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New FedEx & UPS Dimensional Weight Rules


New FedEx & UPS Dimensional Weight Rules

published on 08.09.2014 in Blog by

A while back, I wrote a post on how to calculate dimensional weight. Starting in 2015, the dimensional weight rules changed for FedEx and UPS, so I felt a new post was necessary. Now, here in late 2016, FedEx just recently announced that, starting in 2017, their dimensional weight rules will be changing again.

Starting on January 2, 2017, FedEx will change its dimensional weight divisor to 139 for U.S. Ground and Express shipments. Currently, the dimensional weight divisor is 166, as is outlined in the calculations below. Because UPS has not yet followed suit, meaning their DIM rules currently remain in place for 2017, I have not altered the calculations below. However, when calculating what the dimensional weight will be for FedEx next year, please use 139 as your DIM divisor for U.S. shipments.

How Dimensional Weight Works

Currently, as an ecommerce seller, you only have to worry about dimensional weight when you’re shipping large packages, or when shipping via air or internationally.

For any package that’s staying on the ground, dimensional weight is only triggered if the package is over 3 cubic feet, or 5,184 cubic inches.
Dimensional Weight Calculation
For example, let’s say you have a box that measures 24” x 24” x 20”. Multiplying those dimensions together gives you 11,520 cubic inches. Because that box is larger than 5,184 cubic inches, dimensional weight is triggered.

To determine the dimensional weight, you simply divide the total cubic dimensions by 166. So in this case, the dimensional weight is….11,520 / 166 = 69.4 lbs.

What this means is that, when shipping this box, you’ll be billed at a minimum of 70 lbs (the carriers round up to the nearest pound). If the package happens to weigh more than 70 lbs., then you’ll be billed for shipping at the actual weight. If the actual weight is less than 70 lbs….for example, let’s say it’s 39.6 lbs….then the dimensional weight will apply and you’ll be billed at 70 lbs.

I know, it’s a little confusing at first. To add to the complexity, if your package is being shipped via air or internationally, then the divisor is 139 instead of 166, which basically means that the dimensional weight is greater when shipping via air.

Why Do Carriers Apply Dimensional Weight?

For years, FedEx and UPS did not charge dimensional weight, which meant that packages, regardless of size, were only billed based on the actual weight.

Let’s say you sold those foam swim noodles online. If you ship one of those things, it would take up a big chunk of space in the FedEx truck. But, since it weighs next to nothing, your shipping cost would also be next to nothing.

So, shipping carriers started charging dimensional weight to help ensure that the costs they incur to deliver a package more closely aligned with the fee they charge to the shipper. Basically, FedEx and UPS wanted to be paid for the space that was occupied on their trucks and planes for big, lightweight packages.

When they implemented dimensional weight, it was a big deal. But, since it only applied to packages over 3 cubic feet, that meant that it did not apply for the majority of parcels. That’s now changing, and it’s an even bigger deal.

How Dimensional Weight Will Work in 2015

FedEx and UPS recently announced that, starting in 2015, ALL packages are subject to dimensional weight, which will result in the largest cumulative shipping fee increase in history.

What this means is that, next year, you’ll have to divide the dimensions of every package by 166 to determine the minimum billable shipping weight. If, for example, you have a box that measures 8” x 8” x 8”, the total cubic inches equals 512, meaning the minimum shipping weight will be at least 4 lbs.

This package is much smaller than 3 cubic feet, so right now shippers don’t have to worry about dimensional weight. Let’s say they’re shipping a lightweight product in an 8” x 8” x 8” box and it’s currently shipping out at 2 lbs.. Next year, their ship weight will double!

You can understand why a lot of online sellers aren’t too happy about this upcoming change. But, before you panic, there are some things you can do to help mitigate the impact of this significant change.

How to Reduce the Impact of the New Dim Rules

There are a number of things that sellers can do to help keep their overall order fulfillment costs low in the wake of these changes.

1. Minimize Wasted Space

FedEx and UPS implemented these new rules for a simple reason….they want to receive what they feel is adequate compensation for the space being utilized in their vehicles.

These carriers have found over the years that shippers aren’t too concerned with minimizing the wasted space in their packages, so long as they’re under the 3 cubic foot mark. Because up until this point, it hasn’t mattered much.

Starting in 2015, it will be in the shipper’s best interest to analyze their shipments and do what needs to be done to reduce any wasted space in their packages.

