BlogSupply Chain SafetyIt's important to determine the maximum weight per pallet before loading.

The last things that warehouse workers want to do while loading pallets is pull another pallet off the stack. It requires that they stop what they’re doing and either pull a heavy pallet off the top of a tall column of empty pallets or wait for a forklift to come by and do it for them. As a result, workers have an incentive to load a pallet to its maximum weight limit–and sometimes even over the limit. But overloaded pallets can be dangerous. If a pallet breaks under its load, it could spill thousands of pounds of product onto people and objects nearby. An overloaded pallet is also incredibly inefficient, as it can cause trucks to exceed weight limits, resulting in heavy penalties and more products damaged during transportation, storage, and handling.

Protecting profit margins means knowing exactly how to calculate the maximum weight per pallet. This can vary a great deal depending on the type of pallet, the method that will be used to store it, and the goods shipped on it. Developing a thorough knowledge of pallet types and their different weight capacities will help to reduce your Total Cost of Business (TCOB) over the long term.

The Maximum Weight Per Pallet by Pallet Type

Wood pallets have an inconsistent maximum weightThe most commonly given maximum load for pallets of all types is 2,800 pounds. This is, in fact, the maximum weight per pallet when it is being loaded into a rack. However, two other weight limits must also be considered: the amount of weight a pallet can hold when supported evenly from below (static load capacity), and the amount it can hold while being moved (dynamic load capacity). The approximate maximum weight for the three most commonly available 48×40 GMA-spec pallets by material and pallet type are given in the chart below:

Pallet TypeEdge Rackable Load CapacityDynamic Load CapacityMaximum Static Load Capacity
Wood Stringer Pallet2,500 lbs2,200 to 2,500 lbs2,500 lbs
Wood Block Pallet2,800 lbs4,600 lbs5,500 lbs
Plastic Pallet2,800 lbs5,000 lbs30,000 lbs

It should be noted that both types of wood pallets–stringer and block pallets–come with a degree of uncertainty about their actual maximum weight limit. Improving cube utilization in the warehouse involves using pallet racking systems to store large volumes of inventory overhead. These racks are so common in the supply chain that many wood pallet makers simply give the edge rackable maximum weight per pallet as the maximum weight a pallet can hold. However, this is a reflection of the maximum capacity of the racking system, not of the pallet. Indeed, many manufacturers of stringer pallets offer a lesser figure of 2,500 pounds as the maximum load that their pallets can hold. It is possible for a company to be in the habit of loading pallets to maximum racking capacity, switch to cheaper pallets without changing their practices, and then suffer increased losses due to pallet failure without ever realizing why.

Wood degrades over time, which affects how much weight a wood pallet can hold.

Wood block pallets, on the other hand, are made of sterner stuff. Different outlets put the maximum weight per pallet for wood block pallets at anywhere from 4,000 pounds to 5,500 pounds. However, this figure more likely reflects the maximum dynamic weight per pallet. The maximum static weight per pallet for a wood block pallet is likely to be much higher, but isn’t widely shared due to uncertainty about the exact upper limit. 

Wood degrades over time, which affects how much weight a wood pallet can hold. Many wood pallet recycling companies revise down the maximum weight limit in the case of used or reconditioned pallets. In the end, the upper weight limit of a wood pallet, regardless of type, is always going to be inexact. The result is that all loads shipped out on wood pallets will be under the maximum weight per pallet just to build in a margin for safety. However, these considerations don’t apply to plastic pallets, which offer firm figures for the maximum weight per pallet in all use scenarios.

The Maximum Weight Per Pallet for Plastic Pallets Is Consistent 

Plastic pallets consistently hold heavy loads without damage.In contrast to their wood competitors, plastic pallets are quite literally engineered at a molecular level out of a non-absorbent material that is resistant to water and microbes. The most obvious result of this is that plastic pallets have a longer useful lifespan and do not degrade. This consistency translates into a more precise maximum weight per pallet that doesn’t change over the course of the pallet’s lifespan. A firm, accurate maximum loading capacity for each scenario allows logistics planners to calculate a load without a built-in safety margin to allow for uncertainty about the pallet. In the case of most supply chains, this means that a plastic pallet can be loaded to as close to the 2,800-pound racking limit as carton dimensions and individual package weight allows. As a result, plastic pallets can generally hold extra cartons, and in some cases even extra layers of product. And since plastic pallets can hold more weight in a dynamic or static scenario than wood pallets, they are more versatile overall, such as in cases where loaded pallets are not racked.

Plastic pallets offer a significant reduction to your TCOB that pays off over time.

Plastic pallets are also lighter than wood block pallets and save weight across an entire load. While wood block pallets weigh up to 80 pounds per pallet depending on their build and the moisture content of the wood, high-quality plastic pallets weigh in at less than 50 pounds every time. The light and consistent weight of plastic pallets allows each trailer to be loaded closer to its maximum weight capacity. Over the long term, this can actually save on the number of trips needed to fulfill your orders. As a result, plastic pallets offer a significant reduction to your TCOB that pays off over time. Their consistent and reliable strength enables logistics personnel to more accurately calculate and load to the maximum weight per pallet every time.

iGPS high-quality pooled plastic pallets allow you to calculate the maximum weight per pallet, whether racked, in motion, or static, to a very tight tolerance. To make the switch, give our team a call at 1-866-636-6443, email a specialist at [email protected], or visit our contact page.