Information guide about pallets

The plastic pallet market has grown and evolved in recent years. The companies that are using them realize that there are several benefits related to plastic pallets, rather than wooden ones. However, since there are many more different models of plastic than wood pallets, it’s important to select the right model that will be appropriated for the conditions and handling that needs to be done, to appreciate their effectiveness and durability.

Plastic pallets can be moulded from different materials, by different manufacturing processes, and the shape of the mold can also be very variable from model to model. This makes the variety of pallets available on the market very large and sometimes difficult to navigate. Indeed, according to their design, they can have specific characteristics that can harm or benefit their use in a specific application. Our specialists can advise you on the type of pallets best suited to your project, compare models to each other to specify the advantages and disadvantages of each model, and guide you through the choice of pallets that exist on the market.

The standard wooden pallets are almost always built in the same way, they can have various dimensions and can be some different configurations, but nothing more. There are always blue CHEP pallets, which are a specific model because they are subject to chemical fumigation or heat treatment to prevent the spread of pests. But these are pallets available for rent only.

Plastic pallets, on the other hand, can have different configurations, dimensions, certifications and colours, to meet a specific need more precisely, or to serve a definite market. They are also made from different kinds of plastic resins, all of which have specific properties, but all are inert to insects, bacteria, fungi and chemicals. There are often even options, giving the possibility of further customizing the pallets, thus making them even more efficient for a given application, and thus maximize their performance.

Types of pallets

Unlike the wooden pallet, where there are not so many questions to ask before making the purchase, it is necessary, for the plastic pallet, to think of several points before stopping on a model accurate and to make the purchase. Otherwise, it may well be that in the end, the chosen pallet does not meet the need, is not effective or breaks prematurely.

That being said, there are a number of factors that define a plastic pallet. It is important to consider these when selecting a pallet. And since there are many models, you have to know how to classify them. Some plastic pallets have unique designs, so they can be categorized according to their design. Others may be catalogued depending on their application.

Classification based on design

This classification is based on the design, shape, and appearance of the palette. There are three main categories; nestable plastic pallets, stackable plastic pallets and rackable plastic pallets. On the look, it is possible to differentiate the first two categories only, for the third, it is absolutely necessary to rely on the specifications of the manufacturer to distinguish them.

Nestable plastic pallets

The design of these tapered pallets is very precise; the base consists of legs and the top has nesting registration holes that match the footprint of the pallet legs, for introducing them when the top pallet enters the pallet from below, when empty. The pallet top can be solid or perforated (ventilated). Because these pallets fit into each other, they have the main advantage of using less floor space, so they maximize warehouses and reduce empty transport costs.

Nestable plastic pallets

For example, the standard in transport trucks for a merchandise stack is 40″x 48″ x 98″H. Depending on the model of pallets chosen, in the same space, it can fit from 37 to 80 nestable pallets, compared to 14 to 20 pallets of any other designs, so the difference is striking: nestable pallets save up to 4 times more space than the stackable, rackable or wooden pallets. It’s something to consider when maximizing space is important.

These pallets can be manufactured with a very little quantity of material so as to make them very light and inexpensive. In this case, these pallets will be used mainly for export, where the pallet is used for packaging with no come back. Since it will be considered a lost pallet, it’s better to pay as little as possible for it.

Other models of nestable pallets will be made much strongly for more robust and repetitive applications. This type of pallet will be chosen for the distribution of products for example, where every day the pallets are handled to be loaded, transported in transport trucks and then unloaded at the customer’s plant. Therefore, they circulate between several hands and are subject to various types of handling and impact risks. Very often, they will be left at the customer’s warehouse until the next delivery, where the driver, at the same time as he delivers his new merchandise, will bring back the empty pallets left during his last delivery. It is therefore to the advantage of the customer that unused pallets once unloaded, take the least possible space in his warehouse, and at the same time, that the pallets that the driver picks up upon delivery, use the least amount of possible space in his truck, not to get bogged down and interfere with his delivery route.

Nestable plastic pallets cannot be stored in a traditional racking system because they are not designed for this purpose. The legs could easily slide next to the bars and cause a serious accident. On the other hand, if all the bars of the racking system are covered with a grid or a board of plywood, they can be deposited there, because all the legs of the pallet will be pressed on a flat and straight surface, such that a floor.

Stackable plastic pallets

The design of these pallets is variable, but in general, stackable pallets are very similar to wooden pallets. The base has runners binding the legs together and the top may be solid or vented. The runners give more body and strength to the pallet, preventing them from bending when manipulated on forks.

