Shipping Tips & Solutions

Shipping Restrictions: What You Need To Know

Michelle Mondonedo

by Michelle Mondonedo

On 2019 M07 19

by Michelle Mondonedo

Spoiler alert: Some items are more difficult to ship than others!

Items will have shipping restrictions imposed if there is any chance that it can cause harm to someone while being handled in transit. Restricted items are allowed to be shipped, but it must be packaged and labelled according to your courier’s requirements.

Shipping restricted items will also cost more since additional packaging and other services will be needed to ensure they are transported safely.

As unexpected shipping costs are a driving force in cart abandonment, it’s important to understand all costs associated with shipping restricted items domestically and cross-border so you can manage your shipping budget accordingly.

Why do couriers have shipping restrictions?

In addition to ensuring the safety of their employees, couriers are also required to abide by all local, state, federal, and international laws.

By regulating what’s being shipped and proactively ensuring that shipments are properly labelled and handled, couriers can avoid any accidents or damage that can happen when a restricted item is in transit.

What can I ship?

It’s important to remember that shipping restrictions vary by courier. It’s highly recommended to visit your courier’s website or contact your courier account manager if you have any questions or concerns about their shipping requirements.

Can I ship alcohol?

You can ship alcoholic beverages, but it depends on what type it is and where it’s going. Your business will also need a license to ship to remain compliant with the law.

Postal services such as USPS do not allow alcohol shipments. Express couriers such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL do allow shipments, but on a case-by-case basis.

In addition to making sure your alcohol is properly labelled, packaged, and received by an adult that is 21 years of age or older, your courier may ask that you sign a special agreement that promises consistent volume each month.

Visit our post on how to ship alcohol for more actionable tips.

Can I ship breakable items?

You can ship fragile items, but it will be your responsibility to ensure that it is packaged correctly.

This means that you should find properly sized boxes that are durable and use enough padding to ensure the item doesn’t move during transit.

If your breakable item is worth over $100 USD, it's especially important to buy shipment insurance so you have coverage should something occur during delivery.

Visit our post on packaging and shipping fragile items to help you safely ship your items.

Can I ship computers and electronics?

Shipments involving computers and other electronics will depend on the type of batteries it contains.

Lithium ion batteries are the most common batteries with shipping restrictions that are regularly sent domestically and cross-border.

Air freight restrictions for lithium ion batteries include special labelling and limiting the number of battery shipments that can be on a plane for each flight. Relying on ground transportation will give you more cost-effective options, although delivery time frames may take longer depending on the distance needed to travel.

Learn more about shipping batteries from our post on dangerous goods.

Can I ship perishables and baked goods?

The ability to ship perishables and baked goods will vary by courier.

For example, USPS states that perishables that can easily decompose or cannot reach their destination without spoiling are nonmailable. Baked goods should be able to withstand ordinary mailing conditions (such as unregulated temperatures) and shouldn’t cause “an obnoxious odor, nuisance, or disturbance”.

Similar to shipping alcohol, express couriers can decide to ship your perishables if you enter a specific contract with them and ensure consistent shipping volumes per month.

For additional tips on how you can package perishable items, refer to our blog post on shipping frozen foods.

Can I ship firearms and hazardous materials?

Firearms are very tricky to ship, and restrictions depend on the type of firearm.

For example, USPS will not allow concealed handguns to be mailed unless the parties involved meet certain criteria. FedEx prohibits shipments of firearms that are 3D printed. UPS will only ship firearms through a special agreement, and DHL allows domestic US shipments of firearms only between licensed dealers.

Shipping hazardous materials will depend on the type of hazard class it is classified under. It’s best to refer to each courier’s hazardous shipping guides to help you determine the mailability of your shipment:

Can I ship tobacco?

Tobacco shipments are severely restricted. Many couriers do not allow shipments of tobacco to individuals. In most cases, if shipments are allowed, they are only between parties who are businesses or regulators, and are licensed.

Surprisingly, USPS can handle intra-state mailings of tobacco in Alaska and Hawaii; however, mailing tobacco within the continental US remains prohibited.

Can I ship live animals?

Couriers will most likely not allow shipments of the following live animals:

  • Warm blooded animals
  • Reptiles
  • Poisonous insects or spiders

Accepted live animals that you can ship varies widely by courier, and may only be processed on a case-by-case basis. Refer to the following courier guides for more information:

Ship restricted items with care

Shipping restricted items must be done carefully to ensure that no one gets hurt during transit, and that the shipment doesn’t violate any local, state, federal, or international laws.

Proper packaging and abiding by special courier instructions are key to ensuring your restricted items will be accepted and delivered properly to your recipient.

At Easyship, our logistics experts are happy to help you navigate the process of shipping restricted items, and can also assist with connecting you to the best courier to handle your shipment. Let’s talk!