What The Heck Is A Pallet?
A pallet is a flat, portable platform, usually made of wood, with openings on two sides or all four for easy maneuverability by pallet jacks or forklifts.
Pallets are the perfect choice for when you have an oversized item that won’t fit neatly inside of a crate. Not only will pallets consolidate your shipment, they simplify the act of loading and unloading, and help optimize the space they take up in the trailer, and in the warehouse.
Shipping a pallet improves efficiency across the board as well, which means better productivity and profitability.
A Quick Comprehensive Guide To Pallet Lingo
When you’re shipping a pallet it’s good to know the lingo so you can find your way around the perfect one like a seasoned pro. We love our jargon in freight, so here are some cheat codes:
- Deck boards — Deck boards are 2 x 4 wooden slats that make up the flat top and bottom of the pallet. This is where the load will sit. Deck boards are either evenly spaced, or close boarded.
- 2-way entry — Opening on 2 sides of the pallet for forklift or pallet jack access.
- 4-way entry — Opening on all 4 sides of the pallet. This can be true 4-way entry (open on all 4 sides), or 2 open entries with an additional 2 clefts for forklift and pallet jack access. Four-way entry is the preferred pallet type.
- Stringer pallets — Named after the 2 x 4 or 3 x 4 wooden “stringers” that support the top and bottom deck boards. There are typically 3 or more stringers to a pallet.
- Block pallets — True four way entry pallets. Four to 12 blocks of solid wood are sandwiched between the top and bottom deck boards, with stringers laid flat between the deck boards and the wooden blocks. They do not always have bottom deck boards.
Some Fun Pallet Facts!
Some facts to nosh on when you’re considering shipping a pallet.
- Pallets come in 3 standard sizes: 48 x 40, 42 x 42, or 48 x 48
- Pallets can weight anywhere from 30 – 70lbs. (so make sure to include them in your total weight!)
- Pallets can hold up to 4,600lbs. (That’s two walruses and a hefty carpenter. We don’t ship either, but if the carpenter needs help shipping a pallet, he should call us!)
Why Wood? (Why Not?)
There are different types of pallets, like metal and plastic, but we prefer wood in the logistics industry.
- Wooden pallets have a seven year lifespan
- Once they are worn out and unusable, they can be recycled (or upcycled, if you’re a DIYer)
- Come in standard sizes for your convenience (but can be built custom)
- The most cost effective
- They’re everywhere!
How Much Does It Cost To Ship?
There’s no set cost to shipping a pallet, because so much factors into final freight rate and many of these factors are outside a carrier’s control. From fuel costs to trailer capacity, freight rates are always in flux. However, FreightCenter’s service tool updates to keep our customers in the know.
There are several other trackable factors that affect the rate of your shipment:
- Originating and delivery zip codes and location types (be it a business, residential location, military base, etc.)
- Any extra services required such as Liftgate or Call Before Delivery
- The freight’s packaging
- Total packaged weight and dimensions
- Specialty vehicle required (truckload service)
- NMFC (freight class)
In shipping it’s crucial that you add the total packaged weight and dimensions of your shipment—this means including the pallet—since these factors will affect your National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC). A 30-70 lbs. weight differential can throw your freight class off. You want to make sure your quote is as accurate as possible!
Learn more about National Motor Freight Classification.
Securing Your Pallet Shipment
A lot of superficial damage is sustained by improperly bundling and securing your freight. There are several ways to make sure your cargo is secure when shipping a pallet. Here are some suggestions:
- Banding — Banding it good for securing bundled loads to your pallet. Keep your bands close together to avoid damaging the bundled cargo, and use band cleats or strap protectors.
- Stretch Wrapping — Stretch wrap provides full coverage protection. The more a piece of freight is wrapped (between 3-5 times), the stronger the protection becomes. It will keep all the pieces of your palletized freight together
- Load Protectors — To keep the top and bottom layers of your freight protected, sandwich your freight between protector pads. This will help distribute the weight properly. The bottom load will keep the bottom boxes from slipping through the slats of the pallet.
- Edge Boards—Edge boards protect the edges, corners, bottoms, and tops of boxes. They help contain the load and stabilize it, protecting it from the friction caused by straps or banding.
For more packaging tips, check out our Packaging Tips help page.
Some Pointers On Shipping A Pallet
To avoid the possibility of damaged freight or billing adjustments, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Choose the right sized pallet for your shipment—you don’t want overhang. Overhang will not only damage your freight, but the freight stored around it.
- Know the capacity of your pallet and don’t exceed it.
- Multiple items stacked on a pallet are considered one piece—consolidate your freight into one handling unit on a pallet!
- Use four-way entry pallets. They’re easier for forklifts to maneuver and will prevent damage.
- Don’t interlock the boxes stacked on your pallet. It weakens the strength of your pallet.
- Don’t pyramid stack items on the pallet. Flat tops provide more strength and stability.
- If you don’t want the carrier to stack items on top of your freight, use crush cones.
- When shrink-wrapping your cargo to a pallet, make sure to secure it to the top part of the pallet while still keeping it accessible to forklifts.
For more information about the particulars of palletizing your freight, read part 4 of our guide, Keys to Shipping Happiness: Practical Freight Packaging.