Getting back to the example above, maybe the shipper using the 8” x 8” x 8” box has used that size simply as a matter of convenience. Upon further investigation, he finds that the product can actually fit in a 6” x 6” x 6” box. So, rather than his billable shipping weight doubling next year, he could keep it the same at 2 lbs!

2. Look at Alternative Delivery Options

You’ve noticed that throughout this post only two carriers have been mentioned….FedEx and UPS. These are the only two carriers that are implementing these new dim rules, and while they’re two of the largest parcel delivery companies in the world, they’re not the only ones.

One obvious alternative is the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). USPS wants more ecommerce business, which means they’re in direct competition with FedEx and UPS, and they see these new dim rules as an opportunity to get more of that business.

The current dimensional weight rules for USPS are different than FedEx and UPS. For USPS, if the package is over 1 cubic foot, it is subject to dim weight, but only when shipping to a zone 5 or higher. Additionally, USPS has a dim divisor of 194, not 166, which means the dimensional weight is lower. Check out our Online Seller’s Guide to Dimensional Weight for a quick overview of how dim rules differ between USPS and FedEx.

Next year, USPS can expect to get more of the parcel delivery business that UPS and FedEx once had, as they have no plans to change their existing dim rules. If you sell big items that are fairly lightweight, USPS is going to be the way to go. But the Postal Service isn’t the only alternative to consider, as some merchants are looking into regional carriers to handle at least a portion of their shipments.

3. Try to Negotiate

FedEx and UPS do negotiate their dim rules, but generally it requires that a merchant is doing big order volume. The negotiation that these carriers will typically make is increasing the dim divisor from 166 to a higher number.

If your order volume is substantial, it is worth reaching out to FedEx and UPS to see if you can get a deal. If your order volume isn’t yet substantial, you can also look to outsource order fulfillment to take advantage of ship rates, software and expertise that you may not be able to get on your own.

Dimensional weight rules can be a headache, especially for certain types of merchandise. And while the headache is seemingly going to grow stronger next year, merchants should view this as an opportunity to be more strategic and tighten things up with their order fulfillment and shipping operations.

And if it’s something you don’t want to have to deal with, give us a shout. We’d love to take the hassles of shipping off your plate.

Article Name
New FedEx & UPS Dimensional Weight Rules
UPS and FedEx recently announced new dimensional weight rules for 2015. Here's how to protect yourself as an online seller.

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21 Responses to “New FedEx & UPS Dimensional Weight Rules”
  1. budget appliance says:

    Government needs to investigate because two independent companies with same idea at same time. B/S. Just like the price for parts is overpriced. We’re getting priced out of business.

  2. I sell only on ebay, and now the items I sell all require 16x16x16 boxes, and before what cost $18 to send, will now cost $40+ – this will definitely impact my business in a very negative way, as my customers will decide to buy from me or not buy from me now because of the cost to send items…I can no longer use FEDEX or UPS because of this…thanks you guys, you were once my hero, now you’re a zero.

  3. David says:

    If you can’t afford to ship with them use USPS. They are betting you like their services enough to pay extra for it.

  4. Don says:

    Collusion? Possibly, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we find out the government was requiring some of this for better efficiency as they have with the appliance manufactures to conserve water and electric usage. Anything they do always cost us money. BUT! With the drop in fuel cost they are saving a lot, just like we are in our trucks, so they should be recalculating their DIM weight formula!!

  5. Jim Johansen says:

    I spoke with a local rep who told me that the ‘dim’ weight will only be for packages that weigh less than three pounds.
    I wonder if anyone knows the rules.

    • Jay says:

      Not true Jim. It is applicable now to ALL packages shipped UPS either by air or ground.
      I too have many customers complaining to me about how “I” am gouging them for shipping charges. When I tell them their beef is with UPS, the just hang up and look for the item from Amazon with “free shipping”.

  6. Lawrence says:

    I think that places like Amazon helped make this to be a bigger problem than consumers did. My family has often joked about the ridiculously oversized boxes they use to send small items using the prime shipping. Maybe boxes will no longer be 10 times bigger than the item being shipped!

    I wish the shipping companies would have implemented this with the huge shippers before the smaller ones.

    • Jay says:

      EXACTLY Lawrence!! I had a 3 hour meeting with UPS yesterday and that is EXACTLY what I brought up. I asked if I could be exempt from dim-weight just like Amazon was !!!

  7. Patrick says:

    If I am not mistaken, this entire article deals only with ground services, and not with express services. Just wanted to point this out, express services have been using DIM weights on all packages for years…and as Lawrence points out, much of the blame can probably be attributed to Amazon which seems to put the smallest items in the biggest boxes…but I’m sure they also get the lowest rates….so it probably won’t impact them much!

