How To Palletize: 9 Tips for Damage-Free Shipping

How To Palletize: 9 Tips for Damage-Free Shipping

Here, we’ll give you some tips on how to palletize your freight to ensure the least damage and the most efficient transport possible.

You may not always think about it, but freight transportation is a larger part of our lives than you may realize. In 2019 alone, freight transportation contributed over $1.2 billion to the GDP of the United States.

Trucks are responsible for moving most products in the freight industry. In fact, of the top 10 freight commodities transported within the United States, trucks transported the largest share of each one.

So it’s safe to say that if you ship freight throughout the country, most of it is transported on a truck. If you’ve been looking into trucking options, you’ve probably thought about using pallets instead of sending your goods as loose freight. While sending freight on pallets is sometimes subject to extra fees, generally, the benefits of palletizing boxes can quite literally outweigh the costs.

Here, we’ll give you some tips for palletizing to ensure your shipment arrives damage-free.

What is a Pallet?

A pallet is a rigid, solid platform that is used to transport freight. Although there’s no official standard pallet size, the 48” x 40“ type is so ubiquitous that it accounts for 35% of all pallets made in the US.

Pallets are popular because they allow for smoother transport, using a forklift or other mechanical means. Their relatively uniform dimensions also make it easier to pack and calculate freight loads.

Why Use a Pallet?

Simply put, utilizing pallets makes packing things more efficient and makes moving things easier once the freight arrives at its destination. If everything you’re trying to ship is a uniform size, it’ll be easier to calculate how much it will cost to transport, and your shipping carrier will be able to fit it into their cargo load more efficiently.

Most importantly, it’s safer for your goods. When items are appropriately packed on pallets, you have less chance of damage, as your items are safely secured and are unlikely to dislodge.

What To Look For in a Pallet

You’ll want to choose a pallet type that is sturdy and reliable. Most pallets are wood or plastic, and you can choose to purchase pallets either new or recycled. Both options have pros and cons. New pallets are more aesthetically pleasing and may last you longer, while recycled pallets are more environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

Plastic pallets, while longer-lasting, may cost up to 3 times as much as wood pallets. While they are lighter in weight, which may be appealing, their slippery nature makes them a bit less stable and tougher to stack. They also don’t hold as much weight - generally only 1,500 pounds.

Wood pallets, on the other hand, hold up to 3,000 pounds but may not be suitable for fragile items, as they can pose the possibility of puncturing. Wood also has more of a fire hazard, if this is a concern to you and the items you may be shipping.

How to Best Pack Your Pallet

Pallets come in different shapes and sizes. Because most pallets are somewhat uniform in terms of square footage, transportation costs will always be determined by volume and weight, since these are the variables in the equation. It is therefore vital to pay attention to how you prepare your pallet for shipping.

Once you’ve decided on what type of pallet you’re going to use to ship your items, here are a few tips on how to pack them.

1. Avoid Overhang

This is the first big “no-no” when it comes to palletizing your freight. You should always ensure that your cargo fits onto the pallet correctly with nothing exceeding the pallet dimensions. 

Remember, your pallet won’t only be transported in the back of a truck. Pallets may be moved around with a forklift, lifted with nets or pulleys, and sometimes by good old-fashioned manual lifting. Any overhang risks being bumped or sideswiped, causing it to become scraped, dented, or broken.

2. Secure Your Cargo

Once the cargo is on the pallet, ensure everything is secure before sending it off for shipping. You can secure the freight with metal straps, stretch wrapping, shrinkwrap, or a combination.

Stretch wrapping film uses elasticity to hold your items together. Shrink-wrapping is similar, except that the film loosely covers your items, and then heat is applied to shrink it to hold the items tightly. The advantage of either of these wrappings is that they protect from moisture and dirt, they’re cost-effective, and since it’s a film, it’s adaptable to all shapes and sizes of cargo.

Strapping, or banding the cargo is another option. This can be done alone or in addition to wrapping for extra security. You should always utilize at least two straps that are properly looped through the pallet and tightened.

3. Stack According to Weight

Make sure the heaviest items are on the bottom of the pallet. This ensures that the more delicate items don’t get crushed and that the pallet load is steadier and less likely to topple or fall over in transit.

4. Use Boxes of the Same Size

This may not be possible for you, depending on what you’re shipping, but using a uniform-sized cardboard box or other containers will help you stack your pallet properly and help you avoid any overhanging items.

Also, it’s best to use a square formation so that your pallet load resembles one giant block when you’re done. Don’t use a pyramid configuration - a cube is much stronger. With a pyramid formation, your top containers are more susceptible to damage if something falls on your pallet. In a cube formation, the force of the impact will be more evenly distributed, usually resulting in less damage.

5. Pack Each Box Properly

In addition to arranging the boxes correctly on the pallet, you will need to make sure that each box is properly packed. Individual packages that are too empty or have unevenly distributed weight can be unstable in your overall pallet structure. Empty space can cause the boxes to crush under pressure.

While palletizing itself can prevent damage, it’s equally important that you pay special care to what is inside each box and that any fragile items have additional protection.

6. Avoid Gaps

Not only should you always try to buy pallets that have the paneling close together to avoid items slipping through or becoming lodged, but you should also try to avoid leaving any gaps as you arrange your freight on the pallet.

If avoiding gaps isn’t possible, try filling the gaps between freight with other materials such as wooden blocks or load bars.

7. Use a No-Slip Mat

Even though you’ll be securing your boxes onto the pallet, putting a no-slip sheet (or “grip sheet”) onto the pallet before you begin loading it is a good idea. No-slip mats are an excellent idea for those using pallets with large gaps between the slats.

8. Use Cardboard Between Boxes

Packing your freight with a layer of cardboard between each level of boxes helps stabilize the structure as a whole. Again, even though you’ll be securing it with wrap and/or straps, you’ll want to reduce any potential for objects on the pallet to slide around in transit.

9. Label Your Freight

Even though you’ve taken all the precautions at this point and packed your pallet carefully, it’s still worth taking the extra step and labeling your cargo. It’s generally recommended that you label your pallet as a whole and the individual freight containers. That way, should your pallet be unfortunate enough to fall apart or otherwise damaged, your cargo can still be identified.

Next Steps

Some carriers, like Coastal Cartage, offer palletizing services to ensure all of the proper steps have been taken. And being local to Southern California, we are familiar with the roads and routes of the area that can’t always be replicated with GPS systems - so you can rest assured that your shipment will arrive quickly and safely.

Contact us today to get a quote for your shipping needs.

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