Brian Smith

January 31, 2024

12 min

How To Pallet Shipping: Standard Pallet Sizes & Different Types Of Pallets

How To Pallet Shipping: Standard Pallet Sizes & Different Types Of Pallets

Shippers, carries, and freight brokers will agree that choosing the right pallet is crucial to the entire pallet shipping process. Choosing the wrong pallet material or size can lead to more than frustration for all parties involved - it can cut through revenue for shippers, increase wait times (ultimately revenue) for drivers, and even create a bottle-neck in the supply chain. What's more is that many shippers and carriers aren't aware of cost saving opportunities in the world of pallet shipping that can exponentially increase their revenue. In this post, we'll explore all things pallet shipping. From common pallet dimensions to different types of pallets, and most importantly - revenue increasing tips across the board. Let's get started!

How a Pallet is Shipped

  1. Palletization

Palletization is the act of preparing goods into shipping pallets. The palletization process is pretty straightforward, where in this first step, goods are placed securely on the pallet and fastened using straps, stretch wrap, or bands.

  1. Labeling and Documentation                                                        

The next step in a pallet shipment is to complete any necessary shipping documentation, such as a Bill of Lading (BOL).  BOL acts as both a descriptive list of the goods and a receipt given to the carrier.

  1. Weighing and Measuring     

In order to ship palletized goods, the shipper must determine the precise weight and dimensions. The pricing for many carriers is based on both the floor size and the weight of the shipment.                                                         

  1. Choosing a Carrier      

Selecting the right transportation provider is very important. If a shipper chooses too large of a carrier, it may result in paying higher costs than needed. Our guide on LTL Freight Shipping (Less-than-truckload) can guide you through the process of choosing the right carrier, if your load isn't enough for a FTL (Full-Truck-Load).

  1. Scheduling Pickup & Delivery                                   

After choosing the right carrier, the shipper arranges a pickup location and time for the pallet shipment. Once it reaches its destination, the pallet undergoes unloading and inspection. In some cases, truckers will have to onload/off-load. In these instances, truckers must have acquired the appropriate training and equipment. Examples of this include liftgates, steel toe shoes, and pallet jacks. This is crucial for efficient loading and unloading, especially in residential areas.

Where to find Palletized Loads

For trucking companies looking at shipping pallets, consider Cota LoadBoost™. Our load board's enhanced experience helps improve everyone's (carriers & shippers) margin on the same trip, by combining shipments to utilize remaining truck space. This innovative pallet shipment solution enables carriers to identify 1-2 pallets that fit perfectly into the available space without conflicting with other cargo within the truck. 

Get started to discover the advantages of Cota LoadBoost™ and get ready for future enhancements with machine learning for load finding, promising even greater efficiency in load optimization.

The Advantages of Palletization

If there's any room for debate between and non palletized shipments, such as loose boxes, it's safe to say the advantages of palletization are unequivocal. Take a look at some of the advantages pallets provide below:

Streamlines Handling and Storage Processes

Palletized loads allow warehouse staff and logistics personnel to identify, move, and locate goods quickly. This reduces the time and effort spent on manual handling. It also contributes to faster turnaround times. This minimizes delays in both handling and storage processes which expedites and contributes to overall operational efficiency while enhancing responsiveness to customer demand and improving supply chain performance.

Enhances Loading and Unloading Efficiency

To palletize a shipment, goods are loaded onto a pallet with transportation in mind. This ensures the items will fit, without worry, into confined spaces of transport vehicles. Additionally, this process speeds up the loading and unloading process. Handling equipment can maneuver and transport pallets efficiently. This makes loading and unloading of goods more systematic and time-effective.

Reduces the Risk of Damage During Transit

Palletized loads provide a protective layer for the goods during transit. Through palletization, the risk of individual items shifting, bumping, or getting damaged during transportation is significantly reduced - resulting in fewer claims. It's no wonder Cota Systems™ loads have beat the industry average of 2% damages with over 99% damage-free Cota™ shipments!  Palletization not only minimizes financial losses for businesses, but aids a sense of reliability and trust among our clients, which improves overall customer satisfaction.

Maximizes Storage Space in Warehouses

The stackable nature involved in palletizing goods makes way for efficient use of vertical space in warehouses. This pallet stacking capability means that warehouses can accommodate a higher volume of goods within the same space. Due to this use of storage space, businesses can manage their inventory, handle larger quantities of products, and reduce storage costs better. This is very beneficial where warehouse space is a premium, making palletization the go-to choice for utilizing the storage capacity to its fullest.

advantages of palletization in pallet shipping

Common Pallet Sizes and Weight for Trucking

Standard pallet dimensions are an important aspect to consider when optimizing truck space to increase earnings in the freight industry. At Cota Systems™, drivers make more money per mile by filling up their truck for every trip, and shippers save by consolidating their shipments. This creates a win-win scenario for all involved.