The runners also make it possible to distribute the load more evenly when the pallets are doubled, that is to say that a pallet of goods is deposited directly on another pile of goods, so as to double the height of the piles to maximize the space in the warehouse or in the transport trucks. The runners give more surface contact, they’d better distribute the weight of the pallet on the boxes or other items underneath, without damaging them, compared to a nestable 9-legged pallet that would fit deeper into the bottom stack.

Stackable plastic pallets

The number of runners may vary depending on the design of the palette. There are models with 2 or 3 runners in one direction or the other, or 4 runners that follow the perimeter of the pallet forming a frame with a central leg, or even 6 runners, 4 of which form a frame on the perimeter and 2 which form a cross in the centre. Normally, the trend is that larger the number of runners is, more the pallet offers a large load capacity. Its price also increases, since it consists of more material.

The runners can have two fork entry or completely solid, which means that there are no holes for the forks. In these cases, the direction of use of the pallet is limited because solid runners completely block access to the forks, while open runners allow them to enter. Stackable plastic pallets with solid runners are called two-way pallets, they can only be handled on two sides. Pallets with four open runners are called 4-way pallets, they offer the possibility of being handled on all four sides. Even if the runners are open, because of their shape, they sometimes prevent a pallet truck from entering through the opening, in which case only forklift forks can enter.

Pallet models with 2 or 3 parallel runners automatically have 2 completely open sides to allow access to a pallet truck. However, some models of pallets with 4 runners positioned on the perimeter can still be handled with the pallet truck, because the runners are rounded to precisely allow a pallet truck to roll over. But in this case, it is still necessary to pay more attention when handling the pallet not to break the runners. If the forks are inserted too far below the pallet and the tips of the forks come over the runner, it will remain locked under the tips and break when the pallet is lifted. The 6-runner models can only be handled by the forklift because the cross at the centre of the base would directly be under the forks of the pallet truck, blocking it from being lifted.

Stackable plastic pallets are multifunctional and very popular, so they are found in just about every industry. They are used in warehouses, distribution, assembly lines, conveyors and export.

Depending on the quantity of material and the number of runners that compose them, they are designed for light to very robust uses. Some models can handle heavy loads up to 30,000 lb. These pallets, however, are not designed to be stored in a traditional racking system, but they can be if it has a grid or plywood boards covering the bars of the rack. If not, to support the weight of the pallet, 2 or 3 safety bars must be added, which will be directly positioned under the runners of the pallet. It is therefore imperative that the forklift operator places the runners of the pallet on the safety bars to ensure that this type of storage is safe.

Rackable plastic pallets

Rackable pallets are also stackable, so they stack one over the other, so they don’t save space either. In fact, their design is very similar to the stackable pallet models, but the conception of the rackable plastic pallets is stronger. It is difficult for the naked eye to identify a rackable pallet 100% sure. So, to validate if the pallet is really a rackable pallet, we must rely on the manufacturer’s specifications, which will then indicate a rack load capacity.

Rackable plastic pallets

Most pallet models in this category have dimensions of 40″ x 48″ or 48″ x 48″. The main feature of a rackable pallet is that it can be used in a specific racking system, like a push-back system, which has on each side, a 3-inch square brackets, which serve to support only the rim of the pallet, while all the rest of it, is in the air and unsupported. This type of racking system allows the forklift to enter between the rows to go all to the end to place or take a pallet. This is the type of racking system that offers the greatest space optimization. To ensure the safety of employees and facilities, the pallets used in this type of racking must absolutely be rackable pallets.

Rackable plastic pallets

In the case of a 40″ x 48″ pallet size, if its maximum rack capacity is 1500 lb, it means that it can support this load, when about 2 to 3 inches of the two 40″ short sides are supported on the rack and that the long 48″ sides are unsupported. In this position, the pallet can withstand a load of 1500 lb before the pallet begins to curve like a banana. It is important to mention that the load must, however, be well distributed on the pallet, and not concentrated in the centre of it.

The racking pallets could be used in a traditional racking system, but in that case, even if these pallets are strong enough and don’t really need a centre support, you do need to put security bars underneath, aligned with the runners, preventing the pallet from sliding off the bars of the racking system. Plastic on metal is slippery, so for a safe storage, two security bars must be placed under the base. A mesh floor or a plywood decking can also be added but those add-ons are more for safety reason, not because the rackable pallets can’t hold the loads.

The conception of a rackable plastic pallets is significantly more robust than the stackable plastic pallets. The rackable pallets have been specially designed for this purpose, to be stored in a rack. The tests performed by the manufacturers are therefore made accordingly, to ensure that they can withstand heavy loads in a racking system or when handled on forks. They have been developed to handle heavy goods in difficult conditions.

