The Freight Shipper’s Guide to Standard Pallet Size & Dimensions

The Freight Shipper’s Guide to Standard Pallet Size & Dimensions

Freight shipping is an aggressively standardized process, so problems with proper pallet sizes can create issues. Here are the things you should know.

Freight shipping is an aggressively standardized process, so problems with pallet sizes or dimensions can get things left behind. 

Here, we’ll go over some things you should know about the sizes and dimensions for pallet shipping.

What Is the Standard Pallet Size?

While there are no universal pallet sizes, several are much more common than others. Several industries have their own pallet sizes based on expected needs, so this will often determine the best option for your business. 

Pallet height and pallet weight vary depending on the type, but most are no more than three inches tall. Let’s dive deeper.

#1: 48x40 GMA Pallets (Grocery, Others)

The most common size is the 48x40” design for GMA pallets, which account for almost one-third of all pallets currently in use. The name comes from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (now the Consumer Brands Association), which set many of the early pallet sizes to help maximize product storage and transportation.

GMA pallets have boards that are about 3.25” wide and .31” thick. Built correctly, a GMA pallet can hold about 4600 lbs safely, making it versatile enough for many commercial sectors.

#2: 42x42 Telecommunications/Paint Pallets

Telecom pallets are perfectly square, a little wider, and somewhat less long than GMA pallets. These fit a little more evenly in rows while allowing some space for padding between each pallet. That’s useful when transporting sensitive electronics and other gear that can’t handle shaking or impacts, as well as typical grocery pallets.

#3: 48x48 Drum Pallets

Drum pallets are the largest regular pallet in use, built to hold four 55-gallon drums. These are the standard pallet size of choice for shipping oil, chemicals, and other hazardous materials. Notably, they have two stringers in the center instead of one to make them more rigid, and most have two-way loading for forklifts.

#4: 48x40 Military Pallets

Military pallets invert the GMA pallet size to be long instead of wide. They’re not interchangeable because the areas for forklifts to grab and lift things can vary. This pallet is designed with air cargo in mind, and especially how easy it is to get things on or off military air lifters.

A military pallet is almost always a 463L cargo pallet, which has a corrosion-resistant aluminum exterior and aluminum rails to meet military standards for durability. They can hold up to 10,000 lbs comfortably, which is more than twice the capacity of a regular GMA pallet.

#5: 48x42 Chemical Pallets

Chemical pallets are another option for transporting chemicals. This can include dry and solid chemicals, which fit better into rectangular containers than liquid chemicals that require drums. These are also useful for some types of beverages.

#6: 40x40 Dairy Pallets

Dairy pallets are relatively small square pallets. Unlike most of the options above, which use wood, dairy pallets are typically plastic. Plastic makes them reasonably sturdy, but any serious damage means you need to scrap the entire pallet.

Dairy pallets are also useful for transporting other food products. Wood pallets rarely meet food safety requirements, so plastic is the lightweight and affordable alternative. Metal is usually too heavy for this purpose.

#7: 48x45 Automotive Pallets

Automotive industries have a somewhat irregular pallet size, with one side ending in an odd digit instead of an even one. Like dairy pallets, these are usually plastic and built to last for over one hundred trips.

Automotive pallets use chemical-resistant plastics to help deal with the possibility of chemical spills from automotive parts. They’re also relatively easy to clean and sanitize, which makes them suitable for international shipping. Finally, plastic is lighter than wood, which means they often cost less to ship overseas than wood pallets.

The drawback is that plastic pallets are significantly more expensive than wood. However, the industry considers this an acceptable tradeoff for durability and reliability, especially when international shipping is so expensive.

#8: 44x44 Drum Pallets

44” drum pallets are a slightly smaller version of the 48” option above. These are fundamentally similar to their larger cousins but mostly useful for transporting smaller drums and lighter chemicals. 55-gallon chemical drums are largely standardized, so these pallets don’t see nearly as much use.

Special: 35x45.5 Military Pallet

The 35” military pallet is a slight outlier in the pallet world, but you may need to use it to ship some products. Its size comes from designing it to fit comfortably through a 36” door, which is one of the most common door sizes in the world. This sizing makes it easy to bring this pallet through most buildings, whereas most other pallets need to be unloaded.

Special: 48x20 Retail Pallet

This pallet is half the size of a traditional GMA pallet. Many stores don’t need a full pallet of certain products, so halving the size makes it easy to send exactly what a retail store needs and make more efficient use of space.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions that people have about pallets.

What Are Pallets Made Of?

Most pallets are made of wood, metal, or plastic. Some pallets, like military pallets, may use several materials.

Wood is the “regular” material. It has medium weight and excellent durability, but it’s somewhat vulnerable to damage and rot, especially when going through moist areas.

Metal is considered the premium material. It’s heavier than the other options, so it takes more fuel (and therefore money) to ship, but it’s also significantly more durable. A well-made metal pallet can last almost indefinitely.

Plastic is lighter than the other materials and still relatively durable. It’s not as cheap as wood but is often the only way to meet sanitation requirements for transporting certain goods affordably. This material resists most chemicals and corrosion, so it’s also helpful for the industries mentioned above.

How Long Do Pallets Last?

A pallet’s lifespan depends on its material. While a wood pallet typically lasts between three and five years, plastic pallets can last as much as ten years. Metal pallets have no fixed lifespan as long as they’re not overloaded.

Get the Pallets You Need

You can learn how to palletize here to decrease the odds of damaging your goods. Or, for a worry-free solution, you can trust the experts at Coastal Cartage to be your one-stop provider for palletized transportation and other delivery needs throughout Southern California.

Read more

Get Quote

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Take the coastal route

Site by BOundary

coastal cartage, llc