The Ultimate Guide to Buying Pallets
Why Use Pallets?
Palletization has been prevalent for more than a century both in the U.S. and around the world and comes with innumerable benefits. For example, pallets allow you to move more products at a faster rate, which also helps to reduce transportation time for trucks and can decrease the time needed to unload/load trucks, meaning your dock spaces will open up faster. Not to mention, pallets reduce the need for manual handling, which can lead to less product damage and even fewer worker injuries.
Though the trend of palletizing is on the rise, it can be a daunting task to manage pallets that flow in and out of your supply chain. When you enter the pallet industry, you’ll find there’s somewhat of a science to pallet design with many different aspects to consider.
So, in today’s post, we’ll review everything you need to know before buying pallets, such as what materials, pallet designs, and grades are available to meet your company’s needs.
Where to Buy Pallets
When it comes to where you want to buy your pallets, you have a couple options. You can buy in bulk from multiple pallet manufacturers across the country. Or, if you have a national scope, look for a pallet management company, like First Alliance Logistics Management (FALM), who has partners across the country that can help provide you with pallets wherever the need arises.
Because of freight costs, you should find a pallet company located within 50-100 miles of your facility. Using a pallet provider with a nationwide scope can be incredibly valuable because it allows you to consolidate vendors and maintain only one point of contact for your entire pallet sourcing activity.
Renting vs. Buying Pallets
Renting pallets has become more common in recent years with large pallet pool companies like CHEP (blue pallets) and PECO (red pallets) having a notable presence in the U.S. While this typically has lower upfront costs, it does come with a few disadvantages as well.
For example, rented pallets must be returned to the vendor once your shipment is completed which can leave you with few pallets on hand for any unforeseen shipments. And while they may seem like the cheaper option due to their low initial prices, rented pallets also come with a variety of fees that may add up to more than you bargained for. In fact, the typical pallet rental contract includes:
- Issue Fee
- Transfer Fee
- Non-Participant Fee (not all rental companies charge)
- Heat Treating Fee
- Lost Pallet Fee
While many of these fees are minimal, others like the transfer fee and the non-participant fee (fees that are incurred when you ship to a company outside of the rental companies’ network) can quickly add up to create astronomical costs based on who will receive your shipments and how far your shipments must travel.
On the other hand, the costs associated with buying pallets are more straightforward with a higher initial cost but fewer hidden fees. However, it is important to note that prices will vary depending location and pallet specifications.
Once you purchase the pallets, they are yours to deal with as you please – you can reuse them, recycle them, or even start a recovery system. If you have a constant need for pallets, you can create your own repair, reuse cycle – creating a closed loop system, which comes with many benefits.
If you want to simplify your experience, look for a pallet management group with a national scope. This will allow you to consolidate vendors and keep your administrative costs low.
Check out this article for a full breakdown on renting vs. buying pallets to see which option is best for you.
New vs. Used Pallets
When determining what pallets are best for you, you’ll first need to choose between new or used pallets. New pallets are constructed from scratch with new lumber. Used pallets, on the other hand, can be constructed a few different ways. Used pallets include:
- Recycled/Repaired Pallets – pallets that previously had damaged boards that have been replaced by new or used boards.
- Remanufactured pallets – pallets that are built by reusing board components (used lumber) to build a pallet configuration.
- Combo pallets – pallets that are a combination of used/recycled pallets with some deck boards being new lumber.
Used pallets will always be cheaper than a new pallet with a similar design; however the prices of each particular type of used pallet will vary depending on the specifics of the pallets.
Pallets come in all sizes, but there are standard sizes that are used most often. These standard pallets can hold approximately 4,600 pounds. The most common dimensions are:
- 48×40 (this is the most common size)
Though standard-size pallets are most popular, you can also request custom pallets to meet your specific needs. For example, if you have extra large goods or oddly-sized/shaped products that need to be shipped, it’s a good idea to consider a custom pallet over a standard pallet.
Custom pallets can be built as large as you need them. FALM currently builds a 26-foot pallet for one of our customers. Keep in mind the larger your pallet, the longer the turnaround time may be due to finding suitable lumber. Additionally, the larger the pallet, the more expensive it is because of increased lumber, more nails and screws, and less pallets per truck for higher-per-pallet transportation costs.
Whether standard or custom, properly-sized pallets can mitigate product damage, reduce worksite injuries, and ensure production continuation with pallets that fit your company’s automation lines. They also allow manufacturers to maximize unit load capacities, reduce the number of truck deliveries, and even reduce transportation costs.
If you’re unsure whether you need a standard or custom pallet, contact us – we’d be happy to help you identify which pallets best meet your needs.
How many pallets fit in a truck?
Most trucks are 96 inches wide, which means that two standard 48-inch pallets can be placed side by side. A 53-foot (length) truck can typically carry 26 single-stacked 48×40 pallets, and a 48-foot truck can carry 24 single-stacked 48×40 pallets.