The runners are crucial to give more body and strength to the pallets, preventing them from bending when installed in a rack, without central support. The base always has runners, it could be with 3 runners on the length of the 48″, 4 runners following the perimeter and forming a frame, and the centre can consist of a central leg, or 2 other runners lay out as a cross. The top of the pallet can be solid or perforated (ventilated) and might have some integrated steel or fibre glass rods to give it more strength.

Rackable plastic pallets

It is the composition of the pallet, its material type, its weight, therefore the quantity of material used to manufacture it, as well as its engineering which will determine its load capacity in the rack. Pallets with the lowest rack load capacity are those with 3 runners or 4 perimeter runners and a centre leg. The one with the most load capacity has 6 runners, 4 on the perimeter and 2 which form a cross in the centre, with integrated rods.

The price and weight of the rackable pallets are normally higher than any other type of nestable or stackable pallet, since rack pallets are generally made of more material, have thicker and wider runners and sometimes, have integrated steel bars or fibreglass. All of these components influence weight and price.

Classification en fonction de l’application

Certaines palettes en plastique peuvent aussi être classées en fonction de leur utilité ou en fonction du contexte dans lequel elles sont normalement utilisées. On retrouve les palettes en plastique alimentaires, industrielles, d’exportation, pour barils, pour le contrôle des déversements. Cette façon de classer les palettes aide définitivement les gens qui recherchent des palettes, car avec tous les modèles qui existent sur le marché, il serait très difficile de s’y retrouver.

Food-grade pallets

A pallet is said to be food grade when it meets the industry’s requirements for use in food processing plans, so it may be in direct contact with fresh, frozen or processed foods or any other product consumables such as drugs, cannabis, dietary supplements, etc. In the establishments manufacturing these products, the rules of hygiene and sanitation are very strict and the pallets must respect them. Therefore, they must comply with FDA or CFIA standards to be accepted. Inspectors are responsible for validating this compliance.

Food-grade pallets are required to enter any food processing room or to move products between different production areas. They will also be required in the food industries to store food products in a cold room, refrigerator or freezer. The same rules apply to hospitals, laboratories and pharmaceutical centres who produce and store different types of consumable products.

Food-grade pallet accreditation – FDA / CFIA

In Canada, the two types of accreditation are accepted by inspectors; FDA and CFIA. Most industries that use food-grade plastic pallets are requesting documents approving the pallets are food compliant. They will have to show those documents to the inspectors who will make the audits.

FDA: Food and Drug Administration – American Food Standard

The FDA does not approve of a product, it sets the rules that require compliance.

All pallets are made from a virgin plastic resin that complies with FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) standards.

When a product meets FDA standards, it is FDA compliant, that indicates that the manufacturing methods and both, the resin and the pigments used in making coloured, are safe for direct food contact. In this case, the product meets the FDA requirements. It is not the article itself or its part number that is accepted, it’s the material with which it was manufactured that meets the standards. As mentioned above, all FDA-compliant pallets can be used to handle or store fresh, frozen or processed foods, or any other consumable products.

CFIA = Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Canadian Federal Standard

Some pallets also have CFIA accreditation; which is a Canadian federal approval.

It is the federal government agency responsible for Canada’s food security, but it is also active in the field of the environment and the food economy, animal health and plant protection and food safety. It certifies that the product itself, and its components comply with food requirements. It is therefore the entire product and its colour that are coded under a specific number by the manufacturer, and it is this specific number that is approved. In recent years, this agency no longer authorizes products, but it nevertheless keeps accessible the list of products that have been registered over time.

Materials of the Food-Grade Pallets

To be considered food grade, the plastic pallets must be made from virgin raw material, which is natural white, but a food colourant can be added. Here, no recycled material is acceptable. The food colour most commonly encountered in the food-pallet market is blue. However, some manufacturers offer other colours to better serve the food and pharmaceutical industries, which frequently work with colour codes to visually identify different work areas, a specific product or an allergen, an edible or non-edible product or even to easily distinct a function.

Materials of the Food-Grade Pallets

The resin normally used for the manufacture of food-grade plastic pallets is either high-density polyethylene or polypropylene. These two polymers are similar, but have certain specific characteristics that make them more interesting than the other in precise uses. For example, polyethylene will be favoured for use in the cold as for the storage of food in the freezer, while polypropylene is prioritized during a very intense use, as for the storage of heavy rack loads at room temp.

