What In The World Is Dimensional Weight?

Chances are if you have been shipping packages for more than a few years, you might not even be aware of the changes to the pricing system for a parcel. In 1997, shape-based pricing was introduced. It used to be that all parcel shipping prices were assessed by a weight-based calculation system. It used to be that sending an oddly shaped parcel like a guitar case would cost the same amount as a small rectangular parcel carrying the same amount of weight. Since the concept of Dimensional weight has been adopted worldwide, you could pay a lot more for that area. The cost of shipping smaller lightweight parcels has increased dramatically as well.

Why Did They Come Up With This?

Freight carriers were not making a profit when shipping small parcels that were very light. A feather pillow in a box was so cheap to send that, to a freight carrier, it wasn’t worth the amount of space it would take up in the delivery vehicles. It was kind of like having a restaurant with a patron who would take up a whole table and order nothing but coffee with free refills. Sure, he was paying, but the establishment would lose money on the space he was taking up that could have been used by someone paying more. So with dimensional weight, freight carriers are allowed to choose a minimum density (a minimum weight based on the volume of your package) and that established a minimum charge for taking up that amount of space. So, in fact, shipping the same lightweight contents in a smaller box will cost you less money.

Does that mean heavy items now cost less to ship?

Nice try. This system was developed to help freight carriers make more money. It doesn’t replace weight-based charges. If you ship bricks, you will pay for the weight of the bricks, not the size of the package. A freight carrier will look at the shipping cost of the actual weight and the dimensional weight of a package, and charge the greater amount. So going back to the restaurant example, it would be as if patrons had to pay $10 an hour to take up a table –or- pay for the cost of a meal, whichever was greater. This system is just a means of establishing a minimum level of profitability for each parcel and encouraging people to take up only the space they really need and maybe even squash their contents down.

What was this about irregular shape objects?

Your parcel will be measured by length, width and height and those numbers will be multiplied together to determine the amount of volume in your package and if your parcel is light-weight, the volume of your package will be used to determine the cost of shipping it. If your lightweight parcel is non-rectangular, you are at a disadvantage because the length, width and height are measured at their longest dimension so you are basically paying for the space around the parcel as well, as if you had placed the parcel into a box that fit snugly around it. In some cases this can be a lot of extra space you’d be paying for.

Does this apply to all packages? How will I know how much postage to put on?

If your parcel is less than 1 cubic foot 12”x12”x12”, it does not apply. If you have a system like Stamps.com®, it will automatically calculate the cost for sending your package, you will just have to measure your box to make sure you enter the size accurately. Stamps.com®’s system is sophisticated enough to know when dimensional weight will be charged and when it won’t and it will automatically assess the cost using the same calculations the Post Office would, so you won’t end up underpaying or overpaying.

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