If a carrier finds themselves without a full trailer or facing deadheading (driving back from a shipment with an unloaded truck), this is where being aware of average truck bed sizes and standard pallets and their sizes becomes essential. We'll take a look at the average truck bed and pallet size below:

What is the size of a standard pallet in North America?

In North America, 48" x 40" is the standard pallet size.

How many standard pallets can fit on a truck?

A 53 ft truck, commonly used in the industry, can fit 26 non-stackable pallets or 52 stackable, standard-size pallets.

How much can you ship on a pallet?

Knowing the weight limits for standard pallets is necessary. Typically falling between 3,700 and 4,600 pounds. Understanding these limits provides a guideline for efficient loading and safety during transportation.

It's important to note that weight limits for pallets can vary based on how they're built, their quality, and the materials used. Different industries might have different pallet sizes too. For precise information, it's best to check the specific shipping regulations and guidelines for shipping in your area. 

The below table will walk you through the different regions and types of commonly used pallets. Keep in mind that in regions that have more technically advanced industries (like the West), aluminum pallets are more common due to their durability and reusability. Also, the type of material used for each type of pallet can influence the weight limit, hence the general weight limit standards below.

common pallet sizes across the united states

How Many Types of Pallets Are There?

Shipping pallets vary and are crafted for different needs and industries. The most common pallet types include:

Block Pallets

  • These standard pallets have blocks either between the pallet decks or beneath the top deck.
  • These pallets are accessible from any side, making them great for a wide range of handling equipment.
  • People prefer using block pallets for their strength and uniformity.

Stringer Pallets

  • These pallets use longboards, called stringers, to hold the unit load.
  • Some can be designed as two-way stringer pallets for two sided access. Others, designed as four-way stringer pallets, are accessible from all sides.
  • In North America, the standard is a 48" x 40" GMA pallet.

Double-Face Pallets

  • These pallets have top and bottom deck boards, for a more stable and reversible use.
  • They work well for heavier loads that aren't as steady.

Single-Face Pallets

  • These pallets only have a top deck and aren't suited for reversible use.
  • They're good for lighter loads that need a flat, stable bottom.

Skid Pallets

  • These pallets are in the simplest form, with only a single-deck without the bottom deck.
  • Often used for items that are more steady, such as heavy machines.

Solid Deck Pallets

  • These pallets are constructed from one solid piece of wood or plastic. They provide a clean and smooth surface. 
  • Much easier to clean and less likely to harbor pests or dirt.

Double-Wing and Single-Wing Pallets

  • These pallets feature decks that extend beyond the stringers or blocks and provide extra surface area.
  • The double-wing pallets have extensions on both top and bottom decks. The single-wing pallets have it only on one side.

Custom Pallets

  • These pallets are made to meet specific needs of certain types of goods or transport situations.
  • They're designed in terms of size, load capacity and materials.

Understanding the many types of pallets allows industries to select the best option for their pallet stacking needs.

pallet shipping types

Pros and Cons of Different Pallet Materials

There are 4 materials that pallets can be made from. These include plastic, metal, corrugated, cardboard, and of course, wooden pallets. In trucking, wood and plastic tend to be more common. As with anything, guidance is necessary when selecting the right pallet material. The nature of the goods and the duration of the shipment play a role in the type of pallet you'll need. Take a look below at some of the pros and cons of these 4 materials:

1. Wooden Pallets

When it comes to standard pallets, wooden pallets are commonly used to ship a wide range of goods. This includes items such as small packages and industrial equipment.

Pros:

Widely Available: Wooden pallets are readily available and cost-effective.

Customizable: Easily modified or repaired to suit specific shipping needs.

Biodegradable: Eco-friendly and can be recycled or repurposed.

Cons:

Heavy: Wooden pallets can be heavier than alternative materials. This affects shipping costs.

Prone to Splinters: Safety concerns may arise from splinters and nails.

Susceptible to Moisture: Wooden pallets may absorb moisture, potentially affecting the integrity of the goods.

2. Plastic Pallets:

Next up for pallet types, plastic pallets are good for items that need to stay dry and safe from insects. 

Pros:

Durable: Lasts a long time and can handle moisture and bugs.

Consistent Size and Weight: Plastic pallet shipments are more uniform in size and weight.

Reusable: Long lifespan and can be reused multiple times.

