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Non-Conveyable Shipments: What it Means and How to Avoid it

by Sifted Team

Jan 9, 2023

5 min read

What is considered a non-conveyable shipment?

Non-conveyable shipments are items that don’t meet the dimension, weight, and shape requirements of certain material handling systems (MHS), such as flat or roller conveyors. These shipments need to sort using manual handling processes.

Non-conveyable items are also referred to as ‘ugly freight’, irregulars, non-machinables, and NC items.

Shipping companies apply a surcharge for handling non-conveyables if a parcel’s profile (size, shape, and weight) doesn’t meet their defined package dimensions.

In this article, we’ll discuss how carriers classify over-weight packages as non-conveyables and the practical ways to manage ugly freight using automation, human intervention, and robots.


Classifications of Non-Conveyable Shipments

Here’s a table overview of the things shipping carriers such as FedEx and UPS consider non-conveyable shipments:

FedEx Express and GroundUPS
DimensionGreater than 48 inches along the longest side;

Greater than 30 inches along the second-longest side;

Greater than 105 inches in combined length and girth
Greater than 48 inches along the longest side;

Greater than 30 inches along the second-longest side
WeightGreater than 50 lbsGreater than 70 lbs
Minimum DimensionLess than 1 inch in thickness
PackagingAny item that is not fully enclosed in a corrugated shipping container
Any package with an outer shipping container made of a material other than corrugated cardboard, including metal boxes, plastic boxes, sacks, bags, etc.
Any item that is enclosed in a soft-sided pack, such as a bubble mailer or poly bag
Any item enclosed in a plastic shrink wrap or stretch wrap
Any cylindrical items
Any package bound using a plastic, metal, or cloth banding, or items with wheels, straps, handles, and casters (including items with protruding shapes)
Long, unevenly-shaped parcels
ContentBarrels, drums, mailing tubes, and pails
Plastic bag styrofoam
Glass and mirrors
Fire extinguishers
Bundled parcels
Plastic buckets and canisters

FedEx and UPS assess the non-conveyable surcharge on shipments that don’t meet the guidelines mentioned above, in addition to other charges such as over maximum weight, over maximum length, over maximum size, and special handling surcharge. Carriers also factor in the shipment’s zone to calculate surcharge rates.

Sifted lets you run “what if” scenarios on package changes, distribution locations, and shipping zones. This helps you lower shipping fees and reduce transit times.

Let’s look at the maximum weight and size requirements of FedEx and UPS.

FedEx Express and GroundUPS
Maximum dimensionsUp to 119 inches in length;

Up to 165 inches in combined length and girth
Up to 108 inches in length;

Up to 165 inches in combined length and girth
Maximum weightUp to 150 lbs

Similarly, shipping carriers apply an oversized pallet handling surcharge on pallets that exceed dimension and weight restrictions.

Sifted helps shippers optimize their packaging with modeling tools that reduce unnecessary costs and packaging space.


Why Non-Conveyable Shipments are Difficult for Carriers to Manage

As online sales surge, carriers are focusing on entertaining more conveyable packages (small, lightweight items) that can be transported on traditional conveyance systems. At the same time, they are discouraging non-conveyable or ugly freight that requires extra care and manual processes by imposing handling surcharges. This is because most warehouses have a mix of conveyable and non-conveyable items that limits their ability to process both types of shipments with automation.

Too big and awkwardly shaped items require non-traditional handling and transportation methods, whereas carrier supply chains are built primarily for conveyable goods.

For example, long items such as ice hockey sticks or golf clubs can get stuck on an incline. Oversized boxes can get caught on sharp edges and block other parcels, resulting in a buildup of materials on the belt. Similarly, items with an unstable center of gravity, like dumbbells and barbells, can also disrupt the workings of a conveyor system.

Sifted helps shippers see the data carriers see, enabling them to negotiate favorable rates based on their shipping profile. Its centralized dashboard lets you compare your shipping operations’ performance with your competitors and forecast what’s next for your business.


How to Manage Non-Conveyable Shipments

Warehouses and distribution centers find it difficult to handle and sort odd-shaped and poorly wrapped packages using automated systems. Fortunately, new systems and practices are now available that enable efficient processing and storage of these items.


Online retailers wholly focused on selling large, oversized shipments such as furniture and appliances are accustomed to paying surcharges to offset the logistics demands of transportation and handling. The growing demand for non-conveyable or ugly freight has made shipping and logistics companies capitalize on this segment and evaluate their existing workflows.

Material handling automation has emerged as a revolutionary technology, helping logistics cope with the unexpected jump in non-conveyable eCommerce shipments.

For example, automated sortation systems use advanced algorithms to supervise the movement of goods within the warehouse and work together with trolleys and AMRs to locate them. These autonomous machines can place non-conveyable items in cartons or trays that securely hold the items and take their images, enabling an automatic recognition system to provide the necessary handling and storage information.

In addition, automated warehouse management systems balance the tasks assigned to robots and humans to minimize manual intervention and significantly increase the ROI of automated systems.

Human Intervention

Warehouse automation technologies have helped logistics companies significantly raise ROI and savings while reducing labor dependency and labor costs. However, human intervention is still employed to position and lift large, irregularly shaped items onto the carrying surface.

Similarly, manual labor is needed to pre-sort bulky items at a supplier’s facility, perform quality assurance inspection, and then manually move them to storage and shipping locations.

Transport Logistics

Transporting oversized, bulky items alone is difficult, but it becomes more of a challenge when carriers have to deliver them to remote or rural locations. Similarly, bad weather conditions and narrow roads can make it almost impossible to transport truckloads of ugly freight items.

Retailers specializing in non-conveyable items can adopt a flexible logistics strategy consisting of different vendors handling different segments of order fulfillment. For example, they can work with first- and last-mile carriers, regional carriers, third-party logistics (3PLs), and freight forwarding companies to deliver customer orders.

Sifted lets you model carrier mix variations to see where it makes sense to use regional or LTL carriers for your large and heavy packages.

If you frequently ship non-conveyable items, you can hire logistics companies specialized in handling and transporting niche goods. For example, fresh and frozen foods transporters can provide temperature-controlled trucks, and fine arts and antique logistics providers can offer correct wrapping that sustains shocks and vibrations during transport without damage.

Check out our blog to learn about eco-friendly packaging options.


Choose Sifted to Sort Out Non-Conveyables

Non-conveyables or ugly freight comes with a lot of challenges. They’re harder to move, store, and pack and expensive to ship. However, you can find multiple ways to handle and transport these items, such as implementing automation and moving with robots.

Sifted can help you find cost-effective ways to ship non-conveyable items while avoiding national carrier rate hikes and accessorial rampage. When you can see what your carrier sees, you’ll be better positioned to negotiate discounts in your carrier contract.

Skip the spreadsheets and get a 360 view of your shipping profile. Get a free, no-commitment demo from Sifted!

Topics: Packaging

Check out related resources at Sifted.

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