IATA standards for packages shipped by air.

If you have a domestic package weighing more than 70 pounds, USPS won’t ship, your package, either. Items exceeding the 70-pound threshold will be assessed an overweight item fee before they’re released (unless the item is discovered at the same facility it entered). Those fees aren’t refundable, either.

Another watchout includes the use of tubes. Tubes that are round typically will incur an additional fee with both FedEx and UPS because they are considered “non-conveyable”. Non conveyable means that it will most likely not move upon a conveyer belt. Therefore, a person has to touch the item and that costs more money, which is passed to the shipper.

Balloon pricing is what USPS uses for parcels in certain mail classes between 84-108 inches in combined length and girth that weigh less than 20 pounds. Oversized pricing is used on those greater than 108 inches but not more than 130 in combined weight and girth and for USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Return Service and Parcel Select (not including Parcel Select Lightweight) items. 


The key to all of these things? Determining the size of your parcel. Length is always the longest dimension of your package with height being the side perpendicular to the length and width being the remaining side perpendicular to the length. Length, width and height are all measured in inches. Girth is the distance around the thickest part of the remaining non-length sides measured in inches. USPS determines girth by multiplying the height by two plus width times two for rectangular packages and the circumference of the cylinder for cylindrical – think poster tubes and the like – packages. So, using a box that fits your item securely is better than using a big one where your item can jostle around inside not only for security, but savings, too.

Using multiple boxes to ship orders in pieces (if possible) may provide a more cost-effective solution, as can using the right type of packing void to make sure you’re not using a bigger corrugated box than necessary. Unless you can afford to use one size fits all packaging – how many times have you had a huge envelope or box on your porch for a small order? – re-thinking your packaging process is worth the time and the related money you’ll save. 


Take a weight off of your company’s shipping needs by letting 3D Corrugated help you figure out the perfect corrugated box for you, your products and your business - from off the shelf to packaging that’s custom designed. Whether you’re located in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area to across the globe, we can help provide shipping solutions that work for you and your business.

Learn more about how we can help you meet your corrugated box and packaging needs today by emailing info@3Dcorrugated.com or give us a call at (513) 241-8126.


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