Understanding the FedEx & UPS Additional Handling Surcharge (AHS)

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This arti­cle explains FedEx and UPS’s addi­tion­al han­dling sur­charge; what it is, when it applies, the indus­tries which are most like­ly to be impact­ed by this charge and impor­tant con­sid­er­a­tions around reduc­ing these costs.

What is the Additional Handling Surcharge?

The addi­tion­al han­dling sur­charge (AHS) is a fee that FedEx and UPS apply to pack­ages that osten­si­bly require addi­tion­al work to han­dle dur­ing shipping.

There are three rea­sons that the car­ri­ers apply an addi­tion­al han­dling sur­charge.  Each has spe­cif­ic cri­te­ria, which we will list lat­er in the article:

  • Dimen­sions – The size of the box is large or bulky
  • Weight – The box is heavy
  • Pack­ag­ing – There is some­thing ‘non-stan­dard’ about the way the item is packaged

Parameters for Additional Handling Surcharges

The guide­lines for each kind of AHS sur­charge dif­fer.  The full expla­na­tion is found in the sec­tion of the ser­vice guides shown below.  We will sum­ma­rize here and high­light the key points.  FedEx and UPS have very sim­i­lar guide­lines on these, so chang­ing car­ri­ers is not a way to avoid this charge.  If any of these below apply, the ship­ment will be charged an AHS fee.  Only 1 AHS fee is charged per ship­ment, and for ship­ments that meet more than one qual­i­fi­ca­tion, the fee will be the most expen­sive one.

  • Weight – For US domes­tic ship­ments, an actu­al weight of 50 LB’s or more. For inter­na­tion­al ship­ments, an actu­al weight of 70 LB’s or more
  • Dimen­sions – There are 3 ways the dimen­sions can qual­i­fy for AHS – Length over 48 inch­es, width (2nd to longest side) over 30 inch­es, or girth over 105 inch­es. Note that cal­cu­lat­ing girth is not always intu­itive and is a major source of AHS charges. 
  • Pack­ag­ing – There are a num­ber of com­po­nents to pack­ag­ing but most AHS sur­charges are assessed for 1 of 3 reasons:
    • The out­side pack­ag­ing is not card­board (or for small­er pack­ages a poly enve­lope or bub­ble mailer)
    • The pack­ag­ing does not con­tain the full item (such as a tire or bas­ket­ball that sticks out of the packaging
    • The pack­age is a cylin­der (such as mail­ing tubes, cans, buck­ets etc.)

Pricing Structure for Additional Handling Surcharge

  • Addi­tion­al Han­dling Charges vary based on:
    • The kind of AHS sur­charge — We not­ed above that there are AHS sur­charges tied to dimen­sions, weight and pack­ag­ing. Pric­ing dif­fers on each.  Cur­rent­ly pack­ag­ing is the cheap­est of the 3, fol­lowed by dimen­sions and then weight
    • How far it ships — AHS is an exam­ple of a ‘zon­al-based charge’, mean­ing that the fur­ther the pack­age is shipped, the more expen­sive it is.
    • Time of year — Addi­tion­al Han­dling is one of a num­ber of sur­charges that are also sub­ject to ‘peak charges.’ This means that dur­ing peak sea­son, there is an addi­tion­al sur­charge added on top of this charge.

Who gets hit by additional handling charges?

While some com­pa­nies are obvi­ous can­di­dates for addi­tion­al han­dling charges, such as fur­ni­ture com­pa­nies, home goods com­pa­nies, sports equip­ment com­pa­nies, and car parts (as well as boats, ATV’s etc), the addi­tion­al han­dling sur­charge is applied for pack­ages that may not seem very large (a 25“x20”x20” box would get hit by AHS, as would a 36”x24”x12” package).

Negotiating Additional Handling Costs

You can nego­ti­ate dis­counts for addi­tion­al han­dling charges.  It is impor­tant to keep in mind that the peak addi­tion­al han­dling is tech­ni­cal­ly a sep­a­rate sur­charge, and there­fore, you would need to have dis­counts on peak AHS nego­ti­at­ed (and includ­ed in your con­tract) separately.

Understanding surcharges for large, bulky packages

The Addi­tion­al Han­dling sur­charge is the ‘small­est’ of 3 sur­charges (both in pack­age size and in fee) that FedEx and UPS have based on size.  The dif­fer­ence in the cost of these sur­charges jumps quite a bit, so it is impor­tant to under­stand which sur­charges your pack­ages are prone to hit­ting, and to con­sid­er whether there are ways to decrease pack­age size to reduce the impact of surcharges.

The three sur­charges are as fol­lows (note that FedEx and UPS have dif­fer­ent nam­ing con­ven­tions for the sur­charges, but the pric­ing and guide­lines are almost identical)

2022 FedEx Ser­vice Guide
2022 UPS Ser­vice Guide
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