If you operate any business in the United States, you have probably heard the term "shipping zone" at some point. Understanding what a shipping zone is and how they affect your business is key to understanding your businesses costs and transit times.
1. What Is A Shipping Zone?
A shipping zone is used by carriers to describe a geographical area within the US where a package will be shipped. These zones are built around zip codes to make it easier to understand the distance between a package's origin point and its destination. In the US there are 8 shipping zones (there is a 9th zone for non-continental US). These zones affect both the transit time and the price of shipping packages across the US.
2. How Do I Know To What Shipping Zone My Packages Are Going?
Shipping zones are calculated dynamically. This means that every origin zip code has a different shipping map. These maps are available through every major carrier if you want to see your own shipping zone map. The further from the origin the higher the zone number is general rule of thumb.
3. USPS Zones:
The US Postal Service makes zones easy to understand. Below is a chart showing how they calculate their zones. This chart is a great way to gain an understanding of shipping zones, but for your specific zone chart please click here!
4. How Do Zones Affect Transit Times?
Zones greatly affect transit time as they are based on distance. As you can see from the chart above, a parcel traveling to Zone 2 or no more than 150 miles will arrive at its destination quicker than a parcel traveling over 1800 miles to Zone 8 if the same service type is used. It is important to look at the transit times for various services to make sure your selected service and its transit speed is a good fit for your business.
5. How Do Zones Affect Pricing?
The further a package travels the more you can expect to pay in shipping. If a package is traveling to Zone 8 it will cost more than if it is just heading across town. Speak with your 3PL provider or your shipping carrier for more details about the costs associated with zones.
TIP: Ask about flat-rate options that are available to you. These options do not work for every customer, but often times they can reduce costs associated with higher zones.
6. UPS, FEDEX, & DHL:
UPS, FEDEX, and DHL all have their own zones and the ways they calculate them all differ, but the general idea is the same as with the USPS zones used in the examples above. There are differences with each one of these companies so it is important to get both a zone map and transit time map from every carrier you use.
Although the idea of shipping zones may seem complicated at first they are quite easy to understand. It is important to utilize all the resources available to you from your partner carriers to make sure you have the most relevant information on hand. After mastering shipping zones you will have a better understanding of your shipping and logistics needs.