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Pallet delivery - what is a pallet?
Pallet delivery – what is a pallet?

The pallet has revolutionized the way cargo is transported worldwide. Shipping and pallet delivery are services that all freight forwarding companies provide on a daily basis.But where did pallets come from? and who decided the sizes?

When we ask a customer for the dimensions of a pallet, we are often told it’s ‘a standard pallet size’.

Pallets come in widely varying sizes, shapes and configurations, and vary depending on the use.

The words pallet, palletising and palletisation are now everyday terms in the shipping industry – but where did it all start, and what are the different types of pallet?

Where did the standard pallet size come from?

Pallets were first being used in the 19th century when they were made bespoke to the type of goods that were being moved. When the war came, the armed services faced a larger volume of material to move than had ever existed previously. Studies were made by the armed forces, and standardisation of pallet sizes were agreed. The 48″ X 48″ size pallet was originally chosen because of the size of the majority of the items that were being transported, and also because it would fit into standard 8’ 6” and 9’ 2” railway box cars.

When did the Euro pallet come into use and why is it smaller?

After the war, and with the development of the fork lift truck, the practices at port facilities were changing as manual labour jobs were replaced by automation. In 1961, the International Union of railways took the initiative to sign an agreement on the use of ‘standardised and exchangeable pallets’ among railways. It was said that the Euro-pallet made possible to load rail road cars in just 10% of the time of earlier loading processes. The greatest investment needed for economical pallet use was in the construction of commercial or industrial buildings. Passage through doors and buildings had to be possible. So Euro pallets were designed to pass through standard doorways.

Pallet delivery in shipping and transport today

A pallet (sometimes called a skid) is a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by fork lift and pallet trucks. A pallet is the structural foundation of a unit load, which allows handling and storage efficiencies. Goods or shipping containers are often placed on a pallet, secured with strapping, banding, stretch wrap or shrink wrap, and shipped.

Containerization for transport has spurred the use of pallets, because the shipping containers have the smooth, level surfaces needed for easy pallet movement. Most pallets can easily carry a load of 1000 kgs. Today, over half a billion pallets are made each year. Pallets make it easier to move heavy stacks. Loads with pallets under them can be hauled by forklift trucks of different sizes, or even by hand-pumped and hand-drawn pallet trucks. Movement is easy on a wide, strong, flat floor: concrete is excellent.

Organizations using standard pallets for loading and unloading can have much lower costs for handling and storage, with faster material movement than businesses that do not.

The lack of a single international standard for pallets causes substantial continuing expense in international trade. A single standard is difficult because of the wide variety of needs a standard pallet would have to satisfy: passing doorways, fitting in standard containers, and bringing low labour costs.

Due to cost and a need to focus on core business, pallet pooling becomes more and more common. Some pallet suppliers provide users with reusable pallets, sometimes with integral tracking devices. A pallet management company can help supply, clean, repair, and reuse pallets.

What is the difference in pallet materials?

Like many things, different pallets have different uses depending on the commodity in your pallet delivery.

The cheapest pallets are made of softwood and are often considered expendable, to be discarded with other wrapping elements at the end of the trip. These pallets are simple stringer pallets, and liftable from two sides.

Slightly more complex hardwood block pallets, plastic pallets and metal pallets can be lifted from all four sides. These costlier pallets usually require a deposit and are returned to the sender or resold as used. Many “four way” pallets are color coded according to the loads they can bear, and other attributes.

Wooden pallet construction specifications can depend on the pallet’s intended use: general, FDA, storage, chemical, export; the expected load weight; type of wood desired: recycled, hard, soft, kiln dried or combo (new & recycle); and even the type of fasteners desired to hold the pallet together: staples or nails.

Paper pallets are often used for light loads, but engineered paper pallets are increasingly used for loads that compare with wood. Paper pallets are also used where recycling and easy disposal is important.

Plastic pallets are often made of new HDPE or recycled PET (drink bottles). They are usually extremely durable, lasting for a hundred trips or more and resist weathering, rot, chemicals and corrosion. They often stack. Plastic pallets are exempt by inspection for biosafety concerns, and easily sanitize for international shipping. HDPE is impervious to most acids, and toxic chemicals clean from them more easily. Some plastic pallets can collapse if used to store heavy loads for long periods. Plastic pallets cannot easily be repaired, and can be ten times as expensive as hardwood, so they are often used by logistics service providers who can profit from their durability and stackability.

Steel pallets are strong and are used for heavy loads, high-stacking loads, long term dry storage, and loads moved by abusive logistic systems. They are often used for military ammunition. Metal pallets make up less than 1% of the market. Long term costs, however, can be lower than wood. General advantages of metal pallets are high strength and stiffness, excellent durability, bug free, no splinters, sanitary, and recyclable. Primary industries that use metal pallets include automotive, pharmaceutical, lawn tractors, motorcycles, and tyres.

Aluminum pallets are stronger than wood or plastic, lighter than steel, and resist weather, rotting and corrosion. They are sometimes used for air-freight, long-term outdoor or at-sea storage, or military transport.

Pallet delivery in overseas shipping by air and sea freight

Due to cross contamination of species of insects and plant diseases, many countries have strict regulations on the material of pallets crossing their borders. The standards for these pallets are specified in regulations called “ISPM 15”.

To avoid extra pallet delivery costs in delays and fumigation exporters should be aware that these ISPM15 regulations will effect exporters shipping cargo to –

Argentina * Australia * Bolivia * Brazil * Canada * Chile * China * Colombia * Costa Rica  Cuba Dominican Republic  Ecuador  Egypt  Guyana Guatemala * Honduras * India *  Indonesia * Israel * Jamaica * Japan * Jordan * Republic of Korea * Lebanon * Malaysia * Mexico * New Zealand * Nicaragua * Nigeria * Norway * Oman * Paraguay * Peru * Phillipines Russia * Seychelles * South Africa * Sri Lanka * Syria * Taiwan * Turkey * Ukraine * USA

Pallets made of raw, untreated wood are not compliant with ISPM 15. To be compliant the pallets (or other wood packaging material) must meet debarked standards, and must be treated by either of the following means under the supervision of an approved agency:

• Heat treatment. The wood must be heated to achieve a minimum core temperature of 56 °C (132.8 °F) for at least 30 minutes. Pallets treated via this method bear the initials HT near the IPPC logo.

• Chemical fumigation. The wood must be fumigated with methyl bromide. Pallets treated via this method bear the initials MB near the IPPC logo.

Treated wood pallets must be stamped on two opposite sides, indicating either HT for heat treated or MB for methyl bromide treatment.

Pallets made of non-wood materials such as steel, aluminum, plastic, or engineered wood products such as plywood, oriented strand board, or corrugated fibreboard, do not need IPPC approval, and are considered to be exempt from ISPM 15 regulations.

Barrington Freight are experts in worldwide pallet delivery. If you require advice on pallet delivery, export packing, pallet types or where to purchase pallets, our MD Matt Everard will be happy to advise.

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