Palletizing in Transportation: Do’s and Don’ts


Time is money, and palletizing your freight is crucial to reduce loading and unloading time and prevent costly freight damage during transit. Not to mention that you must pack everything correctly for the pallet to be picked up and shipped. 

To help ensure that you don’t have to deal with a stronger likelihood of freight damage, here are some tips for palletizing your boxes correctly and the dos and don’ts for palletized freight. 

What is a shipping 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, but improperly stacking can cause freight damage. Improper palletizing can lead to 50% of boxes’ compression strength loss. Here is 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″. However, there are less common pallet dimensions, such as those that are 42″ x 42″ and 48″ x 48″ respectively. Knowing which size pallet will work best for your shipment is an important first step. It will allow you to effectively communicate your shipping needs to your carrier or freight broker. 

How much can a pallet hold? 

Most standard pallets can hold up to 4,600 lbs. of freight when properly packed. A traditional wooden pallet can hold up to 3,000 lbs. A plastic pallet can withstand 1,500 lbs. (standard pallets weigh, on average, between 30 – 50 lbs., while a standard plastic pallet usually weighs about 15 lbs.) 

What is palletizing in transportation? 

Palletizing in transportation is the process of storing, transporting, and or placing items on pallets to ship them from one destination to another. When shipping boxes, it’s essential to palletize, especially when sending large amounts of materials. In transit, it’s the fastest and most efficient way to store items. Remember, you must do everything correctly for the pallet to be picked up and shipped. 

Palletizing in transportation: Do’s 

Use a slip sheet 

A slip sheet is a plastic sheet to protect cargo on the bottom of the pallet. With most wooden pallets, spaces between decks can be up to 4 inches, meaning a lack of, or no support, under the boxes. To avoid compression strength deprivation, use slip sheets to cover the bottom of the pallet. 

Stack your boxes by weight. 

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

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, you place pallets on the floor and stack items until you hit the maximum weight. As mentioned above, there are different maximums for each pallet type. 
  • Column stacking uses the same pattern from the bottom to the top of the pallet. Your freight is stacked right on top of each other to the top. 
  • Brick stacking ensures that the freight locks together on the pallet. The heavier items go on the bottom, and the lighter ones on top, as bricks would be stacked. 

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. 

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. 

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, remember 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, attach any hazmat labels if you are shipping hazardous materials. 

Palletizing in transportation: Dont’s 

Stack your freight in a pyramid

Pyramid-shaped loads may appear stable but less secure and less steady palletizing. The top boxes in a pyramid have a high risk of damage. Don’t build pyramids. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Partner with a 3PL 

Partnering with a leading third-party logistics (3PL) provider like PLS Logistics Services 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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