Pallets made from recycled resin, even though this resin is derived from the granulation of products that were originally made from virgin polyethylene only, cannot meet FDA or CFIA standards. In fact, a second meld is no longer qualified as food grade, it is automatically classified recycled. On the other hand, there are qualities of recycled materials, either 100% polyethylene or 100% polypropylene or mixed with other types of plastics and polymers. But, with any of those mix, we are no longer talking about accreditation.

Type of Food-Grade Pallets

Food-grade plastic pallets are available in three types of designs, either nestable, stackable or rackable. Their base can therefore have a different number of runners and the position of those runners can also differ, giving diverse bases type. Their top can be solid or vented. Their design varies greatly from one model to another and the choice is quite significant, so as to suit all types of applications encountered in this field of activity. They are enough pallet types to serve well any applications from a light-duty and occasional use, to an intense and frequent use. The choice of food-grade pallets is large to meet all the needs of the industry.

Industrial pallets

Industrial plastic pallets are commonly used for the storage or transportation of general goods. In fact, these are the most popular plastic pallets, the choice is very large and models are varied to meet all the handling and storage needs that a company can have. They come in a variety of sizes, materials, thicknesses and designs to meet a light-duty use, requiring a lighter, lower-cost pallet, than for a heavy-duty use, requiring a robust, impact-resistant pallet that can have a high load capacity.

Industrial pallets do not have to meet any control standards or do not have to possess any certifications. However, they may be offered in a fire-retardant version, to meet the requirements of some insurance companies, or be made from metal or X-rays detectable materials, but again, these are options offered by some manufacturers to meet specific industry’s requirements.

Materials of Industrial Pallets

Industrial plastic pallets are usually made from recycled polyethylene or polypropylene because there is no need to pay more for a virgin resin if the pallets never go into the food processing rooms. Rather, they are used for general handling, warehousing, transportation of all kinds of goods, or even for the export of products that require a more robust pallet than the pallets normally used for this purpose. Some applications are requiring a very high load capacity, so in this case, even a food-grade plastic pallet could be used in the industrial field. In point of fact, the food-grade pallets are made from virgin materials, which is stronger than the recycled resin. In addition, they are offered in colour and sometimes, these two properties will be wanted and it’s the food-grade plastic pallets that will best serve the industrial application.

Type of Industrial Pallets

The industrial plastic pallets are available in a nestable version with a 9-leg base or in a stackable version with three different designs for the base. The first can have 3 runners, leaving a complete opening on two sides for the pallet truck. The second can have 4 runners on the contour and a central leg, and it can still be used with a pallet jack. The third one has 6 runners, 4 forming a frame and 2 forming a centre cross, this version is offering a better load capacity for more robust applications or racking storage.

Export plastic pallets

Export plastic pallets are mainly used for export or unreturned shipping, so they are for single use only. In this case, it is well not to pay them dearly since they won’t be profitable because their use won’t be repetitive. However, when used internally with care, they could probably be reused 2 to 3 times without breaking, but this is not at all the type of pallets to select for internal handling, they are way too much fragile. They are simply not designed for this purpose.

Export plastic pallets

To be as economical as possible, export pallets are made with very little quantity of plastic, which gives them a light weight, but do not offer good impact resistance. However, they have sufficient load capacity to support a load to the destination.

Materials of Export Pallets

Apart from the small amount of material used to make these pallets, another reason explain their low impact resistance; they are made from a mixture of different types of recycled plastic, rather than from a single kind of recycled resin. Since all plastic resins have specific characteristics and properties, if they are mixed, the result is a more fragile and less stable material, so it is more brittle. Also, this mix of materials is suitable for dry places only, it does not react well in contact with water or moisture. Greyish bubbles may form on all surfaces of the pallets.

To meet the needs of the export market, which sometimes requires more durable pallets for heavy loads, some manufacturers are designing more robust export pallets made from 100% polyethylene or 100% polypropylene. This design gives the same pallets, but in a stronger and more robust version to ensure that the pallets will hold up to the final destination and that their contents will be well protected during the trip. Export pallets made from 100% polyethylene or polypropylene perfectly withstand moisture and water, as well as insects, fungi or chemicals.

Materials of Export Pallets

Types of export pallets

They are normally offered in 2 versions; nestable with a legged base that saves space, or stackable version with runners that are added under the legs for strength. In this case, there are two base-type versions that can be created, a base with 3 clipped runners or a one-piece base made of 6 runners that are clipped to the legs. If the runners are broken, it would be possible to change them, but it is not easy to remove them once they are clipped to the legs.

Types of export pallets

It is certain that it is always possible to use any other type of pallet to export goods, especially when the load is heavy or of great value. But the export pallet as the name suggests, is a lightweight palette, inexpensive and does not have a long service life.

