Do’s and Don’ts of Palletizing


In freight shipping, pallets are the piece of the puzzle that make the process a lot smoother for everyone involved. One crucial benefit of pallets is reducing loading and unloading time. In addition, proper palletization can do a lot for a shipment, especially preventing costly freight damage during transit. To help ensure that you don't have to deal with the nightmare of freight damage, we will cover some essential tips to palletize your boxes correctly and the dos and don'ts for palletized freight.

What is a pallet?

A pallet is a shipping tool, usually made of wood or plastic, used for stacking and packing freight. Palletizing may seem like a simple task of stacking boxes in the correct order but doing this without the proper skills and knowledge can cause freight damage. Improper palletizing can lead to 50% of boxes' compression strength loss. We've created a practical palletizing guide to help you with shipment consolidation.

Standard pallet size & dimensions

The dimensions of the standard wood pallet are 48" x 40". The less common pallet dimensions are 42" x 42" and 48" x 48" respectively. It is important to know which size pallet will work best for your shipment to ensure you can communicate your needs to your carrier or freight broker.

Weight of a pallet

Pallet weight can differ, but standard pallets weigh around 30-48 lbs. on average. In addition, pallet weight can also depend on the type of pallet itself. According to Greenway Products & Services, a traditional wooden pallet typically weighs around 50 lbs. A standard plastic pallet usually weighs about 15 lbs. Therefore, a standard pallet can hold up to 4,600 lbs. freight. A traditional wooden pallet can hold up to 3,000 lbs. A typical plastic pallet can withstand 1,500 lbs.

What is palletizing?

Palletizing is the process of storing, transporting, and or placing items on pallets to ship them from one destination to another. When you're shipping boxes, it's essential to have your packages palletized when sending large amounts of materials. In transit, it's the fastest and most efficient way to store items. You must do everything correctly for the pallet to be picked up and shipped out. 

How to Palletize Freight: Do's & Don'ts

DO: Use a slip sheet

A slip sheet is a plastic sheet used to protect cargo on the bottom of the pallet. On wooden pallets, spaces between decks can be up to 4 inches, which results in no support under the boxes. To avoid compression strength deprivation, use slip sheets to cover the bottom of the pallet.

DO: Stack your boxes by weight

Create a stable base layer by placing the heaviest boxes on the bottom of the pallet. The top layer should be packed for steadiness, but if there are not enough boxes to fully stack a pallet, place the last few along the outside edge.

DO: Stack your freight in columns

For better stability, stack boxes in columns with one package directly over the other. Placing items close together will help reduce the danger of damage. There are various patterns for stacking your items on a pallet:

  • Block stacking - the simplest way to stack your freight. In this pattern, pallets are placed on the floor and then items are stacked until the maximum has been reached. As mentioned above, there are different maximums for each pallet type.  
  • Column stacking – this consists of using the same pattern from the bottom to the top of the pallet. Your freight is stacked right on top of each other all the way to the top.
  • Brick stacking - this makes sure that the freight is locked together on the pallet. The heavier items go on the bottom and the lighter ones on top, as bricks would be stacked.

DO: Strap in your freight for extra safety

One of your top priorities should be strapping your items for a safe and secure shipment. Use metal strapping or plastic wrap to secure individual pieces over 150 lbs. to the pallet. Keep banding and straps close to the load to minimize damage.  

DO: Use stretch wrap

Putting boxes into columns can make the load sensitive to shifting. The best solution to this problem is to use a stretch wrap. You can apply stretch wrap manually or with the help of a wrapping machine, depending on your available resources. Plastic stretch wrap is one of the best ways to keep your items together since it can cling tightly and support a large amount of weight.

DO: Label your freight

For correct palletizing, print a visual reminder of proper pallet patterns and place it on the container or provide it to the staff. Also, don't forget to label all shipment pallets with an address and phone number. In addition to labels, it's essential to know the exact services your items require. For example, if you are shipping hazardous materials, attach any hazmat labels needed.

DON’T: Stack your freight in a pyramid

Pyramid-shaped loads may appear to be stable, but it is a less secure and less steady form of palletizing. The top boxes in a pyramid have a high risk of damage. Don't build pyramids.

DON’T: Neglect wide gaps

Some wooden pallets have wide gaps between boards, around 4 inches. When you bridge this gap with a box, you create an overhang situation that reduces a box's compression resistance potential. Misaligned stacks are equally as bad as wide gaps, so it's essential to check that each stack forms a solid and stable block.

DON’T: Interlock boxes

According to Packaging Digest, interlocking can reduce strength by 50 percent and lead to freight damage. Since 2/3 of potential compression strength is in vertical edges and corners, it is essential to stack boxes edge-to-edge and corner-to-corner.

DON’T: Create an overhang

Overhang happens when boxes are hanging over the edge of the pallet. When this happens, two edges of the box that are not hanging get all the work for load support. Overhanging exposes freight to damage and decreases a pallet's strength.

DO: Partner with a 3PL

Partnering with a leading third-party logistics (3PL) provider like PLS Logistics can reduce shipping costs while improving productivity. In addition, we can take the headache out of freight shipping. With 55,000 carriers, we guarantee trucking capacity when you need it. We can also assist with freight insurance. So, if you want to protect your freight at an affordable rate, contact us to request a freight quote today!

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