A pallet (sometimes called a skid) is a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, or other jacking device. While most pallets are wooden, pallets also are made of plastic, metal, and paper. Each material has advantages and disadvantages relative to the others.
Containerization for transport has spurred the use of pallets because the shipping containers have the clean, level surfaces needed for easy pallet movement. Most pallets can easily carry a load of 1,000 kg (about 2,000 lb). Today, over half a billion pallets are made each year and about two billion pallets are in use across the United States alone.
No universally accepted standards for pallet dimensions exist. Companies and organizations utilize hundreds of different pallet sizes around the globe. While no single dimensional standard governs pallet production, a few different sizes are widely used. Below are the most common ones.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sanctions six pallet dimensions, detailed in ISO Standard 6780.
In Europe, the EURO pallet, also called a CEN pallet, is widely used in many industries. It measures 800 by 1200 by 120 mm. Manufacturers of EURO pallets must be sanctioned by the European Pallet Association (EPAL), which governs the smallest details, even which types of nails and lumber may be used. The four common sizes of EURO pallets are:
Due to the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), most pallets shipped across national borders must be made of materials that are incapable of being a carrier of invasive species of insects and plant diseases. The standards for these pallets are specified in ISPM 15. The seal of compliance for ISPM 15 is colloquially known as the "bug stamp." Below is a sample seal for this standard.
Pallets made of raw, untreated wood are not compliant with ISPM 15. To be compliant the pallets must be treated by either of the following means under the supervision of an approved agency.
- Heat treatment The wood must be heated to achieve a minimum core temperature of 56°C for at least 30 minutes. Pallets treated via this method bear the initials HT near the IPPC logo.
- Chemical fumigation The wood must be fumigated with methyl bromide. Pallets treated via this method bear the initials MB near the IPPC logo.
Pallets made of non-wood materials such as steel, aluminum, plastic, or engineered wood products, such as plywood, oriented strand board, or cardboard do not need IPPC approval