Every day thousands of pallets sit in warehouses awaiting their turn to be used in transporting goods across the United States and around the globe. These pallets protect items from damage during transport, and act as a base for handling and storing products.
Pallets are made of different materials such as metal, wood, and plastic, but wood pallets provide the best value when it comes to durability, cost, weight, repairability, and recyclability. They are also prized for being a renewable source with less impact on the environment.
The National Wooden Pallet and Container Association or NWPCA is a trade association that covers 28 member countries regarding the manufacture, repair, and distribution of wooden pallets and containers in the industry. It sets the standard for the manufacture and storage of wood pallets to ensure that each one is made as safe as possible for shipping and storage.
The guidelines that the NWPCA has created include the classifications of pallets, the dimensions, and styles. It also covers components, repair information, sanitation, and so on.
Wood Pallets Materials
Manufacturers of wooden pallets generally categorize their pallets as either softwood or hardwood instead of the tree species where the lumber comes from. There is no real standardization here because the species used to manufacture the pallet largely depends on the region where it is made and whatever tree abundantly grows in that region. For example, in North America pallets are usually made out of Southern Yellow Pine and Oak, but in India pallets are most commonly constructed out of mahogany.
Softwood and Hardwood
Hardwoods are lumber from broadleaved trees such as beech, ash, or oak. They are naturally stronger and more durable than softwoods.
Softwoods are lumber cut from coniferous or evergreen trees such as pine, spruce, and fir. It is lighter and more affordable than hardwood, and is ideal for kiln-drying (a heat treatment method for killing fungi, insects, and bacteria). It is also easily sourced since softwood trees grow far more abundantly than hardwood ones.
Although lighter and softer, once a softwood has been subject to heat-treatment, the wood becomes harder and equally as durable as hardwood.
Classifications of Wood Pallets
Wood pallets are typically divided into two classifications: block or stringer. A block pallet has wood blocks that form its base, and it may or may not have bottom deck boards. Each of the four sides of the pallet will have a block in the corner and one in the middle. One block is placed in the very center of the pallet for a total of nine blocks. It is also known as a “four-way” pallet because the tines of forklifts can easily access and lift the pallet from all four sides.
A stringer pallet uses stringers or boards for the base to support the load. The stringers, which are placed between the top and bottom deck boards, are typically made of 3×4 or 2×4 wood and are found running lengthwise on two sides of the pallet and in the very middle. This type of pallet is designed to maximize load capacity in vehicles and is used extensively in the retail and grocery industries.
Stringer pallets are often “two-way” pallets because pallet jack or forklift tines can only access them from two sides. However, some pallets are customized with a notch or chamfer (on the non-accessible sides) to allow a four-way entry.
Wood Pallet Styles
Wood pallets are also sorted into style. They can either be single or double-faced and reversible or non-reversible. A single-faced wooden pallet or a skid does not have a bottom deck, but a double-faced one has both top and bottom decks.
A reversible pallet has interchangeable sides that can both be used as top decks. A non-reversible one, while having two decks, can only use one side as a top deck.
Dimensions For Wood Pallets
There are currently six wooden pallet sizes that the ISO (International Standard for Organization) recognizes worldwide. The dimensions (stringer board length x pallet width) that are most often used are:
- 1067×1067 – commonly used in North America, Europe, and Asia
- 1219×1016 – North America
- 1100×1100 – Asia
- 800×1200 – Europe
- 1000×1200 – Europe and Asia
- 1165×1165 – Australia
Out of the two pallet sizes that ISO recognizes the GMA pallet (or the 1219×1016) is the most common. It is the pallet that is most often used for shipping and storage across the US.
There are several other pallet sizes, which are not ISO-recognized but are often used for transporting goods in the US. Listed below are some of these sizes, and an example of the goods often shipped in crates of that dimension:
- 42 × 42 – Telecommunications and paint products
- 48 × 48 – Drums
- 40× 48 – Military and Cement
- 40 × 40 – Dairy
- 48 × 45 – Automotives
- 44 × 44 – Drums and Chemicals
- 48 × 42 – Chemicals and Beverage
- 36 × 36 – Beverage
- 48 × 36 – Beverage, Shingles, and Packaged Paper
- 35 × 45.5 – Military 1/2 ISO Container
- 48 × 20 – Retail
How Can We Help?
Are you looking for pallets for your shipping needs, but aren’t sure of the right wood variety, style or dimensions? We can help!
With almost 40 years of experience in the shipping industry, we can help you select the perfect pallet or crate for your shipping needs. Are your needs unique, and outside the realm of standard shipping methods? Not to worry! We do custom work, and can build crates, pallets, and shipping containers specifically designed to meet your needs.
Contact us today for more info or help choosing your perfect shipping container!