What Are The Packaging Standards For Shipping?

August 24, 2020

Four bad things can happen if you don’t understand UPS packaging standards, USPS regular shipping requirements, and other parcel/freight carrier guidelines:

  1. You may pay slightly more to ship items.
  2. You may pay a lot more to ship items.
  3. Your items are more likely to be damaged in transit.
  4. Your shipment may be refused when the carrier arrives for pickup.

The first problem — paying slightly more for shipping — may not seem worrisome, but it is if you ship a significant volume. For instance, if you ship 100 parcels a day and pay 25 cents more per package than necessary, that equates to approximately $7,500 a year in extra shipping expenses — perhaps enough to make the difference between a banner year and a bust. This article will review what to look for and how to prevent these problems.

Important Cost-Related Packaging Standards 

The first way to minimize freight expense and make sure you properly package items is to carefully review your freight company’s standards, guidelines and recommendations. UPS, USPS, FedEx, other major parcel carriers and many LTL and FTL carriers do an excellent job of providing detailed instructions on their websites. Although every carrier has its own rules, you will find several things in common:

  • The size of a package — shipping box, mailing tube, triangular tube, etc. — has a major impact on the shipping cost. Size is measured differently according to each carrier’s standards, but whether it’s based on girth, volume or some other measure, avoid shipping packages that exceed the maximum. Otherwise, you will pay a hefty premium or the package may not be shippable by that carrier. 
  • The weight of a package is equally important. UPS, for instance, does not ship packages over 150 lbs. For USPS, the maximum is 70 lbs.
  • Large, lightweight packages usually cost more to ship. A calculation called DIM weight (dimensional weight) is used by carriers to assess upcharges for shipping items such as a box of pillows.
  • LTL and FTL carriers use a standardized system of freight classifications that factor into the cost of shipment. Make sure to learn what class your item(s) fit into, or you may have an unpleasant surprise when the freight bill arrives.

Important Quality-Related Packaging Standards

Parcel and truck shippers provide guidelines for optimizing the packaging of items. These rules or recommendations may seem cumbersome, but they really are not: Freight carriers don’t want packages damaged any more than you do, and they know exactly what type of handling and environmental issues can crop up during shipment — and how to prevent them. Important issues to consider include: 

  • Labeling. Make sure to understand what information is necessary on the shipping label, what information should not be included, the proper size, and how to prevent information from rubbing off the label.
  • Interior packaging. Carriers often have guidelines for how much bubble material, foam, etc. should be used to surround the item(s) packaged within the box. Skimping on cushioning material can result in damage.
  • Special instructions. Typically, carriers have specific requirements for the wording, size and placement of instructions such as “Fragile” and “This Side Up” on a package. 
  • Closure. Carriers don’t want (or will refuse) packages secured with string or twine. Depending on the item, there may be other recommendations or requirements regarding the width and placement of case-sealing tape on the shipping box.
  • PalletizingIf your items are shipped on pallets, carriers will have requirements for the weight, height, length and width of the unit. In addition, there may be requirements for how to stretch wrap, band or otherwise secure the pallet.

Creative Solutions to Packaging Problems

Sometimes you must balance cost issues with QC. For instance, should you pay a premium for an oversize package or reduce the size by removing interior packaging? These are issues where GWC’s expertise can be of assistance. We can recommend options that provide the best of both worlds —redesigning the shipping box or using a different interior packaging material, for instance.

Get Help!

If you need help figuring out how best to ship your items or how to interpret a carrier’s guidelines, please contact us today.