Everything About Shipping Pallets

Shipping Pallet


Shipping Pallets are the unsung hero of the logistics supply chain. A wooden pallet allows faster cargo loading and unloading. It is because of the shipping pallets that a cargo forklift becomes a versatile tool to move cargo over a short distance.

In this article, we will look into shipping pallets and help cargo owners and transporters comprehend the full capabilities and capacities of shipping pallets. A better understanding of the use of a shipping pallet will make the supply chain process smoother and more efficient.

Shipping Pallets Details

Shipping Pallet Size

The four most common shipping pallet sizes are listed in the table below: –

TypeSize (mm)Size (in)
Euro Size1200mm x 800mm47.2in x 31.5in
Finnish Size1200mm x 1000mm47.2in x 39.4in
GMA Size
(Grocery Manufacturing Association) or USA Size
1219mm x 1016mm48.0in x 40.0in
Australian Size1165mm x 1165mm45.9in x 45.9in

This means that shipping pallets come in all shapes and sizes. All the sizes above are adherent to the ISO Certified. With the largest-sized pallets coming in at 1016mm x 2019mm or 40in x 48in.

The main reason shipping pallets are ISO certified is to ensure that the pallets are compatible with forklifts used all around the world. Similar to shipping containers, there is no point in using a shipping pallet if the importer is unable to unload the cargo with their forklifts.

There is a big difference as well in what sizes of pallet is used for container loading. A larger sized pallet guarantees more use of the spaces in the shipping container, but it also makes cargo loading and unloading more complicated as there is a lesser margin of error or space between the pallets for forklift operators to operate in.

Photo by ELEVATE from Pexels

With experience, the exporter and importer will be able to pick what size of shipping pallet is suitable for the goods. And more importantly, suitable for the process of cargo unloading by the importers as well.

Types of Shipping Pallets

Here are the main types of shipping pallets used in logistics. Technically, there is only one type of shipping pallet, and it only serves the purpose of cargo shipping. The types of pallets we are referring to are the materials used to build a shipping pallet.

Based on Raw Material

Wooden Pallets

Wooden Shipping Pallets

Softwoods – Softwoods are by no means, soft. The same description goes for hardwoods, as they are not always hard. Softwoods are commonly used as materials for wooden pallets for its relative pliability comparing to other woods, its lighter weight, and lower costs. Commonly used softwood for making shipping pallets are pinewoods.

Hardwood – Hardwoods, as compared to softwoods, are an alternative material used for making wooden pallets, but due to its higher cost, the industry normally uses softwood instead. The key benefit of using hardwood is its resistance to fire.

Technical Wood – Technical wood is also known as compressed wood. It is a good alternative to other types of wood to build a wooden pallet because a compressed wood is less likely to rot or decay over time. This means that pallets made from technical wood are generally longer lasting.

Plastic Shipping Pallets

Plastic Shipping Pallets

Plastic Pallets are made from HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene). It is the same material used for a wide variety of plastic products ranging from plastic bags to play toys.

On paper, the plastic pallet is the perfect substitute to a wooden pallet.

  1. It is non-porous, which means that it does not absorb moisture like wood,
  2. It is cleaner, suitable for perishable foodstuff transport,
  3. It does not require fumigation or pest elimination,
  4. It is more durable than wooden pallets; And
  5. It has a higher consistency level as compared to wooden pallets

All the above-mentioned feature makes the plastic pallet longer lasting with a higher lifecycle.

However, wooden pallets are still predominantly used compared to plastic pallets.

The three main reason wooden pallets are not replaced entirely in the industry is due to: –

  1. Disposability
  2. Cost
  3. Environmental Concern

Disposability and low costs come together as a benefit of using wooden pallets. The flow of goods goes one way only: from the exporter to the importer.

This means that the exporter is burdened with supplying the pallets, whereas the importer is burdened with the disposing of the pallets.

 If we factor in the cost of using a plastic pallet, which is 3 times higher than a wooden pallet, not all industries are suited for adopting plastic pallets.

The environmental impact of producing a plastic pallet is also a cause for concern, and rightfully so. Even with more suppliers using recycled HDPE plastics, the process of sorting and processing recycled plastic remains a global issue. Interestingly, recycled HDPE plastics are, by nature, has high price volatility. This makes the production of plastic pallets more problematic.

Cardboard/Paper Shipping Pallets

Corrugated Pallets, Cardboard Pallets or Paper Pallets, all refers to the same type of pallet. They are all made of corrugated paper, like boxes.

The paper pallets are, in fact, water resistant. It is covered by a layer of laminate.

When it comes to cost. A paper pallet and wood pallet are almost similar, it is hard to have a definite price as all pallets have different sizes, features, and specifications.

