How to Choose the Right Pallet Size for Your Shipping Needs

9 May 2019 | Road & Transport

According to the Freedonia Group, there are now over four billion pallets in use across the globe.

International shipping accounts for 90% of the world’s trade. Much of that trade requires palletisation.

The pallets used in shipping come in a vast array of different sizes and materials. This can often make it difficult to choose the right pallet size for distribution of your product.

While there have been gains towards standardizing pallet sizes, unfortunately, we have not reached a point yet where it is completely straightforward. 

Below are some tips for helping you choose the right pallet. 

Types of Pallets

Wooden, plastic and aluminium pallets are the three types of pallets. Wooden pallets are the most commonly used pallets worldwide.

Wooden Pallets

There are two main types of wooden pallets: stringer pallets and block pallets.

Both types are made using deckboards (the pieces of wood on the top part of the pallet) and stringers (the pieces of wood that separate the deckboards from the base of the pallets).

Stringer pallets are made for lighter loads. They are loaded by putting the forklifts under the deckboards of the pallet.

Block pallets, on the other hand, can carry more weight. Block pallets take more wood to build and they are lifted by the forklift sliding into the stringers. 

Stringer pallets are also called two-way pallets because they provide for forklift loading access on two sides. Block pallets are four-way pallets and allow access from all four sides.

Wooden pallets are the least expensive pallets. They can be repaired when damaged and they are easily recyclable. 

On the downside, they can splinter and their fasteners can catch on your products. They can also absorb and release moisture. In addition, they can harbour bugs and are not easily cleaned.

Plastic Pallets

A standard plastic pallet can be used for shipping loads under 680 kg/1,500 pounds.

Plastic pallets are three times more expensive than wooden pallets, but they have features that may be worth their price:

  • They can be cleaned 
  • They are bug-free
  • They do not have fasteners (which can get caught on your goods)

On the downside, they are not easily recyclable nor can they be repaired when damaged.

Aluminium Pallets

Aluminium pallets are the most expensive type of pallet. They are lightweight, easily cleaned, and resistant to both heat and cold. 

Things to Consider When Choosing Pallet Size

Consider the path your pallet will be travelling and who it will be going to.

Things like knowing your pallet will have to get through a normal-sized door at the recipient’s destination is good to know in advance.

When purchasing pallets, the pallets will be described with two numbers. The first number refers to the stringer length and the second number refers to the deckboard length.  

Where Will You Be Shipping Your Pallet?

Where you will be shipping your pallet to will play a role in the size and type of pallet you should use. 

Also, check with your intended recipient to determine if they have a preferred size.

Does Your Destination Have a Standard Size?

When your pallet arrives at points along the destination route, you do not want them delayed because they do not conform to the preferred sizes.

For Shipping to the UK and Europe Destinations

The most commonly used pallet in the UK and Europe is the EURO pallet, which measures 800 x 1200 x 120 mm.

The standard UK shipping pallet is 1200 x 1000 mm, but this size is not universally accepted across all EU countries.

The above said, the International Organisation for Standardization has sanctioned some pallets sizes. In both the UK and the EU, the three most commonly used of these pallets are as follows:

  • 1000 x 1220 mm (39.37 x 47.24 inches) 
  • 1067 x 1067 mm (42.00 x 42.00 inches)  
  • 800 x 1200 mm (31.50 x 47.24 inches)

For Shipping to the United States or Canada

When shipping to North America, what you are shipping can help you determine which size pallet to choose.

The most commonly used pallet size in the United States is the Grocery Market Association’s pallet size. Its size is 48 inches by 40 inches. So if you are shipping products to a supermarket or big box store, this pallet size is the one to choose.

Other industries use a preferred size. After the GMA pallet, the next three most commonly used sizes are: 

  • 1067 x 1067 mm (42 x 42 inches) for telecommunications and paint
  • 1219 x 1219 mm (48 x 48 inches) for drums
  • 1219 x 1016 mm (48 x 40 inches) for military and cement

Does Your Destination Require Pallets to Be Heat Treated?

Many countries outside the EU require pallets to be heat treated before shipping. The United Nations has a list of the countries who require pallets meeting ISPM 15 requirements. So if you are shipping to one of these countries, you need to make sure you use ISPM 15 pallets.

When shipping from the UK/EU to the UK/EU, pallets are not required to be heat treated. 

Buying New Pallets Versus Used Pallets

When trying to decide whether you want to buy your pallets new or used, consider the following differences:

  • Used pallets will cost you less money
  • Used pallets may be of diminished quality
  • Used pallets may have been refurbished to almost new quality, but they could also be less sturdy than new pallets
  • New pallets can be built to the requirements you need
  • There may be a delay if you have to order pallets specially made 

If you decide to purchase your pallets used, be sure to inspect them to make sure they meet your quality needs. What you consider good quality may vary from what the seller deems good quality.

Let Us Help You With Your Logistics  

When it comes to getting your products and merchandise to where it needs to go, choosing the right pallet size is only one of the decisions to make.

Having an experienced company who understands logistics and efficient supply chain operations can help you get your products there faster and with less hassle.

If you need any further information about shipping, please contact LTS Global Solutions today. We can help you ship your goods anywhere in the world.


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