It hardly seems possible, but the 2021 holiday shipping season is already upon us. In a year already filled with supply chain complexity —and fierce challenges— 2021 is shaping up to be a year for the record books. During the 2020 season, USPS saw a 25% increase in their overall package volume, netting a $2.1 billion dollar boost to their yearly revenue. With shipping delays, supply chain headaches, and an ongoing pandemic, industry experts are calling for more of the same from now until the end of the season.

With this year’s expected shipping volume, complete with all its hurdles, nuances, and challenges, what can the average business, merchant, or logistics professional expect from big-name freight services such as DHL, FedEx, USPS, and UPS? How will this strange and busy holiday season affect peak shipping rates? Your partners at Symbia Logistics have taken the time to compare the holiday price sheets for each of the major US shippers. Below is a synopsis of each carrier’s holiday rate schedule.

UPS delivery truck delivering holiday packages in a blizzard with holiday decorations in the background. Logistics and holiday shipping surcharges concept

USPS Holiday Shipping Surcharges

The United States Postal Service recently published its peak holiday fees and the dates on which those fees are in effect. Their peak pricing policy will go live at midnight on October 3rd, lasting until midnight on December 26th. While only a temporary measure, the proposed rate change has far-reaching implications, affecting:

  • Priority Mail (PM)

  • Priority Mail Express (PME)

  • First-class Package Service (FCPS)

  • Parcel Select

  • USPS Ground

  • The Parcel Return Service

International shipping is virtually the only sector of USPS’s core holiday business left untouched by the upcoming rate increase.

The price increase itself is in direct proportion to the weight of the package as well as the distance you intend to ship it. For example, any package weighing between 0-10 pounds bears a .25¢ surcharge when shipped up to 600 miles (zones 1-4). Anything 0-10 pounds shipping farther than 600 miles (zones 5-9) bears an additional .75¢ surcharge. Under this pricing scheme, items up to 70 pounds, shipping beyond the 600-mile mark, are the most costly, with a $5.00 surcharge added on top. Flat rate boxes or simple envelopes shipped via PM or PME have a uniform rate of .075¢ as well.

Packages that are shipped first class are subject to .30¢ increase and their regular per-weight shipping cost. Services like Parcel Select DSCF, DNDC, and Parcel Return Service will all increase their rates by $1.00 across the board this fall.

FedEX Holiday Shipping Surcharges

In mid-August, FedEx followed suit by publishing its holiday shipping policy. In contrast to the USPS, FedEx’s peak shipping rates maintain a slightly longer window than their competition. Peak rates take effect on October 4th or November 1st for many of FedEx’s key services and run until January 16th. It’s best to examine each service on a line-by-line basis as FedEx has implemented a more complex fee schedule this holiday season.

U.S. Express Package Services, Ground Service, and International Ground Service are all subject to one of three surcharges between October 4th and January 16th:

  • A $5.95 handling charge

  • A $62.50 oversize charge

  • A $350 unauthorized package charge

Depending on your specific context, the charge could be a mix of the three aforementioned price points.

The shipping surcharges associated with FedEx Ground Economy increase as the season goes on. Between November 1st and November 28th, it is $1.50 per package. As of November 29th, it graduates to $3.00 per package before returning to $1.50 by December 13th. It should also be noted that after the holiday rush, FedEx intends to raise its residential delivery charge by .60¢ across the board.

UPS Holiday Shipping Surcharges

UPS is a force to be reckoned with in the world of shipping and transport. Since April 2020, they have imposed an indefinite international fee under the peak surcharge banner. Depending on the service selected (e.g., Worldwide Express Plus, Worldwide Express Freight), that fee ranges from .11¢ to .34¢.

For customers that have shipped more than 1,000 domestic or imported packages, UPS’s peak surcharge schedule was built with progressive increases set to take effect throughout 2021. From January until July, the additional package handling fee was $3.00. July 4th to October 3rd, that fee increased to $3.50 per package. After October 4th, it will jump to $6.00. The large package surcharge is set to increase to $60.00 for the remainder of 2021.

For companies that ship in vast quantities of 25,000 items or more, there is also currently a .30¢per package surcharge assessed. That fee is standard regardless of whether you use UPS Ground Residential or UPS SurePost.

DHL Holiday Shipping Surcharges

DHL’s holiday pricing policy is perfectly commensurate with its competition. Holiday shipping surcharges officially go into effect on October 3rd and run until midnight on Christmas day. Like USPS, DHL’s surcharges are ultimately dependent on the weight of the package being shipped and the distance you intend to ship it.

For Parcel Ground and Expedited Shipping, there is a flat surcharge of .20¢per package for items requiring short to medium-length transport. There is a .30¢ flat fee per package for longer distances regardless of package weight. Their Parcel Plus Ground service bears a flat .29¢ fee for short distances, with fees up to $5.00 for heavy packages traveling longer distances. Parcel returns during the holiday rush range anywhere from .045¢ to $1.00, dependent on the weight of the package in question.

Other notable services include international shipping and those commingled with USPS. DHL’s international products all bear a blanket .10¢ surcharge per package. Services that utilize USPS’s infrastructure, such as First Class Parcel and Priority Mail, range depending on the weight and distance shipped. Surcharges can range anywhere from .30¢ to $5.00, depending on your specific context.

Prepping Your Holiday Logistics

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s important to figure out any last-minute operational details before it’s too late. If 2020 was any indicator, this year’s peak season promises to be a wild ride. The experts at Symbia Logistics can help steer your business in the right direction. For more information on 3PL services or an overview of emerging industry trends, please follow Symbia Logistics today.