Pallet Basics 101

In order to help you determine the type of pallet that will work best for your circumstances here is some general information on the various types of pallets that are available.

Stringer pallets

The stringer pallet is the most commonly used pallet in North America, and the most popular size is 48” long x 40” wide. This particular pallet is used extensively in the grocery industry and is designed to maximize load capacity in trucks.

There are hundreds of different size stringer pallets and there are many factors that determine which size or type of pallet is right for your product or application. The amount of weight to be put on the pallet, the type of moving equipment, the kind of automation equipment, the particular product, the cost, and the type of racking or storing system are all important aspects to consider when selecting a pallet.

Block Pallets

Increasing in popularity over the last few years, block pallets are accessible from all 4 sides using powerjacks and handjacks. This feature makes them an attractive option in tight spaces, however their design does not always perform well when under heavy load in racking systems.

Pallet Glossary

  • Annularly threaded nail – pallet nail with annular (ring) threads rolled onto shank; ring nail; ring shank nail; ring-threaded nail
  • Base – structured assembly designed to support unit load
  • Bearing surface – interface between pallet elements and components
  • Bin – multi-sided superstructure to be mounted on a pallet base, with or without a cover; also known as a pallet box
  • Block – rectangular, square, multi-sided, or cylindrical deck spacer
  • Block pallet – a type of pallet with blocks between the pallet decks or beneath the top deck
  • Chamfer – machined or molded inclined surface along part or full length of edges of deckboards between stringers or blocks to facilitate passage of fork-arm wheels of pallet trucks and to guide tines of fork lift truck during entry into pallet; bevel
  • Collar – fixed, hinged, removable, or collapsible horizontal framing members to tie together vertical elements of pallet superstructure
  • Combo pallet – remanufactured pallet which contains a mixture of recycled and new components
  • Deckboard – element or component of a pallet deck, perpendicular to the stringers or stringerboards 
  • Deflection – the amount of flexural deformation of a pallet or pallet component due to the weight of an imposed load; sag
  • Fastener – a device for connecting pallet components to form integral structures, such as nails, staples, screws, bolts, lag bolts, adhesives and welds
  • Fastener shear index (FSI) – measure of the estimated shear performance a given fastener relative to that of a high-quality “base” nail
  • Free span – the distance between spacers within the pallet; distance between external pallet supports, as in a warehouse rack 
  • Handling – a single pick-up; movement as a result of picking up, transporting and setting down of an empty or loaded pallet
  • Hardwood – a wood from broad-leaved tree species (not necessarily hard in texture or dense) like Birch, Maple, Oak and Tamarack
  • Helically-threaded nail – nail with screw-like threads; drive screw nail
  • ISPM 15 – International Standards of Phytosanitary Measures Publication No. 15 – Guidelines for regulating wood packaging material in international trade
  • Lateral collapse – failure of pallet connections caused by excessive lateral force in direction perpendicular to stringer axis or parallel or perpendicular to stringerboard axis
  • Limited-use pallet – a pallet designed for an average of up to nine trips, assuming an average of five handlings per trip and an average handling environment, before first repair; shipping pallet
  • MIBANT angle – fastener bend angle providing indication of (fastener) toughness and bending resistance
  • MIBANT device (Morgan Impact Bend Angle Nail Tester) – a standard impact nail and staple tester used to determine impact-bending resistance and toughness of nails and staples
  • multiple-use pallet – a pallet designed for repeated uses for more than one unit load with an average minimum life-to-first repair of 10 trips or more, with an average of five handlings per trip in an average handling environment; multiple-trip pallet; returnable pallet; reusable pallet; warehouse pallet; permanent pallet; general-purpose pallet; special-service pallet; through-transit pallet
  • Nail – straight, slender, wire fastener made from endless wire by cutting the point and forming the head at the shank end opposite the point, designed to be drive, to hold two or more pieces of wood packaging together
  • Notch – filleted cutout in lower portion of the stringer to allow entry for the fork tine, usually 9” in length and 1-1/4” to 1-1/2” in height
  • Pallet – a portable, horizontal, rigid, composite platform used as a base for assembling, storing, stacking, handling and transporting goods as a unit load, often equipped with a superstructure
  • Pallet size – overall dimension of a pallet typically stated in terms of length followed by width and height; for example, a 48”x40” pallet is 48” long and 40” wide; has 48” stringers or stringerboards and 40” deckboards
  • Racked across deckboards (RAD) – output of the PDS evaluation software describing the maximum load-carrying capacity and deflection of a wood pallet and its decks, where the warehouse racking frame supports the pallet only at the deckboard ends
  • Racked across stringers (RAS) – output of the PDS software evaluation describing the maximum load-carrying capacity and deflection of a wood pallet and its decks, where the warehouse racking frame supports the pallet only at the stringer or stringerboard ends
  • Repaired pallet – pallet with damaged components replaced with new or recycled components, in order to reuse it
  • Recycled pallet – a pallet that has been used, discarded, salvaged, repaired or rebuilt in order to pass through another cycle or cycles of use
  • Remanufactured pallet – a pallet newly assembled from recycled components
  • Skid – a pallet without bottom deckboards or deck
  • Slave pallet – rigid pallet or platform; single, thick panel used as a support base for a palletized load in warehouse rack-storage facilities or production systems
  • Softwood – wood from coniferous or needle-bearing species of trees (not necessarily soft in texture or of low density) like Spruce, Pine or Fir
  • Staple – wire fastener formed by bending wire to form two legs of equal length and a crown connecting both legs at ends opposite leg points
  • Stiffness – resistance to external force, load, or generation of internal strain
  • Strength – resistance to flexural deformation in direction of applied force
  • Stringer – continuous, longitudinal, solid, or notched beam-component of the pallet used to support and space the deck components, often identified by location as the outside, interior or center stringer; bearer; runner
  • Stringerboard – in block pallets, the continuous, solid board member extending for the full length of the pallet, perpendicular to the deckboard and placed between the deckboards and blocks, to serve as support of deckboards or deck
  • Stringer pallet – a type of pallet with stringers between the deckboards or beneath the panel deck
  • Trip – typically a series of four to six handlings of the pallet, required to move a palletized unit load from the shipping point to the receiving point
  • Uniform standard for wood pallets – a comprehensive standard for the manufacture and repair of wood pallets that’s available through NWPCA; also outlines “best practices”
  • Unit load – the assembly of goods or a single item on a pallet for handling, moving, storing or stacking as a single entity; it includes the supporting pallet