Shipping companies like UPS handle millions of packages a day, and have to do their best to keep straight all of the addresses attached to each individual package.
One of the ways they organize all of the locations they serve is with shipping zones- but what are they, and how do they work?
What Are UPS Zones In 2023?
UPS shipping zones are a way of categorizing all of the locations UPS delivers to, both domestically and internationally in 2023. Shipping zones aren’t fixed areas- rather, they’re used to express the distance between a package’s origin and its destination. Shipping zones change based on where a package is being shipped from.
Shipping zones can be a daunting topic, because of the wide variety of factors that play into zoning decisions, so be sure to keep reading to learn more!
What Do UPS Zones Mean?
A shipping zone, according to UPS, can be described as a geographic area that is lumped together when determining the cost of shipping any given package.
Shipping zones are not predetermined places that remain the same for every package.
Rather, shipping zones will change based on where the package is originating from, not where the package is going.
UPS’ shipping zones also change depending on the shipping service, i.e. UPS Next Day Air Early or UPS Ground, to help better reflect the resources shipping any given package will take.
Another way to look at shipping zones is that they are meant to reflect the resources it will take to ship a package from point A to point B in the designated time frame.
Because shipping zones reflect the strain on resources shipping any given package creates, they directly correlate to how much you’ll pay for shipping with UPS.
The different resources used that a shipping zone represents includes:
- Fuel used in transportation, whether by plane, semi-truck, boat, or delivery truck
- Wear and tear on equipment used in transportation
- Manpower, including driver/pilot time, as well as time and energy expended in handling the package
What this means in practical application is that the further away you ship a package, the higher the zone will be, and the more expensive shipping will be.
For example, shipping a package to Zone 2 will be less expensive than shipping a package to Zone 7.
This is because Zone 2 packages are delivered with less effort and resources expended by UPS.
If you’d like to read more about shipping zones, as well as how different companies (including UPS) categorize them, be sure to check out this article!
As we already mentioned, however, geographic location is only one part of determining a package’s shipping zone categorization.
How Do UPS Shipping Zones Work?
So now that we have a better understanding of what a package’s shipping zone means, let’s take a good look at how shipping zones work!
Shipping zones are made up of two main parts: the distance a package will travel, and the shipping service used to ship the package.
Let’s say, for example, that you’re shipping a package from the zipcode 78613, which is just outside of Austin, Texas, to 37013, a zipcode in Nashville, Tennessee.
Because the shipping zone categorization relies on both geographic distance traveled as well as the service used, there are six potential shipping zones your package could fall into.
A package being shipped from Cedar Park, Texas to Nashville, Tennessee could fall into any of the following shipping zones:
- 005 if the package is sent using UPS Ground
- 305 if the package is sent using UPS 3 Day Select
- 205 if the package is sent using UPS 2nd Day Air
- 245 if the package is sent using UPS 2nd Day Air AM
- 135 if the package is sent using UPS Next Day Air Saver
- 105 if the package is sent using UPS Next Day Air
If you were to send the same package to the same place in Nashville, Tennessee, but from Los Angeles, California instead of Cedar Park, Texas, your shipping zones would look something like this:
- 007 if the package is sent using UPS Ground
- 307 if the package is sent using UPS 3 Day Select
- 207 if the package is sent using UPS 2nd Day Air
- 247 if the package is sent using UPS 2nd Day Air AM
- 137 if the package is sent using UPS Next Day Air Saver
- 107 if the package is sent using UPS Next Day Air
If you’re noticing a pattern between all of these shipping zones, that’s because there is one!
Like we went over before, your shipping zone categorization is made up of two parts: the shipping service used to ship the package, and the distance the package will travel.
If you look back at the two lists above, you’ll notice that the first two digits correlate to the shipping service used.
These are zones that start with 00 reflect packages shipped with UPS Ground, codes that begin with 24 are UPS 2nd Day Air AM packages, etc.
The last digit of the three-digit codes reflects the distance your package will travel.
Therefore, shipping a package from Cedar Park to Nashville falls into zone 5, while shipping the same package from Los Angeles to Nashville falls into zone 7.
These different codes help UPS employees to be able to keep track of packages by both location and shipping service.
This is incredibly helpful, seeing as UPS handles 15.8 million packages a day.
For example, a UPS employee can group all packages with the code 103 together much easier than having to take the time to cross-reference zip codes with shipping services used to make sure packages end up in the right container and headed to the right place.
Shipping zone codes are also helpful, because they denote the importance of a package.
Packages with the code 135, for example, tell the UPS employee that this package was sent using UPS Next Day Air Saver.
This would need to be moved more quickly than a 305 package, which is shipped using UPS 3 Day Select.
How Do I Know What UPS Zone I’m In?
Since UPS shipping zones take location into account, it’s natural for you to wonder where you fall on UPS’ shipping zones map.
Unfortunately, finding out what shipping zone you’re in isn’t as simple as finding a map on UPS’ website.
UPS comprises its shipping zone categories based on the distance a package travels, not necessarily the geographic destination.
This means that your shipping zone is determined by where the package is being shipped from, not the destination of the package.
Luckily, UPS does supply you with some tools to help figure out what your shipping zone may be.
All you need to know is what zip code the package is being shipped from, which you can find out from the shipper relatively easily.
Once you have the zip code for your package, you can visit this page of the UPS website.
Here, you can type in the origination zip code of your package, and download the corresponding shipping zones chart.
To read the chart and find out your zone, look at the column on the left-hand sign, and find the first three digits of the destination zip code.
From there, you’ll see all of the potential shipping zones your package could be categorized under with the corresponding shipping services.
After you know your shipping zone, you can then calculate the shipping costs associated with that zone.
If you’d prefer to have the UPS website calculate your shipping costs and time estimate, you can also check out the “calculate time and cost” page of the UPS website here.
UPS shipping zones are a method of categorizing all of the locations UPS delivers to, as well as how many resources it’ll take to deliver any given package.
UPS shipping zones are comprised of two factors: the distance a package travels, and the shipping service used to ship the package.