Plastic pallets for drums or spill control

Plastic drum pallets are called this because they are specifically designed for the handling of 45 imperial gallons (or 55 US gallon) barrels. In fact, there are two main kinds of plastic pallets that has been developed to facilitate the handling of drums. There are the drums pallets, which features some moulded ring on their deck or the spill control pallets, that feature removable grates on the top and a higher base to be able to contain a liquid. Both kinds are used for the handling and storage of drums, but only the spill control model can recover leaks.

Plastic drum pallets

The stackable plastic drum pallets are standard pallets, on which there are 3 or 4 rings about 1″ height, moulded on the pallet surface and used to hold the barrels. They are therefore stackable plastic pallets. The 3-drum pallet has a foot print of 40″ x 48″ with 3 rings, while the 4-drum pallets are 48″ x 48″ and has 4 moulded rings. The purpose of these rings is to secure the barrels on the pallet, preventing them from moving and slipping off the pallet while transporting them. It’s a lot safer to use these specialized pallets than to take standard plastic pallets without these rings, because the risk that the barrels slide off the pallet is considerable, especially when the pallet is handled by the forklift. The present rings secure the loading as well as employees.

Plastic drum pallets

Materials of plastic drum pallets

The vast majority of plastic drum pallets are made from 100% polyethylene. Certain areas of activity, such as the food plants and pharmaceutical sector, must use FDA-compliant drum pallets to enter any white rooms, process rooms or refrigerators. In general, these pallets are moulded in blue for the 40″ x 48″ format and in green for the 48″x 48″ model. The food grade drum plastic pallets are made of virgin food-grade resin of primary fusion, in which a food colouring dye has been added. With minimum quantities, some manufacturers offer the possibility to mold pallets into other food colours to better meet the needs of customers.

Materials of plastic drum pallets

When the need is more general, drum pallets in recycled version can be used without a problem. They are composed of a resin made of 100% recycled polyethylene and in this case, the pallets offered are automatically black. This recycled material is perfect for making sturdy pallets for storing or transporting drums in all industries. Whether polyethylene is food grade or recycled, it is resistant to chemicals, moisture, insects, fungi and sudden changes in temperature. These reusable stackable plastic drum pallets offer a long service life and are ideal for stack loading, conveying systems, distribution and static storage.

Materials of plastic drum pallets

Types de palettes à barils

La nature de l’application oblige de fabriquer des palettes solides ayant une bonne capacité de charge pour supporter un poids minimal sur des fourches. Ces palettes se doivent d’être sécuritaire, donc toutes les palettes à barils possèdent une base avec des semelles et une croix au centre. Elles doivent alors être utilisées pour faire de la manutention générale à l’aide d’un chariot élévateur ou sur des convoyeurs.

Dans certains cas, des palettes standards peuvent être adaptées à la manipulation de barils en ajoutant des chevilles en caoutchouc empêchant les barils de glisser, mais ces palettes ne sont pas catégorisées comme des palettes à barils.

Types de palettes à barils

Types of plastic drums pallets

Basically, the nature of the application requires the manufacture of solid plastic pallets with good dynamic load capacity, because on forks, the pallet must be able to support the minimum weight of 4 full barrels. Considering that the weight of the water is 8.33 lb per US gallon, the pallets must be able to withstand a minimum load of 4 filled drums, or 1833 lb, plus the weight of the barrels, so a minimum load of 1950 lb, before the top of the pallet start to bend and drags off the barrels.

The 3-drum pallets have 3 moulded rings on the top and the 4-drum pallets have 4, and both pallets have a base with runners, they are therefore safe to be handled using a pallet truck, a forklift or even placed on a conveyor. The runners also allow to stack a full pallet of barrels on another pile of barrels. Because of the runners, the load is better distributed on the barrels below. These reusable pallets have a long service life and are ideal for stack loading, conveying systems, distribution and static storage.

In some cases, standard nestable plastic pallets can be adapted to handle drums handling by adding rubber plugs on the top of the pallet to prevent drums from slipping, but these pallets are not categorized as drum pallets. Because of their legs without runners, they facilitate barrel handling using the pallet truck. It is not recommended to stack this type of pallet on another load because of the legs that will not all have a good support.

Photo grommet vert sur CPP + 3 baril Avia sur palette

Spill control pallet

The forkliftable spill control plastic pallets are the only ones of all pallet models to be able to contain liquid spills in case of leaks. They are available in several versions to meet the drums handling needs of the market.

