Most of the packages transported by small package carriers are similar in size. Generally these are single packages going to one address and are made of corrugated cardboard. They are easy to carry and weigh approximately five to twenty five pounds. Irregular sized and heavy packages represent a small percentage of total packages handled by these carriers. 

These shipments need a little extra care and preparation when getting them ready for the carrier to pickup. Most of the time it is more cost-efficient to use a small package carrier than a LTL carrier unless your item is over the length limit or weight limit of the small package carrier. The length limits of UPS and FedEx for domestic ground service are 108” with the length and girth combined limit of 165”. Weight limit for both companies are 150 pounds. USPS length limit is up to 130” length and girth combined depending on which service you use, with a weight limit of 70 pounds.

This article will give some helpful tips to those of you who ship irregular sized or heavy packages. Frequently your irregular sized packages will be heavy as well. Below is a sampling of some of the types of packages that need special attention.

Long Packages
If your shipment is long and straight it will fit in a tube. Be sure to pad the ends of your item inside the tube to prevent movement within the tube. If it has room to move back and forth, it will likely poke through the end cap no matter how well you seal the end of the tube. The heavier the item, the more likely it is to poke through the end cap.

Irregular Long Packages
Sometimes these shipments are too irregular to put in a box. Car and truck parts are a prime example of this type of shipment. Pad and wrap any sharp ends for the protection of package handlers and other packages. If it is an item that needs to be protected during shipment, put it in a box and pad any part of your item that may rip through the cardboard during transit.

Heavy Packages
Heavy packages (weighing between 70 and 150 pounds) are, in my opinion, the most neglected packages that people ship. Items such as above ground pool kits, ready to assemble furniture, and window air conditioners can be as heavy as 150 pounds per item and typically come from the manufacturer in a box with a single piece of tape on each seam. My recommendation for these types of items is to put plenty of plastic shipping tape on all the edges. Even though the box may be a perfect fit for the item and there may be plenty of packing material, the sheer weight of the item in the box will burst the seams of the box unless there is extra tape applied. If you are shipping many items in a small box, they should be individually packaged inside a master box to minimize any movement within the box during shipping. If it is impractical to individually package the small items (such as large bolts or screws), it would be advisable to put them first in a bag such as a cotton or burlap bag before putting them in a box so that the box will not split during shipping and handling. A box measuring 8” X 8” X 8” can hold approximately 50 pounds or more of metal items.

Additionally, I have observed that wood crates to containerize items are not usually well made unless they are made with a wood or metal frame attached to the crate for stability. Most wood crates are quickly and cheaply made with 1/4” or 3/8” plywood using only screws. Inevitably the boards come loose because the screws do not hold the plywood together well enough during shipping and handling.

Attaching your item onto a small pallet is generally not necessary and costs more to ship because of the additional handling charge. There are times where it is appropriate though. If you have something that is fragile (even though it may be metal) or when it is imperative that the item stays upright, it is perfectly acceptable to use a small pallet. A transmission affixed to a wood pallet would be a good example of correct use of a pallet.

If you ship many irregular sized or heavy packages then your shipping department is probably familiar with what works well for you. If you ship these types of packages infrequently then maybe some of these tips will help you ship them so that they do not get damaged during their journey.

Jay F. Perdue is passionate about packaging because he handles other people’s packages all day and every day. He is a driver for UPS for 26 years and is in the top four percent of drivers with 26 years of safe driving. Contact him at