Freight Shipping 101: How to Pack a Pallet

Pallets stacked

When you’re shipping freight, there are so many moving pieces to worry about– Literally. Choosing a reputable logistics company like BYX is a great start, but carriers are responsible for transporting freight from point A to point B, not to prepare it for the road ahead. Carriers are in control of many factors, like properly packing the truck and not driving off the road. Nevertheless, freight can and does shift during transport. The best way to secure your freight and protect it from damage is to learn how to pack a pallet properly.

What Is a Pallet?

Pallets are nothing more than rigid platforms designed to secure and consolidate shipments. Pallets serve a few purposes, including: 

  • Keeping multi-piece shipments together
  • Making it easier to load and unload freight
  • And maximizing cargo space in the trailer

Most importantly, pallets help protect your cargo by minimizing movement. To help ensure your freight arrives in one piece, free from dents and dings, learning how to pack a pallet is a must. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to master.

How to Pack a Pallet in Six Steps

Worker trying to pack a pallet

Whether or not your cargo is a good candidate for palletization depends on its size, weight, and quantity. Shipments that include a series of smaller items, or larger items that are heavy or fragile, are ideal for palletizing. Before you start packing, these tips can ensure the process goes without a hitch.

  1. Pack each box properly.
    Each box should be completely full to avoid getting crushed or dented. Either cut boxes to size or fill up extra space with packing materials like bubble wrap or biodegradable packing peanuts.
  2. Stack boxes in a logical order
    Place the heaviest items on the bottom, and make sure boxes don’t hang over the edge of the pallet. Try to either stagger boxes evenly or place them in aligned columns, and make sure the top is flat. That way, pallets can be stacked on top of each other to save even more space.
  3. Make sure weight is evenly distributed
    Both inside individual boxes and on the pallet, avoid leaving one side significantly heavier than the other. This prevents items from shifting or tipping during transport.
  4. Use cardboard to protect corners and edges.
    This part of packing a pallet is optional but highly recommended. Cardboard edge protectors like these help strengthen the pallet and secure its contents even further. You can also lay a flat sheet of cardboard between layers of boxes to help prevent items from shifting.
  5. Shrinkwrap the entire shipment
    If you’re going to pack a pallet properly, you’re going to need plenty of shrinkwrap. Don’t skimp: Wrap it at least three times around the pallet, including around the base. The wrap can also be twisted for additional strength.
  6. Use nylon straps for added security
    If cargo is especially heavy, consider strapping down boxes with heavy-duty nylon straps. This is where the edge protectors come in handy. Having an added layer of protection around corners and edges prevents plastic straps from digging in and damaging cargo.

Common Mistakes

  • Using the wrong size pallet
    Standard-sized pallets are 40” by 48”, but a variety of sizes are available if needed. It’s better for a pallet to be slightly too large than too small. Any overhang makes punctures and compression damage far more likely.
  • Piling on too much weight
    Check the weight limit of the pallet you’ve selected before you begin packing it. Most pallets are made to support up to 4,600 lbs, but double-check the bottom of the pallet to confirm.
  • Using mediocre packing products
    Old pallets with nail heads sticking out, overused boxes, and cheap packing tape all put your cargo at risk. Investing in quality shipping materials will prevent damage to your real investment: Your freight!
  • Not labeling your pallet correctly
    Each item should be labeled, and each side of the pallet should be labeled per the carrier’s instructions. Ask for clarification if you need it!

That’s all there is to it. Now you know how to pack a pallet.

Not so tough, right? If you do have any questions about properly preparing cargo for pickup, give us a call or contact us on the web. Our goal is to make your shipping experience as stress-free as possible, so questions are always encouraged.

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