They are available in many versions; 2-barrel side-by-side, 3-barrel in-line, 4-barrel square and 4-barrel in-line. These different styles optimize the storage and handling of drums. They can all be handled by forklift or pallet truck. They are available in yellow or black, with or without drain. They have a removable metal grates on the top to help drain the pallet when needed. The retention capacity varies from one model to another, but it can retain the volume of a full barrel of 55 US gallons (or 45 imperial gallons) in case of leakage. The rule is to be able to recover 120% of the total capacity of the drum, so the spill control pallet will recover at least 66 US gallons, or 54 imperial gallons. The retention pallets meet the standards of the chemical industry for the recovery of dangerous products. They surpass EPS and SPCC standards.

Spill control pallet

In summary, the plastic pallets with moulded rings are primarily used to store or transport drums safely, while raised models with grates serve both for the handling of barrels and receptacles for the recovery of liquids. Retention pallets protect the environment and employees in case of leaks of chemical products.

Choose pallets based on your handling equipment

Forklift

This handling equipment is the most popular because it is suitable for moving pallets of all kinds, no matter the shape of the base, whether legs or runners. The forklift makes it easy to handle heavy pallets of goods on the ground or store them in height to optimize space, either by stacking them on each other when the type of material allows it, or by placing them in a racking system.

The forklift also facilitates the loading or unloading of goods from trucks when they are parked at a loading dock. The forklift can then enter directly into the truck to place or exit the pallets. This is much faster than waiting for the driver to bring one pallet at a time with his pallet truck on the edge of the truck, to take it with the forklift from the outside. Or again, to drop the goods on the back end of the truck and wait for the driver to place the pallet at the very end of the 53-foot truck and come back for the next pallet.

In some cases, the driver placing the goods inside the truck will be even limited with his pallet truck, because it may not be suitable for the type of pallets used to pack the products, the pallet base might not be suitable for a jigger, or the forks may just not be long enough to move longer pallets.

The advantage of the forklift is that it is very adaptable and it’s fast to use. It can also carry heavy loads that could be almost impossible to move by an employee if he would use a pallet truck. The forks at the front of the forklift are movable so that they can be set up closer or further apart to accommodate all pallet openings and stabilize the load on the forks. In fact, the fork arms should be spaced evenly on each side of the pallet centre girder to balance the load, otherwise, too close, the pallet may bend and the goods may fall. The load capacity of a pallet is calculated when the forks are well positioned under the pallet and the goods are evenly distributed on the pallet.

To accommodate long pallets, forks of 6 feet or longer can be installed on standard 4-foot forklift forks. For safe handling, the length of the forks must be at least two thirds of the length of the pallet to be moved.

Pallet truck

The use of a pallet truck is very convenient when the space does not allow to work with a forklift, as in a small place such a refrigerator or on a mezzanine, for example. On the other hand, it can also be a little more limiting in the choice of pallets to use in operations.

Nestable Leg-Base Pallets or Stackable Runner-Base Pallets

Nestable Leg-Base Pallets or Stackable Runner-Base Pallets

To get a pallet with, at least, two sides with a full opening to easily enter a pallet jack, a legged pallet or a 2-runner, or 3-runner base pallet should be chosen. Those types of pallets give a complete accessibility to the pallet jack to enter under the pallet.

It’s important to think of how the general handling of the pallets will be done, because some manufacturers offer different models of pallets with runners positioned in one direction or the other, so on the 40″ or 48″ side. Because the handling will always be done by the same side, it’s better to choose the right model to accommodate the general handling into the plant, as to move the pallet from one point to another, to maximize the storage room or when placing the pallet in the transport trucks. Runners are offered in both sides to better adapt to the needs of users; however, the most popular runner-base pallet has a foot print of 40″ x 48″ and the base has 2 or 3 runners in the 48″ direction.

Stackable perimeter-base pallets (4 runners)

Stackable perimeter-base pallets (4 runners)

When a pallet is called a perimeter-base pallet, that means the pallet has 4 runners on his perimeter forming a frame. The pallet has a leg in the centre and each side of this leg is clear, allowing a pallet jack to enter under the pallet. However, pallets with rounded runners should be selected to allow the wheels of the jigger to roll easily over them. Rolling over the runners is easy because they are not very high and they have been designed for this specific purpose. Then again, you must be careful when handling the pallet truck with this type of pallet, because you do not have to get the forks too far under the pallet, otherwise the opposite runners will be found under the tip of the forks and will break when the pallet is lifted.