Among all the types of pallet, it is the lightest of all. This may be an important factor to certain shipment.

The paper pallet retains its strength from layering boxes across different axes. The more the layering, the more durable the pallets are. With smart engineering, some paper pallets can carry up to four times the weight of a wooden pallet.

Pallet Construction Type

Pallets are commonly structured in two ways:

  1. Stringer Pallets
  2. Block Pallets

Stringer Pallets are continuous, longitudinal, solid, built up, or notched beam components of a pallet, supporting and spacing deck components, often identified by its location as an edge (side) or interior (center) stringer.

Block Pallets are rectangular, square, multisided, or cylindrical deck spacer, often identified by its location within the pallet as corner block, end block, edge block, inner block, or center or middle block.

There are pros and cons for each type of pallet build. We will display those benefits in a neat table for the ease of the readers.

Phytosanitary Requirements of Shipping Pallets (IPSM 15)

According to the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), all participating countries must adhere to strict phytosanitary requirements for all wooden materials. The certification ensures that all raw materials are free from pests that are damaging to local environments.

Since most shipping pallets are made of wood, the wooden pallets are not excluded from that phytosanitary requirement. Moreover, with over 180 participating nations of the UN, it is almost guaranteed the importing countries has the same phytosanitary requirements as well.

As importers and exporters, if you are looking to purchase wooden pallets either for your supply chain use or for export loading, it is important to ensure that the wooden pallets used to export are certified and treated.

The signs of a treated wooden pallets are: –

  1. To look for IPPC logos
  2. The two letter US abbreviation
  3. Unique number assigned by inspecting agency to the facility
  4. HT or MB abbreviation

HT abbreviation refers to “Heat Treatment” on the wood.

MB abbreviation means that the wood is treated with fumigation (Methyl Bromide).

The image above should be marked on the pallets.

The importance of pest free woods is also an emphasis for the transportation of perishable good, mainly foodstuffs such as cocoa beans or soybeans. The pests living in the wooden pallets may damage the valuable load.

The alternative that allows cargo owners to use untreated wood as materials for making wooden pallets is to fumigate the entire container altogether.

However, the process is long as it requires an additional 24 hours quarantine time.

Additional Reading: What is Phytosanitary Certificate

Selecting the Right Type of Shipping Pallets for your Cargo

Price and Load Capacity

These are the general price range for each types of pallets and its load capacity. We omitted the outliers in this table of example. For example, a hybrid paper pallet can load up to 3 times more than wooden pallet, but generally costs more than wooden pallets

This serves as a general guide for decision makers.

Pallet MaterialPrice Range (USD)Load Capacity (kgs/lbs)
Wooden PalletUSD 3.00 – USD 15.00 per palletAverage 1 Ton per pallet (2205lbs)
Plastic PalletUSD 20.00 – USD 42.00 per palletAverage 1.2 Ton per pallet (2650lbs)
Corrugated Paper PalletUSD 5.00 – USD 30.00 per palletAverage 0.5 Ton per pallet (1102.5lbs)

Pallet Life Cycle

Once again, there are many variables to consider when it comes to determining a pallet’s lifecycle. We based our findings on a study made by Deviatkin and Co (2019).

We also reason that corrugated paper pallets are generally designed for one-time use.

The most important factor that was not taken into consideration is the shipping pallet’s management. Some companies deliberately use the pallets once, some actively buy and sell used pallets and some lease pallets from an outsourced company.

The lifecycle table below are just a general guide for the readers.  

Pallet TypeLifecycle
Wooden PalletAverage 1.5 trips
Plastic PalletsAverage 110 trips
Paper PalletsAverage 1.0 trips


With this article, we hope you have achieved some level of comprehension about the main types of shipping pallets for your supply chain use. If you reached this sentence, we thank you for dropping by.



Wooden and Plastic Pallets: A Review of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Studies – Ivan Deviatkin et. al. (2019)


Hello! I'm Kelvin, I work as a custom broker and I'm thrilled with having the experience to share my industry knowledge with you. I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I do posting them.

2 thoughts on “Everything About Shipping Pallets

  1. I like how you mentioned that faster cargo unloading and loading can be attributed to wooden pallets. The operations director of the warehouse I work in is thinking of looking for an industrial materials supplier because he noticed the other day that we’re constantly running out of pallets which slows down our production. It seems like a good idea for the director to think about hiring a reputable supplier that has the equipment we need to be able to constantly ship our products so our customers can be satisfied.

  2. It really stood out to me when this article mentioned that wooden pallets are used more often than plastic ones because they are cheaper and easier to dispose of. As far as I know, pallets are often used when shipping things because they offer a sturdy base to place multiple products on. It seems like companies would be able to save money on shipping if they are able to put a lot of things on one pallet. https://www.palletworks.net.au/

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