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What are the Different Types of Shipping Pallet?

By Keith Koons
Updated May 17, 2024
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Businesses use a number of factors in deciding the best type of shipping pallet to load their products on. For example, while a wooden pallet is relatively inexpensive, it is also prone to splintering or breaking when heavy loads are stacked atop it. A plastic shipping pallet can handle much heavier loads safely, and it tends to outlast other models, but it is also much more expensive. For loading large items that have considerable weight, some companies will have a specialized pallet made from iron, steel, or a number of other materials. Some businesses will also use a rubberized shipping pallet to carry fragile cargo since it provides minor levels of shock absorption.

The most popular type of pallet worldwide is constructed from scrap pieces of plywood, and they are often considered disposable, meaning that manufacturers simply throw them away once they become damaged. A wooden shipping pallet is constructed with two horizontal braces on the outer edges plus a third straight down the middle—numerous vertical slats will align the top and bottom. This design is especially popular because it allows specialized mechanical lifts to easily move the shipping pallet to and from transportation vehicles without damaging the cargo. These types of pallets break easily though, with an average lifespan often of only a few individual loads.

A plastic shipping pallet is molded in a similar pattern, and it can often withstand much more force than conventional designs. Since the outer frame is solid, weight distributes across the top of the shipping pallet much better—the frame also tends to last for several years. Companies that prefer to use a plastic shipping pallet normally do so because their products are much more likely to lose balance during transportation, as in the case of liquids or soft paper and linens.

Other types of shipping pallets are made in thousands of other shapes and sizes, and many of them may only be used once before being disassembled. This process is especially popular with extremely large or heavy items, and without a custom shipping pallet, there would be absolutely no way to load in onto a transportation vehicle. For example, equipment for drilling platforms can easily weight ten times more than the truck or boat carrying it, so a specialized platform to keep it stable is essential. It this case, the pallet may be made from carbon-steel with several layers of rubber applied to increase the grip, and it could be loaded only with the assistance a crane. After the drilling part is delivered, the entire shipping pallet would be melted down so that the materials can be reused.

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