Cons:

Higher Initial Cost: They generally have a higher upfront cost.

Limited Repair Options: Repairing plastic pallets can be more challenging compared to their wooden counterparts.

Environmental Impact: There are concerns about the environmental impact of plastic pallet production.

different types of pallets materials

3. Metal Pallets:

Pallet types include metal pallets, like aluminum, which are very useful for transporting heavy loads. They also follow strict hygiene standards.

Pros:

Highly Durable: Resistant to damage, weather, and wear.

Hygienic: Suitable when shipping a pallet that calls for stringent hygiene protocols.

Reusable: Long lifespan and can withstand heavy loads.

Cons:

Heavy: Metal pallets are typically heavier than other options.

Cost: A higher initial cost compared to wooden pallets.

May Rust: Depending on the metal used, there's a potential risk of rust over time.

4. Cardboard Pallets:

Out of all pallet types, cardboard pallets are best for lighter loads. They may not be good for heavy or bulky items. Examples of items suitable for shipping in cardboard pallets include: clothing, electronics, toys, and paper products.

Pros:

Lightweight: Cardboard pallets are lightweight, reducing shipping costs.

Recyclable: Environmentally friendly and can be recycled.

Customizable: Easily customizable for specific shipping needs.

Cons:

Limited Load Capacity: Cardboard pallets are not suitable for heavy or bulky loads.

Moisture Sensitivity: Susceptible to damage in humid or wet conditions.

Single-use: Generally designed for one-time use, limiting reusability.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship a Pallet?

Pallet shipping costs vary among companies, but a rough estimate is around $30 per pallet. Importantly, charges aren't based solely on distance. Other factors include: pallet size, stackability, cargo nature, and the timeframe required. In these instances, it might be wise to opt for Less-than-truckload rates. For more information on LTL shipping rates, be sure to check out our post on shipping rates and cost-saving advantages. 

What's the Cheapest Way to Ship a Single Pallet?

The cheapest way to ship a pallet is by using LTL freight services. With flat rate shipping, you can consolidate your shipments to save on shipping costs. Less-than-truckload shipping is commonly used due to its flexibility with product demands as a practical choice for businesses of any size. 

LTL freight shipping can optimize your pallet shipping rates. With Cota Systems™, easily compare rates from various freight carriers vetted by our expert team. Come check out what makes us the best with a guaranteed freight quote and no re-rates ever.

tips to save on pallet shipping cost

Tips to Save on Pallet Shipping Cost

Overall operational efficiency, expenses, and competitiveness in the transportation industry can be improved by learning strategies to save big on pallet shipping. Here are some quick tips on shipping a pallet for freight brokers, shippers, and carriers:

Check Equipment Compatibility

Prior to loading, checking equipment, confirming any special equipment, such as forklifts, and maintaining vehicles through practices like a pre-trip CDL checklist (vital for both carrier industry veterans and new drivers) can work positively for pallet shipping cost. For shippers this prevents delays and extra charges. For drivers, it reduces the chance of unexpected breakdowns and optimizes overall operations. Freight brokers can stay in touch with the shipping facility to address any specific load requirements and any instructions for smooth handling.

Leverage Technology

Use a transportation management system (TMS) to find the best rates and routes while optimizing fuel efficiency. This allows shippers to save on pallet shipping rates, shipment tracking, paperwork management, and the best routes for their shipment. FreightPro™, our shipping management software, provides a streamlined opportunity to connect businesses with certified independent trucking companies to drive future revenue. 

Keep an Eye out for Seasonal Discounts and Offers

For shippers to save on pallet shipping quotes, keep an eye out for seasonal discounts and offers. This is a strategic approach that benefits freight brokers, carriers, and shippers alike. Freight brokers can save by checking and subscribing to newsletters or communication channels from major carriers. They can even attend industry events where promotions are announced. 

Carriers can find opportunities by participating in carrier-hosted webinars while staying connected through communication channels and utilizing insights from freight broker associations. Additionally, shippers can boost their savings by staying informed through carrier subscriptions and attending relevant events with potential promotions. This leaves room for all to achieve mutual benefits.

 tips to save on pallet shipping cost

Take Advantage of Flat Rate Pallet Shipping

Another way to save on pallet shipping costs is by taking advantage of flat rate pallet shipping. Flat rate simplifies costs while making it easier for clients to understand expenses upfront. Shippers can also negotiate with carriers for volume discounts in flat-rate pallet shipping.

Cota Systems™ does the work for shippers, brokers, and carriers - our load board is optimized to allow carriers to fill their trucks, shippers to access vetted carriers through our portal, and brokers to connect the two with pricing that appeases all parties.

