Carrier Rules for corrugated boxes

Corrugated boxes can be used to ship products by air, truck or rail, or by a combination of means for extra fast delivery known as inter-modal overnight. Carriers impose packaging rules in exchange for accepting liability for the articles they transport . Carriers reserve the right to refuse articles they consider inadequately packaged.

boxes - corrugated

If you want your package to be insured by the carrier, you have to follow their rules.

Over the past 50 years or more, the terminology and material requirements used in the carrier rules have become de facto standards for corrugated and solid fiber boxes, even though many transportation modes may bot be specifically covered by the rules. Carrier rules address only the issues associated with their mode of transportation, not the storage, display or further distribution of boxes. When all of these factors are taken into account, boxes may not only need to meet the carrier rules, but go beyond them.

Basic Rules and Regulations to Consider:

Max. weight of boxes and content
Max. outside dimension Length, Width and Depth added (inches)
Min. bursting test, Single wall, Double wall or Solid fiberboard(lbs per sq. in.)
Min. puncture test, Triple wall board (in. oz. per in. of tear)
Min. combined weight of Facing, including Center facings of Double wall and Triple wall board
Min. combined Weight of plies, Solid Fiberboard, Excluding adhesives (lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.)
Single Wall Corrugated Fiberboard Boxes
20 40 125 52
35 50 150 66
50 60 175 75
65 75 200 84
80 85 250 111
95 95 275 138
120 105 350 180
Double Wall Corrugated Fiberboard Boxes
80 85 200 92
100 95 275 110
120 105 350 126
140 110 400 180
160 115 500 222
180 120 600 270
Triple Wall Corrugated Fiberboard Boxes
240 110 700 168
260 115 900 222
280 120 1100 264
300 125 1300 360
Solid Fiberboard Boxes
20 40 125 114
40 60 175 149
65 75 200 190
90 90 275 237
120 100 350 283

Truck and Rail Rules

multiple corrugated boxesThe rules for shipping products in corrugated boxes by truck are outlined into two publications: the National Motor Freight Traffic Association's National Motor Freight Classification(NMFC) and the National Railroad Freight Committee's Uniform Freight Classification (UFC) (see Recommended Reading and Sources, Associations, Government Agencies and Institutions). The publications give detailed packaging rules and name of individual carriers using these rules.

The various shipping requirements are noted in this list of different articles. For instance, the name of one product may have the words "in package" behind it, meaning the article must be shipped in some sort of package (crate, barrel, box, etc.) Other articles are followed by the words "in crates," "in barrels" or "in boxes," which mean these products must be shipped in the specified container type. There is a rule defining the container type in the respective classification.

Item 222 and Rule 41:

flat box corrugatedWhen articles listed in the classifications contain the packaging instructions "in boxes" they mean corrugated or solid fiberboard boxes as defined in Item 222 of the NMFC and in Rule 41 of the UFC. Both Item 222 and Rule 41 set quality standards chat must be met by the box manufacturer. These rules give material specifications that vary depending on the total gross weight and the united dimensions (length, width and depth) of the box and its contents. A box that follows the rules must carry a circular box manufacturer's certificate (BMC) that precisely coincides with the instructions in the rule. Without the BMC, damage claims and rates may not be honored (see Markings, Box Manufacturer's Certificates).

A box, by the carriers' definitions, is a full, six-sided (or more) enclosure that may have an opening only large enough to insert one's fingers to rip open a flap. It must be closed by a positive means or be capable of passing recognized transport qualification drop tests. Boxes must be made of combined board (corrugated or solid fiberboard) that meets or exceeds the minimum burst strength and combined basis weight listed in Table A, or the minimum edge crush test listed in Table B per the appropriate gross weight and dimensions listed.

Edge Crush Test (ECT)

In 1990, the trade associations for the corrugated industry sponsored proposals to revise Item 222 and Rule 41, allowing use of edge crush test as an option to the traditional linerboard basis weight and combined board burst requirements. ECT is a characteristic of the combined board that, along with other factors, predicts the compression strength of the finished corrugated fiberboard box. Using the alternative requirements in the carrier rules, box manufacturers have more latitude to design and supply boxes that target the user's performance requirements. The alternative EeT value can be substituted for the burst strength/basis weight values specified for Numbered Packages (see below), including furniture packages.

See more: Mullen vs. ECT: Is there a difference in corrugation tests?

Max. weight of boxes and content
Min. bursting test, Single wall, Double wall or Solid fiberboard(lbs per sq. in.)
Min. puncture test, Triple wall board (in. oz. per in. of tear)
Min. Edge Crush Test (ECT) (labs. per in. width)
Single Wall Corrugated Fiberboard Boxes
20 40 23
35 50 26
50 60 29
65 75 32
80 85 40
95 95 44
120 105 55
Double Wall Corrugated Fiberboard Boxes
80 85 42
100 95 48
120 105 51
140 110 61
160 115 71
180 120 82
Triple Wall Corrugated Fiberboard Boxes
240 110 67
260 115 80
280 120 90
300 125 112
Solid Fiberboard Boxes
20 40
40 60
65 75
90 90
120 100

Numbered packages:

When the article listing includes "in Package_" (there may be multiple numbers listed), the carriers require a specific packaging system. Detailed instructions for Numbered Packages are listed in the section titled Specifications for Numbered Packages. Numbered Packages require a rectangular BMC which indicates the package number and the burst strength or ECT of the corrugated fiberboard used.

Other Carriers

The air cargo and airline industries do not publish detailed packaging instructions except for special articles such as live animals, human remains, seafood, etc. Individual carriers-United Parcel Service (UPS), Federal Express (FedEx), the U.S. Postal Service, and others-publish their own tariffs. Both UPS and FedEx require compliance with Item 222, including material specifications per package weight, dimensions and BMCs. Also, both require that the packages they carry are of minimum 200 burst strength or 32 ECT, and are capable of meeting appropriate International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) Pre-shipment Testing Procedures and Projects. It is best to check with the carriers themselves to determine whether there are specific packaging requirements or recommendations for shipping specific articles in their systems. Carriers often provide packaging seminars and transport package testing for their customers.