The Ultimate Guide to Pallets and Pallet Sizes

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Pallets are an integral part of the shipping and transportation process.

If you’re involved in supply chain management, its likely you’ll have come across a pallet during your career. They may seem like a simple commodity product in the industry, but the right pallet can be an important factor in successful shipping.

In this article, we’ll cover the ultimate guide to pallets and pallet sizes. We’ll explain what a pallet is, the different types of pallets available, various pallet sizes and even how to choose the right pallet!

Pallet guide

Understanding pallets and their uses

Pallets are flat platforms, usually made of wood or metal, that are used for supporting goods during storage, shipping and transportation. They are often light, strong and durable.

Traditionally, pallets are made in a double deck configuration – with a top deck of wood or plastic, supported bythree or four stringers. Stringers are supporting structures that help hold the weight of the load and allow a pallet to be picked up by a forklift or trolleys.

Pallets are an integral part of logistics, warehousing and export, allowing easy movement and storage of goods.

Pallet guide

Type of pallets

There are lot of different pallets available. Often, pallets are either classified by the material they’re made from or their size. Here are some of the common types of pallets available:

Wooden pallets

Wooden pallets are the most common type of pallet you’ll come across. Classic “stringer” pallets (those manufactured from strips of wood) are usually made from a combination of soft wood like pine and hard woods like oak or from plywood.

Many wooden pallets you come across will be heat treated. Heat treating is when the wood is heated to at least 56°C, removing a significant portion of the moisture inside the wood.

Heat treated pallets minimise the risk of the wood rotting and cut the chance of insect infestations. In addition, they comply with International Phytosanitary Standard for Wood Packaging or IPSM15 requirements. If you’re shipping to countries in the EU, IPSM15 compliant pallets are a must!

Plastic pallets

Plastic pallets are made from moulded plastic.

They’re a reusable and washable alternative to wooden pallets. Plastic pallets can be made as stringer pallets or nestable pallets. Another advantage is that they do not need to comply with IPSM15 regulations.

As they’re washable, they’re popular in clean environments or closed loop systems, like pharmaceutical or medical production sites.

Presswood pallets

Presswood pallets are a type of wooden pallet. Also known as a moulded wood pallet, they are made by moulding wood fibres from wood byproducts at high pressure with resin.

The wood chips used to make presswood pallets are heat treated to high temperatures, so they are often IPSM15 compliant.

The design of presswood pallets also means they can be easily stacked to save space and can hold significant weight relative to how light they are.

Corrugated cardboard pallets

Less common that wooden pallets, are corrugated cardboard pallets.

They are a lightweight alternative to wooden pallets. Switching to a corrugated pallet can take weight out of your shipping process, reducing carbon emissions and lowering fuel consumption.

Corrugated pallets can hold up to 750kg and are exempt from IPSM15 requirements. Plus, they can be recycled, even at kerbside.

Metal pallets

Metal pallets are a heavy-duty alternative to wooden and plastic pallets.

Often manufactured from steel and aluminium, metal pallets are designed to hold the heaviest loads. They’re incredibly long lasting and can be  made in standard and euro pallet sizes.

Standard pallets

When someone refers to a standard pallet, this often refers to the standard size pallet in that country. In our case, this refers to UK standard pallet sizes.

Euro pallets

The term “euro pallet” refers to a pallet that meets European standard as specified by the UIC pallet working group. Pallets that conform to this size are eligible for the European Pallet Pool.

4-way and 2-way entry pallets

Pallets that are called 4-way or 2-way pallets refer to the number of sides of a pallet that a forklift can get under.

On a 2-way pallet, a forklift can get in two sides and on a 4-way pallet a forklift can access all four sides.

Pallet guide

Pallet sizes and their importance

The size of a pallet directly impacts their overall capacity and compatibility with different transportation systems.

So, where you’re shipping to and from, as well as the size and weight of the goods can all dictate which pallet size you’ll need. The size and weight of the pallet you choose can also impact your shipping costs! 

Here are some of the most popular pallet sizes:

UK standard size pallets

In the UK, the dimensions of a standard pallet are 1200m x 1000mm. Pallets this size allow them to be used seamlessly with most UK warehouse racking and forklifts, plus they’re well optimised for transport.

UK standard pallet are 20% larger than Euro pallets. This pallet size is also commonly used throughout Asia.

Euro pallet sizes

Typical Euro pallet size dimensions are 1200mm x 800mm. This is the standard pallet size as specified by the European Pallet Association and can be identified by the abbreviation EPAL or EUR on the pallet.

Pallets that meet European pallet size specifications qualify for the aforementioned European Pallet Pool.  

Other pallet sizes

Some other globally recognised pallet sizes include:

  • 1219x1016mm – most commonly used in North America
  • 1165x1165mm – most commonly used in Australia
  • 1067x1067mm – widely used across North America, Asia and Europe
  • 1100x1100mm – most commonly used in Asia

Full, half and quarter pallets

The height of a pallet’s load will dictate if it is a full, half or quarter pallet.  A full pallet has a maximum height of 2200mm, a half pallet has a height of 1200mm, and a quarter pallet has a height of 800mm. These heights apply to both Euro and UK pallet sizes.

So, in the UK:

  • A full pallet is 1200m x 1000mm x 1200mm high
  • A half pallet is 1200m x 1000mm x 1000mm high
  • A quarter pallet is 1200m x 1000mm x 800mm high

Maximum load weights for different pallet sizes

The maximum weight a pallet can hold often depends on the material it’s made from, as well as it’s sizes.

UK standard size wooden pallets can accommodate up to 1200kg. Whereas corrugated cardboard pallets will hold lighter loads up to 750kg. Depending on size, plastic pallets can hold up to 1000kg and presswood pallets can hold up to 1250kg. Some metal pallets may be able to hold more than this.

Pallet guide

Choosing the right pallet

When choosing a pallet, it’s important to consider the product you’ll be transporting or storing, and the associated requirements in terms of weight, dimensions, and fragility.

You also need to think about the shipping conditions you need to transport your product through, as well as any country or region specific requirements.

Balancing quality and affordability is also crucial. While it’s tempting to choose the cheapest option, investing in durable pallets for sale will pay off in the long run by reducing the chances of damages and replacements.

For example, if you are operating in Europe, opting for heat treated wooden Euro pallets would make sense, as you can take advantage of the European Pallet Pool system, while complying with IPSM15 requirements. Alternatively, if you’re operating in a clean environment where pallets need washing, plastic pallets could be your go to.

Pallet guide

Use and maintenance of pallets

Proper handling and maintenance of pallet types are essential for their longevity and the safe transportation of goods. Regular inspection and repair of damaged pallets, along with proper storage conditions, can maximise the lifespan of your pallets too.

When handling pallets, using correct lifting techniques and ensuring an evenly distributed load are paramount. Safety measures such as using protective equipment and providing training for employees on proper pallet handling techniques are also crucial.

Pallet guide

Support with pallets and shipping packaging

At Macfarlane Packaging, we can provide an extensive range of pallets and pallet size packaging. This incudes Euro modular boxes and palletised containers to UK and Euro pallet standards. Get in touch today for further advice.