Stackable cruciform-base pallets (6 runners)

When a pallet is called a cruciform-base pallet, that means the pallet has 4 runners on the perimeter forming a frame and two more in the centre creating a cross. Unfortunately, any of the 6-runner cruciform base pallets can be handled by a pallet truck, because it will step over the centre cross, so those runners will be found under the forks of the jigger and it will end up to be impossible to lift the pallet from the ground, the cross will break.

Stackable cruciform-base pallets (6 runners)

Rotative forks

When pallets are to be handled with a rotating forklift or with any type of rotative head, forks or mast system, the pallet base must be equipped with runners, which allows the pallets to be held in the forks upside down.

For example, in certain industries where the control of contaminants is very strict, the contaminant controlled technic passes through limiting the entry of dirty wooden pallets into the plant. Any material packaged on external pallets must be transferred quickly and efficiently upon arrival to a plastic pallet that is used only internally. A rotative fork system, combine with runner-base plastic pallets allows to directly transfer the merchandise that arrive on wooden pallets, to clean plastic ones. The plastic pallet is held upside down on the forks over the packaging, then the pallet is deposed on it and the whole thing is rotated until all the content is found on the plastic pallet. The wooden pallet is then removed and returned to the transport truck, or outside.

Conveyor

It is very important to choose a plastic pallet that will have good contact with the surface of the conveyor so that the pallet travel well on the system and the movement of the loaded pallet is well stabilized. When selecting a pallet to be used on a conveyor, it’s important to take into account its base design, as its surface type. If the conveyor has a solid surface like a table top, then all kinds of pallets may be suitable, whether they are nestable with a leg base, or stackable with a runner base. It remains only to determine the ideal pallet surface for the type of loads that will be held.

On the other hand, if the pallets are going to be put on a roller conveyor or a drag-chain conveyor, then a model with a runner base, adapted to the system in place, will have to be chosen to provide a greater contact with the surface of the conveyor and to get a stable displacement of the pallet. If the contact is not large enough, the pallet might shake or bump.

Charge capacity

Static load

The static load is the maximum load that the pallet can support when deposited on the ground. Its base is fully supported on the ground and the pallet is not moving. The pallet base can be designed with legs or runners.

Dynamic Load

The dynamic load is the maximum load that the pallet can support when handled by the forks of a forklift or a pallet truck. In fact, it is the maximum weight that a pallet can stand before starting to bend when loaded with merchandise and lifted from the ground. During this type of handling, two forks of approximately 6 to 7 inches wide are positioned directly under the deck of the pallet and lift the total load. It is no longer the base of the pallet that is supporting the load, but rather the deck itself. If the pallet base has runners connecting the legs together, these provide a better support for a greater load capacity.

To support the maximum load indicated by the manufacturer, it must be taken into account that the forks must be positioned equally on each side of the central leg and that the material on the pallet is evenly distributed. Depending on the type of merchandise, it might also remain to be attached or wrapped, otherwise, this load capacity may be less than the one recommended by the manufacturer.

Racking load

The racking load capacity is the maximum load that the pallet can stand before to start to bend when placed in a specific racking system, like a push back system, where the pallet is only supported by two sides. In the case of a 40″ x 48″ pallet, the maximum racking load capacity is calculated based on whether both 40″ sides are supported and the 48″ side is not. Only 2 inches on each side of the pallet touch the racking system, no any other support.

Rackable plastic pallets

The concept of the racking capacity only refers to a pallet that will be placed in this type of racking system, where there is no central support. It is important to mention that the load must, however, be well distributed on the pallet and not all concentrated in the centre. If the pallet was designed for this purpose, the manufacturer will have listed a rack load capacity in its specifications, otherwise, if the pallet was not manufactured in this sense, it would be very dangerous to use it in this context, it can break. Always follow the manufacturer’s specifications to avoid accidents.

Vented

Types of surface

Vented

That means that the top of the plastic pallet is punctured, often squared, allowing air, liquids and other debris to pass through. When washed, the pallet dries quickly. Moisture does not accumulate on the surface, so the material always stays dry. It is an ideal surface for storage in a refrigerator or freezer because the air circulates more. The ventilated surface pallets are also lighter, since they are composed of less material. This is the most popular type of surface.

Solid

The top of the plastic pallet is full with no holes. In fact, it is full, but some pallets have nesting registration holes that match the footprint of the pallet legs, for introducing them when the top pallet enters the pallet from below to nest them to save space. The legs then have a drainage hole for the evacuation of liquids. The choice of solid-surface pallets is less than vented models, because applications requiring this type of surface are not so numerous. They are also more expensive because they are made of more material. However, they are stronger than the ventilated one and have higher load capacities.