Hardwood vs. Softwood Pallets
Most pallet providers will offer a variety of species of both hardwood or softwood. Hardwood has a higher density which increases the pallet strength. However, softwood pallet can mimic hardwood strength by increasing the thickness of the boards.
At FALM, we use a pallet design software that takes into account the density of the lumber and determines which type of wood/density of wood is needed to safely carry the load. Unit load weight = weight of pallet + total weight of the product loaded on the pallet.
2-Way vs. 4-Way Pallets
When determining if you need a two or four way pallets, you need to consider how they will be transported? Via forklift, pallet jack?
Two-way pallets have forklift openings on only two ends and are also referred to as “unnotched”
Four-way entry pallets have forklift openings on all sides for full accessibility
Stringer vs. Block Pallets
Both stringer and block pallets are able to handle heavy loads, so when choosing which design is best for you it may, again, depend on how you plan to transport the pallets.
Block pallets are thought to be more durable, but may come at a higher price because they are more difficult to assemble and require more lumber to achieve better strength ratings. Block pallets have a four-way forklift entry and use blocks of solid wood to support a load.
Stringer pallets have two-way forklift openings and use stringer boards to support a unit load. Stringer pallets can also have notches in the side to create a partial four-way forklift entry.
Pallet grades refer to different conditions of recycled pallets. At FALM, we rarely quote for pallets beyond grade a and grade b, as they become less structurally sound the further you move away from grade a.
Grade A (also referred to as #1)
“Grade A” pallets are recycled pallets that have been refurbished to near original condition. All damaged boards have been replaced, making this a pallet that’s in near-new condition and is highly dependable.
Grade B (also referred to as #2)
“Grade B” pallets have been previously used and typically have experienced damage to one of its stringers. To fix, or reinforce, the damaged wood, an additional runner is placed alongside the broken or cracked piece. The top and bottom deck boards may have also been replaced in previous repair cycles, which means the deck configuration on “B” pallets may not be consistent, but they are still a reliable alternative to new pallets.
There are a few different types of pallet materials to choose from, including wood, compressed wood, metal, cardboard, and plastic. Wood pallets are without a doubt the most commonly used material, but each type has its own benefits and drawbacks.
FALM only offers wood and compressed wood pallets. They are easily repairable and recyclable, which also makes them eco-friendly and affordable.
For a full comparison of the different pallet materials, check out this article.
Why do I need treated pallets?
Pallets must be treated to meet ISPM-15 (International Phytosanitary Measure) standards, which says that wood used to ship products internationally must be treated to prevent the spread of disease and bugs from country to country. Below, we’ve included the most common types of pallet treatment.
Heat Treated Pallets
Heat treating pallets is mandated by U.S. customs and is the most common method of treatment to meet ISPM-15 standards.
When constructing pallets with green lumber, insects often live in the freshly cut wood. Heat treating pallets raises the temperature of the wood to dispose of any remaining bugs, which prevents them from spreading between companies and countries.
Heat treating prices vary, but typically it costs between $0.75 to $1.25 per pallet.
Methyl Bromide Treated Pallets
Methyl bromide treatment occurs by stacking pallets in a sealed chamber and spraying them with the chemical methyl bromide, a pesticide that kills bugs and invasive species. The chemical soaks into the wood and dries, eliminating any bugs in the wood and preventing future mold.
Wood pallets made in the US, Canada and Europe are no longer MB treated, and the chemical is being phased out completely due to health hazards. It’s still possible to find pallets that have been MB treated, but because of their high toxicity, we don’t recommend using these pallets.
New wood pallets are often made from recently harvested trees, but before the lumber can be constructed into a pallet, it needs to be dried. To do this, the fresh lumber, or green lumber, can either be left outside to dry (air-dried) or placed into a kiln to dry (kiln-dried).
Kiln-drying will quickly reduce the moisture in the wood to prevent warping and reduce weight. It’s important to note that kiln-dried wood does not meet ISPM-15 standards and must still undergo heat treatment if used for international shipping.
How do I know if my pallets have been treated?
Once a pallet has been treated, a certification label (shown below) will be stamped onto the side of the pallet. If the pallet has been repaired with untreated wood, the entire pallet should be retreated and then restamped.
Image Source: 1001 Pallets
The stamp should include the appropriate treatment code to indicate how the pallet has been handled. See the infographic below from 1001 Pallets for a complete breakdown of the different treatment codes.
As we mentioned before, there are a lot of determining factors when it comes to the price of pallets, which makes it difficult to provide a standard pricing list. When determining the price for your pallets, a pallet manufacturer will need to ask:
- What material should be used to build the pallet?
- Do you prefer new or used pallets?
- Do you need a custom or standard pallet size?
- What are the dimensions needed for your pallet?
- Where are you located?
- Do you need treated/untreated pallets?
All of the above factors play a role in pricing your pallets. If you’re interested in a quote, contact us today.
When it comes to buying pallets, there are a lot of factors to consider. If you have any more questions, check out our FAQ page, or contact us and we’d be happy to help you meet your pallet needs.