A Game of Inches

  • A Game of Inches

    Al Pacino in the movie Any Given Sunday said that life and football both are a game of inches.

    So is small parcel shipping.  Both UPS and Fedex measure the size of packages by rounding to the nearest whole inch.  If your box is 8 ½ or 8 ¾ inches long, they call it 9 inches. If your box is 4 3/8 inches high, they call it 4 inches.  Rounding to the nearest whole inch is the dimensioning standard in the world of parcel shipping.

    What is the dimensioning standard in LTL?  There is no standard.  The NMFC is silent as to rounding, precision, and the computation of cube and density.  LTL carrier rules tariffs are similarly silent.  They do advise to round weight up to the next whole number.  But with dimensions, there are no set rules.

    Why does this matter?  Fractions of an inch affect class.  This happens more frequently than one might think these days.  Many LTL carriers deploy static dimensioners that measure to the nearest ½ inch.  These machines are accurate.  In some ways, too accurate, as they pick up non-consequential packaging anomalies like loose stretchwrap.  Inspectors at these carriers often utilize a similar level of precision.  But what do shippers, particularly those who attempt to measure their freight accurately, do?  Who knows?  I suspect many of them round to the nearest whole inch.  It’s a simple rule and aligns with parcel standards.  But that can lead to invoice  challenges

    Take this example, a pallet of Plastic Articles weighing 615 lbs that is exactly 48” x 40” x 48 3/8”.  Based upon exact precision, the density is 11.93 PCF and class is CL92.5.  Based upon a static dimensioner’s precision, the density is 11.90 PCF and the class is again CL92.5.  But based upon rounding to the nearest inch, the density is 12.03 and the class is CL85.  It is a potential invoice discrepancy.  And keep in mind this works the other way too.

    If the parcel industry standard is to round to the nearest inch for consistency, why does the LTL industry not do this also?  After all, pallets are larger than parcels.  What if:

    • LTL carriers set rules to round to the nearest inch; cube and density to 2 decimals?
    • Shippers by default rounded to the next whole inch, and made their carrier(s) aware?
    • LTL carriers agreed to give shippers with accurate dims a measure of grace to not reclass small dimensional (or weight) differences?

    And if you think this makes sense for LTL, is it also time for the carriers to require or at least request that shippers provide dimensions on the BOL?  I can’t think of a better way to eliminate invoice surprises than accurate dims on the BOL.


    Check out this link for one of the best pre-game speeches of all time.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-xmY5XKEnY

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