What Does USPS’s New Dimensional Weight Pricing Mean for Me?

Published on January 4, 2022
Written by
Filed under Shipping News
Read time 7 Minutes

As of Sunday, June 23rd, 2019, the USPS increased rates for large, lightweight parcels. This new Dimensional Weight Rate increase is in conjunction with the 2019 USPS rate increases that went out back in January. It increases the shipping rate of parcels deemed too large to be rated solely on its weight. The divisor in the dimensional weight formula has changed from 194 to 166. And all USPS zones are now impacted by this change, no longer just zones 5-9. Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and Parcel Select Ground Packages are all impacted by this rate increase.

If you’re confused by what this means, don’t worry— You’re not alone. This can be confusing, particularly when you see a rate that looks higher than you’re used to. Let’s break down what has changed and what you should come to expect from these changes.

How Does a Parcel Meet Dimensional Weight pricing?

The weight of a parcel has generally been a larger driving factor for the USPS than it has been for FedEx or UPS. While UPS and FedEx have always factored dimensional weight into any parcel they ship, USPS has only recently started factoring this into all Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and Parcel Select Ground Packages. As USPS delivers more and more large packages and less and less small letters and envelopes, they have had to increase their label prices accordingly to accommodate demand. These increased costs expand the fleet of vehicles, fuel purchased, more workers, etc.

Any USPS parcel with a cubic volume greater than one cubic foot, or 1,728 inches (H x W x L = 12″ x 12″ x 12″) needs its dimensions included when creating a rate. Dimensional weight is determined by multiplying the dimensions together and then dividing by a divisor of 166.

The Dimensional Weight Formula:
L x W x H

If the resulting value of this equation is greater than your parcel’s weight, you will be charged as if the resulting value is the weight of the parcel.

How is Dimensional Weight calculated?

So, if your parcel is 22″ x 22″ x 6″ you would multiply these values together and get 2,904. You would then divide 2,904 by 166. This equals 17.49. If the weight of the parcel is less than 17.49 lbs, you would be charged as though the parcel weighs 17.49 lbs. This is true even if the parcel’s actual weight is only 1 lb.

Example of Dimensional Weight being applied:
A 2 lb parcel and dimensions of 22″ x 22″ x 6″

22″ x 22″ x 6″

2 lbs. < 17.49

This resulting value is 17.49. Because of this, the dimensional weight of the parcel is applied as being 17.49, despite the actual weight being lower.

What Packages Did This Impact before?

The former divisor of 194 has been lowered to 166. A lower divisor makes the resulting value higher. This is more than a 17% rate increase. Previously, parcels shipped via USPS to zones 1-4 were exempt from cubic pricing. Now, ANY Priority parcel headed to any USPS zone can be charged based on their dimensional weight.

Did USPS Change Their Max Weights and Dimensions?

Nope! The USPS still allows parcels weighing up to 70 lbs and a maximum girth (distance around the thickest part of the parcel) of 108″. The only change is how the USPS charges you, lighter parcels can be charged at a higher rate based on this dimensional weight rating structure.

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How to be Prepared

Identify items that will fall into the Dimensional Weight rating structure. Items like paintings on large canvases or pillows would be impacted by this. If there is a way to compact the items in their shipping box, try that. Look at businesses like the Purple Mattresses; it would be wildly expensive to ship a mattress in its final form. Because of this, they ship the mattress in a tightly packed form and it unrolls and expands into a final form that you can actually sleep on once it’s delivered. This would work for things like pillows, but not paintings.

For items that cannot be rolled or folded, look into flat rate options. Priority Mail Flat Rate packages aren’t hit with these new rating changes. It’s still the same price for any package under 70 lbs. Since USPS zones 1-4 are now charged based on this Dimensional Weight rating structure, Regional Rate Boxes may offer competitive rates for parcels not traveling as far. As they are often more affordable for zones 1-5 than Flat Rate Packages.

What If I Don’t Include Dimensions?

Though the USPS charges you at the time of label creation, they will post any corrections back to your postage balance. So, if you remove the dimensions when calculating rates to make the rate lower, the USPS will find out and send any corrected rates back to be deducted from your Stamps.com account balance.

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Written by

James Messer

James Messer is a copywriter specializing in shipping, logistics, and ecommerce.

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