There are times in life you are going to find yourself traveling far and wide with your road case. Whether you're a musician on tour, a trade show warrior, or traveling salesperson, sometimes our road and flight cases have just got to go the distance. Often, it makes sense to ship your case instead of having it travel with you, and reusable hard cases give you the durability and protection to ship items safely. While shipping offers a lot of conveniences, if you have a large case that is considered oversized, you are going to have to pay more for the service.
Reasons to ship your road case
When you are flying, there are a lot of good reasons to ship your case instead of bringing it as luggage. Shipping lets you avoid the ever-climbing fees that airlines are charging for checked and carry-on bags, the hassle of long check-in lines, and the risk of your precious gear getting lost or picked up by the wrong person at baggage claim. Also, oversized cases are just that. Their large size makes them very unwieldy if you're trying to move through an airport or load them into a car. For these reasons, shipping your case and letting the professionals deal with transporting it to your destination can make life a lot easier
Is my ATA case oversized?
When shipping your case, the first thing you need to do is determine whether it is oversized. According to the 2020 Service Guide from UPS, a Large Package Surcharge is applied for domestic shipments that are above a certain size. Your case is considered a "Large Package" by both UPS and FedEx if:
- The length of the case exceeds 96 inches
- The length plus girth of the case exceeds 130 inches
The formula for determining the girth of a package is width times two, plus height times two. If that sounds complicated, there's a handy online calculator for determining girth here. Large Packages will also be billed at a minimum weight of 90 pounds, even if they weigh less. Simply measure each edge of your case to determine whether it is oversized or not.
If you determine your case falls under the large package category using the above formula, you're going to incur an extra charge for shipping your case. On top of basic shipping costs, you will pay an extra $100 for delivery to a commercial address, and an extra $120 to ship to a residential address. This is true for both UPS and FedEx, as both companies raised their shipping prices in 2020.
When trying to determine the basic cost of shipping your case, you will have to figure out both the actual weight and the dimensional weight. Dimensional weight, or dim weight, is the parcel's density. Basically, it is based on the amount of space the package is actually going to take up in the truck.
To figure out dimensional weight, multiply the case length by the width by the height to determine the cubic size in inches. Divide the cubic size by 139 to determine the dim weight in pounds. Round any fraction up to the nearest whole number. You can also use an online calculator from FedEx to determine your case's dimensional weight. The actual weight you can determine with a scale. Shipping companies will charge you for whichever weight is higher, the actual weight or dimensional weight.
Major shipping companies have various charges for your case based on its dimensional weight
- UPS shipping guidelines say if your ATA has a side of 48 inches or more, it is subject to a dimensional weight charge.
- FedEx shipping guidelines apply a dim weight surcharge if the crate weighs more than 70 pounds, and has a 30 inch or more second-longest side.
- USPS guidelines state that packages over 1 cubic foot will incur dim weight pricing will be added to all shipping zones for Priority Mail, Parcel Select, and Priority Mail Express.
- FedEx has a handling fee for oversized packages of $12, which increases to $13.50 during peak season.
- UPS also has a handling fee of $12, which increases to $15.15 during peak season
Shipping road cases via UPS
Inside the U.S., it is pretty straightforward to ship your oversized case via UPS. You can drop your case off before your trip at a UPS Store location, or a driver will come directly to your home or place of business to pick it up. Remember if your case is heavy and weighs over 70 pounds, UPS requires a sticker on the outside to warn those who are about to pick it up. Place the yellow sticker to the right of the address label and write the weight of your case in the white box. UPS also requires a shipping label placed inside the box as well as on the outside.
"FedEx Truck" by JeepersMedia is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Shipping your case via FedEx
UPS and FedEx rates are almost identical, so you can choose whichever company is most convenient for you and get essentially the same results. Once you've packed your case, you can drop it off at one of FedEx's retail locations. Although FedEx also has drop box locations, those won't work when shipping a case. FedEx has a maximum size of packages, up to 119 inches in length and 165 inches in length and girth. There is also a fee for packages that are not inside an outer shipping container, which would not apply to cases since they don't need any exterior packaging.
Other parcel shipping options
Although UPS and FedEx are the major players in the domestic shipping business, there are a few other alternatives. The United States Post Office is an option for shipping some cases . They charge extra for an oversized package if the length plus girth is more than 108 inches, and won't ship it if more than 130 inches. They also only ship packages that are less than 70 pounds. The limitations of shipping oversized packages through USPS usually outweigh the benefits.
DHL is another company that ships large packages, mainly internationally. DHL applies a fixed surcharge to any piece that is over 48 inches on any side. Their oversized price is $89 per piece, and they charge another $89 if the package weighs more than 150 pounds.
If you are transporting cases as part of a trade show, there are event shipping companies that can organize everything from start to finish with your trade show coordinator. For example, NorthStar Event Shipping specializes in trade show shipping and handles customized pick-up requests, special handling instructions, and weekend pick-ups. Your cases are shipped on special shipping coaches, and they will even pack, unpack, and set up for you. White glove services include 24/7 pick up and delivery, pickup inside a building, delivery to a specific room inside a building or to several different rooms, and special equipment built to handle heavy loads and oversized cases.
Preparing your case for shipping
The great thing about shipping stuff in an ATA case or road case is that you don't need a box. There is no need to add any extra packaging. If your case has castors, it's best to remove them for shipping. Most shipping companies use pallets on conveyor belts, and castors might get ripped off. However, it isn't a requirement of shipping companies. Make a note of the items in the case for insurance purposes.
To make sure your belongings stay safe and secure during shipping, you want to pack it properly. Consider that your case could be dropped, be subject to vibrations and jostling from transport, and experience humidity and temperature changes. Luckily, ATA cases are incredibly sturdy so you won't have to worry about them being compressed from stacking. Make sure your gear and belongings inside the case have the proper cushioning to ensure everything arrives safely at your destination. Give us a call if you have questions on selecting the right foam for your case and contents.
Print your shipping label at home and make sure it is securely fastened to the outside of your case. Remember to make sure all the latches on your case are completely and securely locked down. For an added layer of security, you can reinforce the latches with zip ties. Then, your case is ready for its next adventure.
If your situation requires your trusty large cases to travel with you and you decide shipping is the best idea, you have a few choices. To avoid the $100 or $120 fee of shipping oversized cases, you could choose a road case that falls well under the size guidelines of all shipping companies. Since that often isn't an option due to the size of what's in the case, simply work the extra fees into your travel budget. In most instances, it's well worth the extra money to opt for door to door shipping service when traveling with large cases.