Have more than one item going to the same destination? Then shipping a pallet may be the more efficient and cost-effective option for you.
But to keep your customers happy and prevent unnecessary damage fees, it’s important to pack your pallet correctly.
Avoid common pallet freight shipping mistakes with these 10 steps.
How to prepare to ship a pallet
1. Choose the right pallet size.
Selecting the right pallet not only depends on what you’re shipping but also on the weight of the shipment.
While pallet size can vary by industry, the most standard pallet dimensions are 48” x 40”. If possible depending on the size of what you’re shipping, it’s best practice to keep the height of the structure at, or less than, 48 inches tall.
We recommend using these standard sizes whenever possible, since it makes the logistics of packing and maximizing space within a truck easier for carriers.
Because the weight of a shipment may require a specific type of pallet material (i.e. a heavier shipment may need a more durable pallet), to calculate pallet shipping costs, you’ll want to take the total weight of the boxes combined before deciding on which type of pallet to select.
For reference, the average 48” x 40” pallet clocks in between 33-48 pounds.
Since it could affect the final cost of shipping your pallet, be sure to factor in the weight of the pallet itself when doing your final weight calculations.
2. Use quality packing supplies.
To prevent your pallet from falling apart, select materials that are sturdy enough to contain the goods you’re sending—particularly for fragile, bulky, or unusually shaped items.
While you’ll certainly need to choose materials that fit within your budget, opting for more preventative (and pricey) supplies up front often ends up saving you a lot in damage costs later.
Secure each box with wide, high shear strength adhesive tape to help prevent them from opening or tearing.
Once you’re ready to secure the pallet as a whole, strong straps or bands made of rayon, polyester, polypropylene, or steel hold your pallet together best, and linear, low-density polyethylene stretch film keeps everything securely contained and protected from the elements.
While we know strength and damage protection comes first, as a certified B corp, we encourage more sustainability-friendly packaging whenever possible.
3. Pack your boxes properly.
Place individual items in secure packaging before putting them together in a box. Skin packs, blister packs, and clamshells can all be good options for protecting your products. Learn more about various packaging products here.
Once inside the box, use bubble wrap, air pillows, corrugated inserts, and more to fill in any gaps between products. Eliminating any empty space not only secures the items in place to prevent damage from shifting, it also helps protect your boxes from being crushed once they are stacked.
4. Stack boxes in a cubic shape.
Enhance your pallet’s structural integrity by stacking your boxes into columns, making sure that no items extend over the edge of your pallet. This configuration streamlines your pallet shape, which protects your boxes from being crushed or dented when they’re being packed into a truck.
Avoid the common, detrimental mistake of creating a pyramid shape with smaller boxes at the top of your pallet, which makes it harder to stack in a truck or warehouse—putting your goods at a higher risk of damage.
Instead, strategically place smaller boxes throughout the stack.
5. Distribute weight evenly.
When configuring your structure, place heavier boxes on the bottom and lighter ones on top.
This protects your lighter goods from getting crushed and makes it so your pallet has less chance of tipping over from being too top-heavy.
Additionally, it ensures better stability of the truck trailer when transporting your pallet—keeping the roads safer for all.
Another good practice is to line each layer with a piece of flat cardboard, which helps to ensure that you’ve established an even weight distribution for each row of goods.
6. Fill all empty spaces.
Removing any air space between your boxes helps contain your entire structure and makes it less likely that your items can shift or fall during transport. If needed, place extra pieces of cardboard between boxes to truly eliminate any empty space.
Speaking of filling empty spaces…
If your shipment is too small to fill an entire truck, consider shipping your pallet via our one-of-a-kind shared truckload service. With shared truckload, we combine your shipment with others going the same direction. So you only pay for the trailer space you use and get your goods out quickly without waiting to fill an entire truck. Cheaper than full truckload and faster than LTL, it’s a win/win.
7. Pad corners and edges with cardboard.
Place cardboard around each edge and pad each corner with corner protectors made of plastic, foam, or bubble wrap. Doing so adds additional damage protection while better stabilizing the entire structure.
8. Stretch wrap liberally.
Once you’ve stacked your pallet but before you stretch wrap it, place and tighten two straps or bands around each side—creating a truly strong, consolidated structure. Don’t forget to wrap them around the pallet itself to secure the goods to the pallet.
Once strapped, stretch wrap the entire structure, which securely contains everything together while in forklift or truck transport while protecting it from any elements.
Start by threading the stretch wrap film through one corner of the pallet. Then twist it around itself so it securely adheres before you begin to wrap the rest of the pallet.
Slowly—and tautly—wrap the pallet itself several times, ensuring the stretch wrap goes underneath each corner of the pallet. Since not securing the goods directly to the pallet itself can cause a host of damage and danger issues, this is an extremely important step.
Always keeping the film as taut as possible, continue wrapping the structure while slowly moving upwards, overlapping each layer by 50%.
To ensure stability, be especially generous when wrapping the middle of the structure. Then wrap the top of it twice.
At this point, if the structure is at all wobbly, give it another layer by wrapping downwards back to the base.
Once fully wrapped, tear the film and secure it by tucking the edge under one of the layers. Make sure it’s securely adhered so it doesn’t unravel during transport.
9. Clearly label cargo.
Place labels on all sides of your pallet so that the information is easy to find from any side.
Detail any hazards associated with the package so as to ensure proper handling and prevent accidents. Don’t forget to include your address and phone number as well as the address and telephone numbers of the designated receiver on your shipment labels.
It’s also good practice to individually label each box within the pallet with this information as well, in case of separation during or after transit.
10. Prepare your bill of lading.
By minimizing theft, preventing delivery delays, and helping to locate any potential lost goods, the bill of lading is critical for protecting yourself when shipping pallets.
It includes information on the type, quantity, and destination of goods and acts as both a contract and a receipt between you and the carrier.
There are multiple types of bills of lading so be sure to select the right one for your situation.
Once completed, be sure that it’s properly signed by an authorized representative from all parties—including yourself, the carrier, and the receiver.
How much does it cost to ship a pallet?
Many things factor into the cost of pallet freight, including:
- the cost of the pallet itself
- the weight of the shipment
- the route/destination
- correctly classing your freight
- minimum billable weights
- and more
A few important things to remember:
Don’t forget to check the minimum billing weight—meaning that there may be a minimum amount you will get charged no matter the weight of your shipment.
The material you choose for your pallets could impact the cost, so select that wisely and don’t forget to factor it into your total weight.
Be sure to classify your freight correctly to avoid additional reclassifying fees.
It’s a great idea to take out some cargo insurance, which protects you in the event that your shipment gets stolen or damaged.
Get a quote.
We know there’s a lot to consider when shipping pallets, especially if you’re new to it. But Flock Freight has you covered.
Request a demo to see how you can start shipping your pallets more efficiently.