If you’re running a small business or a large corporation and you have products to ship, then pallets will be your best friends. That’s because pallets make it easier for you to ship and can help support and protect your cargo when used properly. Shipping a pallet can help you improve efficiency across the board, which means better productivity and profitability. But what exactly do you need to know about how to ship a pallet? We’ll be going over best practices for how to ship a pallet, guiding you through some terminology and providing insider shipping tips.
What 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, but they also simplify the act of loading and unloading. Pallets also help carriers optimize the space they take up in the trailer and in the warehouse.
A Quick Guide to Pallet Lingo
It in your best interest to understand the different types of pallets and the jargon that’s used to define them. Speaking the same language as seasoned pros means you can better understand what options you have when it comes to pallets and shipping options. Here are some cheat codes when it comes to pallets:
- 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.
Securing Your Pallet
Answering the question of how to ship a pallet is most importantly answered through how you properly secure one for transit. A lot of damage can be sustained to a shipment because of improper bundling or securing of the freight. There are several ways to make sure cargo is secure when shipping a pallet:
- Banding – Banding is 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, and of course, keeps everything together. The more stretch wrap used, the more protection you get.
- Load Protectors – To keep the top and bottom layers of your freight protected, sandwich your freight between load protector pads. This will distribute the weight properly and 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 a more comprehensive look into freight packaging best practices and options, download our free Guide to Freight Packaging.
How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Pallet?
The big question for many small business owners and operators when it comes to anything shipping-related is “how much does it cost?”
There’s no set cost to shipping a pallet because so many factors play a part in the final freight rate that are outside of the carrier’s or 3PL’s control. However, there are several factors that affect the freight rate of your shipment that you can manage and prepare for in advance, such as:
- Originating and delivery zip codes and location types (commercial location, residential or home-based business location, limited access location, etc.).
- Any extra services or accessorials required such as liftgate, white glove or call before delivery.
- The freight’s packaging, both internal and external.
- Total packaged weight and dimensions.
- Specialty vehicle required, such as full truckload shipping.
- Freight class and NMFC code.
It is crucial to add the total packaged weight and dimensions of your shipment with the pallet included. This will affect your NMFC code. Even the slightest weight variation can radically impact your freight quote and could lead to a costly billing adjustment later. . Remember, the carrier will always weigh, measure and inspect your freight shipment with sophisticated equipment. If the carrier’s weight or measurements differ from what the customer reported and the carrier has to recategorize a shipment’s freight class, the customer will get a billing adjustment after the shipment is completed. Always be accurate and honest when getting a quote and on the Bill of Lading (BOL)!
Some Pointers on Shipping a Pallet
To avoid the possibility of damaged freight or billing adjustments, keep these things in mind:
- Understand what the standard pallet size and weight is and choose the right sized pallet for your shipment. Overhanging freight can cause damage to your freight and the other freight around it. So make sure there isn’t any overhang.
- Know the capacity of your pallet, and don’t exceed it.
- Multiple items stacked on a pallet are considered one shipment. Consolidate multiple freight shipments onto one pallet to save some money!
- Four-way entry pallets are the easiest for forklifts to handle.
- Don’t interlock or pyramid stack boxes on your pallet. It weakens the pallet and causes instability.
At the end of the day, your best bet for safe, affordable shipping is partnering with a third-party logistics company (3PL) like FreightCenter. Our expert shipping agents can handle any shipment, no matter what industry you operate in and no matter if you run a small business or a large corporation. And with a large network of your favorite carriers, you get peace of mind knowing your freight will be handled with care and with you in mind.