Pallets: A Shipper’s Guide

Pallets are a shipper’s best friend!

Seriously, when you need to get your cargo ready for transportation, there’s nothing more helpful than a great pallet! Pallets are often the best method for moving and storing your goods–that is unless you’re shipping diamond rings or tie clips.

In fact, according to Tom Vanderbilt at Slate, in an illuminating article about pallets, “There are said to be billions [of pallets] circulating through global supply chain . . .”  Furthermore, “some 80 percent of all U.S. commerce is carried on pallets.” Vanderbilt goes on to explain that some people estimate that pallets “account for . . . more than 46 percent of total U.S. hardwood lumber production.”

Those are big numbers, right!

So what do we know about the ever-present pallet?

For starters, pallets are flat structures designed to support cargo. Unlike skids, which have no bottom deck boards, pallets were created to be lifted safely by forklifts, pallet jacks, or front loaders–all the while keeping your precious cargo stable and in one piece.

And what’s a deck board?

Deck boards are the multiple boards that make up the top and the bottom of the pallet. In other words, the deck boards compose both the surface upon which your freight rests, and the surface that rests upon the floor of the warehouse or semi trailer or even upon other pallets, as they’re great for stacking!

Pallet nitty-gritty!

Pallets evolved from skids in the early 1920s about the time the first forklift truck came into use, and they’ve been used ever since. Most pallets are wooden, but time and innovation have ushered in a new wave of pallets composed of different materials.

  • Types of Pallets:
    • Stringer pallets are the most commonly used pallet in the US and consist of a frame of three or more parallel pieces of timber, metal, or plastic–called stringers. Stringer pallets typically have a two-way forklift end.
    • Block pallets are built with both perpendicular and parallel stringers, so they tend to be stronger. Block pallets typically have four-way forklift ends.
  • Standard pallet sizes:
    • 48” X 40”
    • 42” X 42”
    • 48” X 48” 
  • Common Pallet Materials
    • Wooden pallets are the most commonly used pallet. They are durable and suitable for storing. Less expensive than other pallet materials, wood pallets are easy to repair and can be resold or recycled. A typical wood pallet weighs 40 lbs. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Pallet (GMA pallet) is a wooden pallet and is the most common pallet in the US.
    • Metal/Aluminum pallets are often used for heavier goods and long-term outside storage. Also recyclable, they are quite durable, but more costly due to their heavier weight. Aluminum pallets can weight 48 lbs, while steel pallets can weight 66 lbs.
    • Plastic pallets are 100% recyclable and have a ten year lifespan. Easy to clean and suitable for a variety of climates, plastic pallets are more expensive and can weigh a mere 14 lbs.
    • Cardboard pallets are lightweight. Recyclable and inexpensive, they can hold up to 750kg, but are not a good choice if inclement weather is a factor. The common cardboard pallet weighs about 19 lbs.


Finding the right pallet requires a consideration of several factors including weight of your cargo, length of and location of storage facilities (will your pallets be exposed to inclement weather), as well as cost.

Shipping with pallets can save you time and money by decreasing the labor and time required to load your cargo, as well as, lessening the possibility of damages your shipment could incur with more handling.

In the end, pallets are just cool.

Just do a cursory search of the Internet to see all the awesome things people are making out of pallets. From your neighbor’s cool new outdoor furniture to the funky pallet floor featured on Pinterest to the hip pallet planters used in community gardens, pallets are all the rage.

We’re here to help!

At AM Transport Services, we know a lot about pallets, but that’s not all! We understand that the transportation of goods can be confusing at best and downright impossible to figure out at worst. A 3PL with 30 years of experience in the freight industry, we are always available to answer your questions and help you find the best solutions for your transportation needs!