Most of us have seen the footage of the UPS or FedEx guy tossing a package over a fence or onto someone’s porch. In fact, if you search “driver throws package” on YouTube, you’ll get approximately 115,000 results, the majority that feature the UPS or FedEx Driver as The Villain. Although the majority of shipments are not treated that poorly, it’s likely that a large percentage takes some level of abuse that’s much greater than we expect.

    It’s challenging to find comprehensive and reliable statistics about the amount of wear and tear the typical UPS and FedEx shipment endures. A few years ago though, Popular Mechanics decided to “test” a few shipments to determine the external pressures that a shipment endures; specifically measuring acceleration, orientation and temperature. A data logger with vibration sensors was built and placed into a shipping box, and then shipped a dozen times, split between UPS, FedEx, and the USPS. The box was shipped from New York and returned to New York, with stops in Santa Monica, CA and Austin, TX (three legs).

    The following were the results:

    FedEx UPS USPS
    Flips 7.0 4.0 12.5
    Spikes 3.1 2.0 0.5
    Temp (High) 77.46 77.98 79.30
    Temp (Low) 51.45 51.18 47.44

    Definition:

    Flips = Position changes resulting in the package over or onto the side
    Spikes = Impact resulting in registering 6 g's (equivalent to a 2.5 foot drop)

    Popular Mechanics mixed up the service levels and applied some variations. One interesting factor was that shipments that were marked "Fragile" or "This Side Up" received a greater amount of abuse than those that were not marked. Although four shipments per carrier is a small sample set, this “test” provides an indication of the amount of abuse that parcel shipments often endure.


    With the changes to dimensional weight practices starting in just a few weeks, it’s causing many shippers to reduce package sizes and minimize dunnage, in order to keep costs in check.

    This is a critical time for shippers to perform a comprehensive analysis and understand the impact of the changes to dimensional weight practices. If proactive action is not taken, it will not only impact costs, but it could lead to increased customer service issues, as a result of the product not being protected during the shipping process.

    The following are immediate steps that can be taken to prepare for the change:

    1. Gain visibility to package dimensions and weights. This should be evaluated at a shipment level, since averages can greatly dilute the results.
    2. Measure the impact of the dimensional weight factor for each service level to determine the anticipated dimensional weight (billable weight) versus actual weight that can be expected, effective in 2015. Review the cost implications that are associated with the variances.
    3. Analyze the opportunities for making changes to common box sizes or packaging, in order to comply with new dimensional weight practices. Any changes that can be made internally will improve your position to have productive discussions and negotiations with the carriers.
    4. If your products do not support making changes to shipping boxes, request a reasonable dimensional weight factor or an extension of the current 5,184 (3 cubic foot) practices. Some valid reasons include the following:
    a. Size restrictions
    b. Increased possibility of damage
    c. Time constraints to make the necessary changes

    Don’t depend on the carrier to provide an assessment of the financial impact of any upcoming changes. The carriers typically base their analysis on averages and the results are usually highly inaccurate.

    The challenge for many shippers remains how to continue to be competitive with shipping rates, while minimizing damages, so that customers have a great experience and return for their next purchase. Proactive action, business intelligence and an open line of communication with your sarrier(s) are great starting points.


    Thomas Andersen is Partner / Vice President of Supply Chain Service for LJM Consultants (www.myLJM.com), a leading small parcel auditing and contract negotiating firm. Thomas has more than 15 years logistics and supply chain experience. He attended University of Florida and Florida Atlantic University, where he received his Bachelor of Science in International Business and an MBA. To speak with him, please call 631844.9500 or email tandersen@myLJM.com.

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