Making Sense of Parcel DIMs

View of delivery driver holding packages while walking down city street

Since 2010, parcel carriers have taken dimensional (DIM) weight into consideration when charging shippers.  Lightweight packages can take up a lot of space on their trucks and in the freight world, space is expensive.  Dimensional weight helps carriers to protect their profit margins.

Packages are assessed at either actual weight or dimensional weight and shippers are charged based on the higher number. It is important to note that the carriers can change the divisor when they issue their general rate increases and this can adversely affect your overall shipping spend.

If your products are heavy and take up less space, dimensional weight won’t typically have an impact on your shipping budget, but may come into play from time to time.

Dimensional weight is calculated with the forumla LxWxH / DIM divisor. This means multiplying Length x Width x Height and dividing the result by the DIM divisor and then rounding up to the nearest whole number.

The DIM divisor varies based on the carrier. Most U.S. carriers, including FedEx and UPS, use 139. The USPS uses 166.

Let’s look at an example:

  • 12” x 12” x 12” box weighing 5 lbs
  • 12 x 12 x 12 / 139 = 12.4
  • Therefore, this package would be charged at a 13 lb rate.

How to best manage shipping costs in light of DIM

So, knowing all this, what can you do to manage parcel shipping costs better?

  • Use the smallest box possible (don’t ship packages full of air).
  • Compress goods if possible.
  • Use a minimal amount of packing materials.
  • Calculate the DIM weight before you ship so you can charge your customer the actual rate you will expect to get charged.
  • Use reinforced packaging. It is important to note that if your box is crushed you will be charged at the longest point; a bulge in a package can add to your total cost.
  • Be aware that if you are shipping in a bag, the DIM could change when it goes through the scanners,
  • Watch for over-length and overweight package shipments.  FedEx and UPS will only accept packages up to 150 lbs, up to 165 inches in length and girth combined, and up to 108” in overall length.

As the small parcel shipping environment continues to change, more packages than ever are going through these networks due to e-commerce. Stay diligent to ensure you do your best to keep costs in line.

DIM factor is just one of the many intricacies involved in parcel shipping. Our experts would be happy to help you with any questions or challenges you’re facing in your business.