Sometimes, it is for a question of cleanliness that the solid surface is selected. The solid surface also prevents the merchandise from getting dirty or falling on the floor through the holes, like bags of soil, for example. Otherwise, the solid surface will be selected to avoid grid marking of the goods when loaded on the pallet.

Solid
Smooth

Smooth

The top of the plastic pallet is solid with a really smooth surface, with no hard-to-wash corners, slots or recesses, preventing contamination. Since requirements are higher in the food and health sectors, laboratories and food processing plans use a lot of smooth deck pallets. Because of their smooth surface, these pallets are generally called the hygienic pallets. They are generally moulded in one piece, where no contaminants or food particles can’t accumulate in the joints, as they could in the other type of pallets. The surface is more slippery, so often it will have a retaining rim of 5 to 7 mm high, preventing items from slipping.

By Injection

Manufacturing processes

By Injection

The melted plastic is injected under pressure into a closed cavity mold, then immediately pressed, giving it the desired shape. The part is then rapidly cooled in its mold, thus preserving its exact shape. This process allows the creation of pallets in large quantities, of uniform thickness and great durability. The surface of plastic pallets can be vented or smooth.

By Injection and Structured Foam

By Injection and Structured Foam

The melted plastic is injected under pressure into a closed cavity mold to give the desired shape to the product. Then, a propellant such as nitrogen gas is introduced into the mold during cooling of the product, to create bullies areas. The part is then completely cooled in its mold, to make sure that it keeps its exact shape. This process allows the creation of vented or smooth deck pallets, in large quantities, uniform thickness and with different surface finishes. All structural foam pallets are rigid and durable. This process allows to create durable rackable pallets, which have the greatest load capacity compared to any other type of pallets.

Single sheet Thermoforming

By Thermoforming

Single sheet Thermoforming

A plastic sheet is heated and is then sucked onto a mold for shaping the workpiece. Then it is cooled and unmolded. The palettes thus created have a solid surface. This process does not allow to create a ventilated surface, anyway it would not be very solid. All pallets that are manufactured by this process are nestable, therefore are one-piece moulded pallets, with a leg-base and leg-holes surface. The top pallet can nest into the one underneath to save space. They are very light and this process create an impact resistant plastic that won’t chip

Twin Sheet Thermoforming

Twin Sheet Thermoforming

Two plastic sheets are heated simultaneously and are moulded in a single operation in separate molds and then, fused together and press-sealed to form a single double-walled pallet. This process allows to create nestable pallets, so with a leg-base and leg-holes surface. The palettes have a solid surface, impossible to create a ventilated surface.

Both single and twin sheets thermoforming processes allow the production of small quantities of pallets at a time and provide a smooth surface finish that is easy to maintain. The plastic that has been thermoformed offer a great durability, in fact, it is more flexible than any of the other processes. The pallets are therefore resistant to impacts, for example if the plastic cannot absorb the shock, the plastic will open, but it will not burst into multiple pieces like a plastic injection moulded pallet will automatically do.

Advantages of plastic pallets versus wooden pallets

Plastic pallets

Several advantages make companies move towards plastic pallets rather than wood. The plastic pallets are lightweight with an ergonomic design that facilitates handling by hand. Their surface is smooth and easy to maintain. They can be washed by hand, with a garden hose, a pressure washer or into an industrial washer. Since they are inert to moisture and water, their weight is always stable and does not vary, which is perfect for the exportation or when pallets are moving from outside to inside constantly. They stay cleaner.

Plastic pallets will last up to 5 times longer than wooden pallets because, in addition to being water-resistant, they resist acids, solvents, insects and bacteria. No treatment is needed to be accepted for the exportation or in food plans, for example. They help keep the work area clean because they don’t have any nails or wood chips that fall off the pallet. Therefore, they are safer to work with, they do not give splinters.

Wooden Pallets

In contrast, the weight of wooden pallets varies according to the moisture, rain or water and they can become very heavy. Water and moisture prematurely damage the pallets, so their life cycle can be reduced. In addition, pallets full of water no longer have the same characteristics or load capacity.

Breakage is common, as are sources of contamination such as parasites, fungi and bacteria, because their surface is porous. Cleaning or sanitizing wooden pallets is impossible, they cannot be washed efficiently. To be accepted in certain fields of activity, they must be fumigated or chemically treated, but these treatments have a limited duration and when the pallet is split or broken, the interior has no treatment.

The wooden pallets must frequently be repaired or replaced when they are in a poor condition or with an irreparable breakage. If the wooden pallets are used even in bad condition, the pallets may damage the merchandise or may cause corporal injury to employees, with nails or splinters.

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