  8. According to both the UPS and FedEx websites, they are using a factor of 139 rather than 166 to determine the dimensional weight. What that means is that dimensional weight for both kicks in at Freight Class 85 which is 12 lbs per cubic foot. To be fair, it seems that they should use anything greater than Class 100 as incurring an extra dimensional weight charge. Class 100 is a density of 8 lbs per cubic foot.

  9. Weight Mass says:

    166 goes for UPC domestic,
    139 is an international express factor.

  10. No Longer UPS/FedEx Customer says:

    If you only needed $5 of gas, would you pay $50 because that’s the maximum amount your gas tank holds? Of course not. This is nothing short of a rip off scam. Already several lawsuits against UPS and more are coming!!!

  11. froilan gwapo says:

    Its just plain simple cartel. Despite prices of oil are going down, They are increasing shipping costs. Its just killing the business of small companies. Amazon will love this. Chinese websites offering free shipping will be here for a longer time.

  12. sue ventura says:

    I just entered a new contract with FedEx stating a dimensional weight of 220, air and ground.
    But they are stating it differently than before, now they are adding: cu ft
    Does this make a difference?
    The last contract, it stated 194 dim weight. Period. Now this cu ft thing is throwing me into confusion.

    • Steve Bulger says:

      Hi Sue, thank you for your comment. And that’s a good question.

      It may be that FedEx is adding a cubic foot qualifier to the dimensional weight divisor of 220. For example, perhaps FedEx will use the divisor of 220 only if the package is less than a certain number of cubic feet. In 2015 (and now in 2016), FedEx and UPS calculated dimensional weight on all packages, substantially impacting the order fulfillment costs for ecommerce sellers. Prior to that, however, dimensional weight was only applied if the package measured three cubic feet, or greater.

      I’m happy to chat further if you’d like. Please feel free to email me at sales@efulfillmentservice.com.

      Thank you!
      Steve Bulger

      • Bravo Charlie says:


        It also could be this…

        DIM Divisors DO NOT APPLY to packages below 1 cu foot (12″x12″x12″).

        That is what we negotiated. So something that was important to us, wasn’t conveyed to the carrier, thus helping us. A box 49″x9″x4″ is less than 1 cu foot, so the new surcharge of anything over 49″ DOES NOT APPLY.

        The drawback, is we must not input the dimensions or we will pay DIM costs. We use laser DIM devices.

        We use a few regionals, nationals/internationals, and international only.

        Our divisors vary from carrier (1-6):

        1. No DIM up to 5,000 cu in, then DIM 194
        2. No DIM on small PKG, DIM 194 on Freight
        3. NO DIM on 1CU or less, DIM 245 above that.
        4. Carrier 4 has DIM 245 also, but charges DIM’s on everything.
        5. Carrier 5 we are unsure, but so far been ok.
        6. Carrier 6 DIM 194 past Zone 5.

  13. Cynthia Jones says:

    Consumer choice should hold precedence if seller is not going to offer “free” shipping”. I live in Alaska and have to say that we cannot get product here without argument. I generally pay three times the cost of shipping and still it takes up to three weeks to obtain what I need. federal express is the only company that will provide two day delivery and Saturday if desired. Customer will pay additional for service, however they are more reliable, and do not show up on your door step after 8:00 at night. I have used their service for more than 40 years and will continue when I have an option. UPS is not my favorite but I am more often forced to use them against my will. USPS is totally unreliable anymore due to unionized activities to say the least.

    Hopefully citizens in the USA will learn that politics plays a vital roll in their every day lives, and choose more wisely when electing future political representatives, hopefully those who put the people before the dollar.

    • Steve Bulger says:

      Hi Cynthia –

      Thank you for your comment. You certainly raise some valid points, especially with regard to living in Alaska and the associated order fulfillment costs and challenges relative to ecommerce purchases. I also appreciate your insight when it comes to shipping options and carriers for Alaskan deliveries. We too find that FedEx is a very reliable carrier, and offers a bit more flexibility to accommodate the delivery needs of consumers. Unfortunately, regardless of whether or not dimensional weight applies, there is still a surcharge that applies when shipping to Alaska. Over time, however, I would expect that surcharge to begin to diminish as both carrier networks and ecommerce order fulfillment needs continue to expand.

      Thanks again,
      Steve Bulger

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