Peak Season Surcharges: What to Look Out For This Holiday Season

If you’re experienced with shipping using the major carriers, you likely know that, depending on the time period and characteristics of the package, you might be subject to peak season surcharges that can drive up your shipping costs during the holiday season.

For both UPS and FedEx, peak period generally starts for large packages around early October, and for additional handling packages by late November. These peak season surcharges usually come to an end in early January. This year, both FedEx and UPS are not applying peak surcharges on residential deliveries, which is great news for both e-commerce retailers and online holiday shoppers.

While peak surcharges for large and over-max-limits packages are fairly simple to understand, the major carriers also include a charge on U.S. Domestic, U.S. Import and U.S. Export deliveries that are labeled as additional handling packages.

These additional handling packages can take many forms, from oversize in weight, length or width to strange or irregular packaging. This could include packaging made of wood, metal, hard or soft plastics, and even Styrofoam. Cylindrical shaped items like barrels, drums or tires that aren’t encased in corrugated cardboard could also fall victim to extra charges. These charges are slapped on solely at the discretion of the carrier, so if your package isn’t being shipped out in a plain old cardboard box, you should be aware of the possibility of an additional handling charge.

If you have not received a missive of some sort from your vendor informing you of these peak season surcharges, you should visit their website and make sure you’re aware of any charges that might apply to you.

Depending on your shipping needs, peak season surcharges can add a fair bit to your small package shipping and courier bills. Most businesses can’t just stop shipping during the holidays in order to avoid these surcharges – in fact, many businesses do the majority of their shipping entirely within peak season. That’s why it is so important to pay careful attention to your bills and reduce costs wherever possible in order to compensate for the extra charges. If you don’t have specialized software that helps you keep track of the changes in your bills, these charges can slip through the cracks and come as a real shock when they come out the other side of accounts payable.

Of course, if it’s possible to ship your product before or after the holiday season, it could be something to strongly consider. Not only can the extra fees add up, but your packages are much more likely to be delayed, damaged or lost during peak season. Plus, bad weather can greatly impact your shipping plans, with winter storms having the potential to bring regular shipments to a halt. If you’re shipping in northern areas, it might be a good idea to build some extra time into your shipment schedules to account for the weather.

It might also be prudent to keep in contact with alternate shippers, just in case you need to exercise your options if your primary vendor runs into issues this holiday season.