Use Pallet Optimization Software

This software can help you plan your loads and improve how you load your pallets. Check out these helpful palletization software tools that make shipping easier:

This tool helps you plan how to load your items onto a pallet more accurately. It also aids in reducing wasted space and arranges your items for better shipping efficiency.

If you want to load your pallets more accurately and use less space, Cube-IQ is the way to go. It streamlines the packing process for different cargo types.

This software is all about creating smart patterns for loading your items. It saves you money by maximizing space and making sure your shipments are stable.

how to plan shipping pallets

Consolidate Shipments

A truck that isn't full, isn't optimized and doesn't benefit anyone involved. Carriers end up with an empty truck and don't utilize space to increase revenue. Shippers spend top dollar on a less than truckload as opposed to combining shipments and minimizing spend. By consolidating shipments, the advantages and pallet shipping cost savings are immense:

Shipper Cost Efficiency: Shippers can either fill a truck with multiple of their own shipments, or share the cost of shipping with a third party. Sending out smaller consolidated shipments also saves warehouse expenses for storage.

Shipper Flexibility: Sharing shipping costs with a third party provides shippers with the flexibility to send out their shipments when needed without concerns over paying for a full truck load when a full truck isn't required.

Carrier Revenue: Filling your truck with separate loads avoids driving with empty space of potential revenue. Earn more money per mile by taking on multiple shipments in one.

Carrier Dead-Heading: Reduce the times you drive back from a shipment with no load. Taking on separate loads on your return trip ensures every mile is accounted for with income.

Optimize Pallet Packaging

For palletization, pack and stack your goods well to use the space wisely. Keep the height under 72 inches for cheaper shipping, especially for smaller loads. If you're a driver, make sure the weight on the pallet is spread out evenly to avoid fines and save on fuel. Smart space management by keeping the height in check and evenly distributing weight helps both shipper and driver through efficiency and increases revenue potential.

Consider Hybrid Shipping Models

You can save money on pallet shipping costs by combining different modes of transportation. For cross nation trips, shipping via rail may become more cost effective. Trucks work well for the first and last parts of the journey. By combining different modes of transportation when possible, shippers can save money although it can increase the complication of the shipping process.

Negotiate with Carriers

Get the best rates and pallet shipping quotes by building strong relationships with carriers and negotiating for better deals. If you ship on a regular basis or in bulk shipments, you can often obtain discounts on the volume. Cota Systems™takes on this process for shippers. We work closely with carriers to secure deals that save you money while building reliable partnerships. Let us handle the negotiations to make your shipping process that much smoother, more efficient, and cost effective.

Carrier On-loading/Off-loading

As a carrier, it’s important to know whether you’re in charge of off-loading or on-loading a shipment during the initial negotiation stages. Preparation is key to optimizing your trips and having the right equipment will be crucial to this fact. Here are a few questions to consider when preparing to take on a shipment:

  1. Will you be in charge of the loading process?
  2. Are you delivering or picking up a shipment from a residential area?
  3. Will there be a lift-gate once you get to a destination?
  4. Is a pallet jack required for the loading process?

If you answered yes to question #1, your safety is paramount. Ensure you have all the tools required to handle the shipment load safely:

1. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment

  • Safety gloves/glasses
  • Steel-toe boots
  • Hard hat
  • High visibility vest or clothing

2. Fall Protection Equipment if working with heights

  • Safety harness
  • Lanyard

3. Lifting Equipment

  • Back support belt
  • Lifting straps or slings

4. Dock Equipment

  • Wheel chocks
  • Dock plates or boards

5. Environmental Equipment

  • Ear protection
  • Respiratory protection such as a mask

6. Emergency Equipment

  • First aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher

7. Work Related Weather Gear

  • Rain gear
  • Warm clothing
safety equipment for pallet shipping loading

Final Words

We've covered everything pallet shipping, including the most essential strategies to attain cost-effective solutions. Palletization is a key factor in efficiency, which is why it's crucial to choose the right type of pallet for your goods. 

We encourage our readers to dig deeper into other topics such as LTL shipping rates, freight quotes and the powerhouse of transportation management software. For those just getting their feet wet in the freight broker world, our freight broker guide offers valuable information. 

Keep in mind that there are many advantages when it comes to palletization as you explore the interconnected world of shipping and trucking logistics.

Brian Smith

I joined Cota Systems to help U.S. truckers grow their businesses. I proudly served in the U.S. Navy, managed some of the largest brands on earth, and I'm excited to share what I've learned with you. Truckers are the backbone of our great nation and when you and your family are thriving, so is America! 🇺🇸

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