Pallet Shipping 101: Best Practices in Pallet Preparation

Pallet Shipping 101: Best Practices in Pallet Preparation

With more than 1.8 billion pallets in service every day in the U.S., we might consider these simple structures the humble heroes of the transport industry. Bespoke pallets were invented in the 19th century to transport specialized goods. Still, it required distribution between allied countries during WWII, which led to the implementation of standard shipping pallet sizes (48 x48) for them to gain significant commercial appeal.

Now, pallets are used to ship just about anything. Cowtown Express as freight transportation experts, follow practical packing techniques to ensure efficiency and safety when moving pallet shipping. Truth be told, most shipping mishaps are completely avoidable with adequate preparation. Here’s our expert guide on how to pack a pallet for shipping.

Advantages of Using Pallets

Made from wood, plastic, or metal, and a stronger alternative to cardboard, pallets and thus pallet packing offers innumerable shipping advantages:

  • Transportation: Palettes come in universal sizes and shapes, making them easy to lift and stack with jacks and forklifts. It’s also super easy to palletize boxes for efficient shipping.
  • Protection: Gusseted tubing and pallet wrap keeps freight secured in the same spot during transport.
  • Strength: Palettes are strong and raised off the ground, so cargo avoids contact with dirt, debris, and water.
  • Eco-friendly: Pallets can be reused repeatedly and recycled when they reach their shelf-life.
  • Weight and Size: Palettes take up minimal space, are lightweight, and can be stacked to minimize floor space occupation.

Best Ways to Prepare Your Pallet Shipment

Look no further for tips on how to prepare a pallet for shipping. As seasoned shippers, we’ve experienced some of the best and worst packings. Here are some palletizing tips:

  • Choose the suitable materials: Don’t skimp on quality materials because if your freight gets damaged due to poor quality packing, then you’ll land up paying way more. Pallets come in different sizes, so it’s important to pick one large enough to hold your freight without overhang.
  • Pack boxes properly: Make sure your boxes are sturdy enough for the materials you’re shipping. Next, be sure to cushion items inside with bubble wrap, air pillows, corrugated inserts, and close boxes with strong tape. This keeps the items inside secure and prevents the box from being crushed when stacked.
  • Stack carefully: All boxes should be stacked evenly. Heavier ones always go at the bottom, and lighter ones on top. Make sure weight is evenly distributed to avoid cargo shifting during transit. Lining each layer of boxes with a piece of flat cardboard at the bottom and top helps with weight distribution and prevents corners from being crushed.
  • Use shrink wrap: Wrap the entire pallet three to five times with high-quality shrink wrap. To provide additional strength, twist when wrapping and don’t cover the top entirely; otherwise, forklifts may struggle to pick up any type of your freight.
  • Clearly label cargo: Include the complete address information and telephone numbers for the shipper and consignee. We advise applying labels to each pallet side, so information is easy to find.

Pallet Packing

Many people don’t know how to pack a pallet and make the mistake of placing smaller boxes at the top, creating a pyramid shape, which compromises the pallet stack’s structural integrity. You should always try to maneuver smaller boxes into the stack. Ideally, a pallet should be as close to a cubic shape as possible.

While we’ve mentioned shrink or stretch wrapping pallets for shipping, before you do so, you’ll want to strap down the freight to the pallet to provide extra security. Heavy-duty bands made from rayon, polyester, polypropylene, or steel will do. Use at least two straps on either side of the pallet. Just like putting layers between the boxers when packing, you can also use cardboard corner boards for additional stability.

Additional Things to Keep in Mind

Common pallet packing mistakes can lead to damaged goods, shipment delays, and increased costs. You’ll want to keep the following in mind to avoid missteps and simplify the freight transporting and handling for carriers.

  • Class freight correctly: Freight class is the shipping industry’s standardized pricing classification. If your freight’s weight is incorrect and classified incorrectly, a carrier can charge an additional fee to re-classify it.
  • Take out insurance: Carrier liability insurance is not the same as freight insurance. Liability insurance protects the freight forwarder or carrier. Cargo insurance protects the sender of the goods and will pay you the value of goods lost, stolen, or damaged.
  • Prepare a bill of lading: This document is issued by a shipper to a carrier to acknowledge the handover of cargo for shipment. Your carrier will not move your cargo without one.
  • Correct labeling: Every box on a pallet should be individually labeled. Each side of your pallet should also be labeled according to your carrier’s specifications. Standardized labeling requires address information and contact numbers for both the recipient and sender.
  • Check minimum billable weight: Sometimes, carriers have a minimum weight charge, regardless of your shipment's weight. Always check this so you can budget accordingly.


Naturally, carriers expect any palletized shipment to be properly packed. This includes selecting the correct pallet size and ensuring boxes and items are secured inside. Preparing a pallet shipment is straightforward once your know-how.

If you have a pallet shipment that requires over-the-road transportation, we can help. Our freight shipping company offers expedited, refrigerated, and white-glove services to anywhere in the U.S., including Canada. We have the know-how and superior fleet to help get your goods safely where they need to be. Get a freight shipping quote for your freight transportation today!

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