Can I Ship That? Understanding Small Package Shipping Limitations

Small package shipments can come in all shapes and sizes — but how do you handle those large or seemingly hard-to-ship items?
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Unlike freight shipments that are packed tightly onto pallets, small package shipping refers to smaller parcels that are placed loosely into delivery trucks. But given certain carrier limitations, you might be wondering about those hard-to-ship small package shipments. How big is too big? Is my package too heavy? Will the carrier still accept my package for delivery?

Read on as we break down everything you need to know when you ask, “Can I ship that?” about your small package shipping.

Small package shipping restrictions
It’s important to note that your package can be refused, delayed or charged with an additional fee if it doesn’t meet certain carrier requirements – namely weight and size limits. Common small package shipping restrictions for large or heavy shipments include:

  • Maximum weight and size limitations
    Many carriers have maximum weight and size limitations. Packages found in their systems that exceed these restrictions are technically unauthorized for transport and may be refused or returned to the shipper. In some cases, the package may be accepted and delivered, but it will still be subject to additional charges.
  • Large or oversized packages
    It’s important to note that, even if your package doesn’t exceed the carrier’s maximum weight and size limits, it may still be subject to a Large or Oversized Package Surcharge if it exceeds certain measurements (generally when length plus girth exceeds 130-150 inches) or weight thresholds.
  • Irregularly shaped or heavy packages
    Any shipment that requires special handling, such as an irregularly shaped or heavy package, could also incur an Additional Handling Fee. This fee can also be applied to shipments encased in non-standard packaging that could cause issues with the carrier’s sorting machines.

Be sure to check the carrier’s specific guidelines for weight and size restrictions and additional fees, as they can vary between carriers – both UPS® and FedEx list their complete guidelines online. If you are concerned that your package may exceed the carrier’s weight or size limits, consider using a freight service for your shipment.

Tips for shipping big (small package) items
Avoid delayed shipments and additional fees by following these quick tips for oversized small package shipping:

  • Avoid over-packaging. Shipping air is expensive! Efficient shipment packaging directly correlates to lower transportation costs – and helps you avoid unnecessary fees. Take advantage of your space by using the smallest box possible and taking into account how much protective filling (if any) is necessary.
  • State the accurate weight and size. Be sure to always enter the accurate weight and dimensions of your shipment, rather than making an estimate. Otherwise, the carrier has the right to audit your shipment, verify the weight and dimensions and make the appropriate adjustments to your shipping charges.
  • Work with a 3PL. An experienced third-party logistics (3PL) provider can help you understand the carrier’s unique shipping requirements. Plus, by using a 3PL’s transportation management system (TMS) – like Unishippers’ Express Manager™ – you can easily detect whether your shipment exceeds the carrier’s weight and size limits, or if it will incur any additional fees.

Ship smarter with Unishippers
Small package shipping can be confusing – especially when you’re dealing with large or unusual packages. Luckily, Unishippers is here to help! Download our guide to How Size and Weight Affect Small Package Shipping Rates to learn even more about small package weight and size limits.

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