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What are Heat Treated Pallets?

Jeri Sullivan
Jeri Sullivan

Heat treated pallets are a type of wood pallet used to transport goods. They are specially treated to prevent insects or fungi from being transported by the wood pallet from one location to another. A pallet is a frame constructed of wood that has slats across the top. The wooden slats are spaced with approximately one inch (2.5 cm) between each slat so the weight of the goods placed on top of the pallet can be evenly distributed and prevent the slats from bowing.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) governs the size of wooden shipping pallets and there are six globally accepted sizes. Most shipping companies require pallets to conform to these ISO sizes so they can fit into trucks and ocean containers without wasting too much space. Standard pallet configurations also work best with forklifts since most forklifts were designed to accommodate standard pallets.

All wooden pallets used on container ships must be heat treated to meet international standards.
All wooden pallets used on container ships must be heat treated to meet international standards.

Traditionally, a wooden pallet is made of two by four lumber and may or may not be treated. In 2002, members of the United Nations signed a treaty during the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) that required wood packaging such as export pallets to be heat treated or fumigated. The purpose of heat treated pallets is to prevent insect or fungi infestations from being transmitted via wood packing materials since shipping pallets often are sent from country to country. If heat treated pallets are not used, the shipper may be subject to fines and its product seized for destruction.

Pallets treated by heat or fumigation are stamped with a certification which reduces the chance the shipment will be delayed in customs. Heat treated pallets must be certified using ISPM 15 heat treating requirements. These requirements, which were developed as a result of the IPPC treaty, provide guidelines on how companies make heat treated pallets. Though this requirement strictly governs only international shipments, many companies have moved to only heat treated pallets for consistency.

To create a heat treated pallet, the wood must be heated to at least 132.8 degrees Fahrenheit or 56 degrees Celsius. Before heating, wood used in pallets must also be debarked so only the core wood is used to make the pallet. The heat process removes some of the moisture from the wood, which also makes it more weather-resistant and less likely to rot. Once the drying process is complete, a seal bearing the ISPM mark along with the originating country is imprinted onto the pallet.

Discussion Comments


This is the first that I have heard of heat treated wooden pallets, but it makes sense when you think about all the materials that are transported from country to country.

I am very familiar with working with pallets, as we use them in our business. We raise honeybees and transport them every year to California for almond pollination.

The easiest way to do this is to have 4 beehives all on one pallet. It is much easier to move a pallet of bees with a skid loader than trying to move everyone of them by hand.

For our purposes, heat treated pallets wouldn't be necessary, except you would have less chance of the wood rotting over time.

I am sure that using heat treated pallets is more expensive than not treating the wood, but for those exporting products over seas, it would be beneficial in the long run, and would be required in some instances.

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    • All wooden pallets used on container ships must be heat treated to meet international standards.
      By: gwen0
      All wooden pallets used on container ships must be heat treated to meet international standards.