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What happens to your products when they leave the factory or warehouse and head on their journey to the next stop? What does a pallet go through before getting brought to its final destination?
Today, we’re taking a peek behind the curtain into the life of an LTL pallet.
A pallet is a type of LTL (less than truckload) freight. It’s the term used to refer to a board of boxes or shipping containers. The pallet itself is usually a wood or plastic base that holds boxes or containers to be shipped. A typical pallet is 40” x 48”, and it’s held together by clear stretchy plastic film.
Pallets are more than just a way to transport boxes, though. They’ve become units of measurement for shippers. They’re also the key to transportation efficiency.
Pallets have become one of the most effective ways to transport goods, especially with a trucking capacity crisis. Businesses can send a set number of pallets with a shipping carrier without needing to fill an entire truck of goods. LTL pallets are typically a cheaper, more efficient way to send packages than FTL or shipping individual boxes. It’s also a smart way to reduce breakage and streamline the operations process.
So what does the life of a pallet look like?
Not all of the boxes on the pallet will contain the same products inside. But, if boxes are of similar size, you can put them on the same pallet. For example, you could ship 5 boxes of pants, 5 boxes of shirts, and 5 boxes of purses all on the same pallet as long as the boxes are of similar size. They just need to fit on the pallet like a jigsaw puzzle.
In most cases, you’ll want to optimize costs by perfectly puzzling the pallet together. This means you want to understand where all boxes are going, how they fit together, and how they’ll sit on the pallet.
Keep in mind, though, that all goods on the pallet should be in the same freight class.
If you’re not sure how to create a pallet of mixed goods and boxes, work with a shipping carrier or utilize an AI transportation management system.
After the pallet contains all of the boxes to be shipped, it needs to be weighed and sized. The dimensions will help determine the price of the pallet.
You can find the size based on length x width x height. If you have multi-piece shipments, you’ll measure the width and height and multiply by the total length of the pallets.
Your shipper will likely find the pallet dimensions using a special scale and system to quickly and effectively determine the rate for the shipment.
More and more LTL shippers are starting to look at freight density with dimensional pricing as opposed to sheer weight. This instead prices based on the density of the pallet or shipment, rather than its weight. So, a large but lightweight box would cost more than a small, heavy one. Learn how dimensional pricing affects LTL rates and pallet shipments.
The other factors of price are distance and service type. How far is the pallet traveling, and how quickly does it need to get there? Is the freight traveling along a commercial shipping lane (which is less expensive than shipping through unconventional pathways)? Is it going standard, expedited, express, or guaranteed?
Once these questions are answered, the pallet will be priced and approved for shipment.
You want to make sure every box is labeled with the units inside, but you also want to label the pallet itself. This should include a destination address as well as info about the pallet, like ship date, contents, freight class, weight, and an addressee. If the pallet isn’t properly labeled, it can get lose and detoured.
In most cases, you’ll contact your LTL company and make a pickup request when it’s time for shipping. They’ll provide you with a date and time as well as an estimated rate based on your initial request. There may be a two-hour pickup window because of LTL’s hub-and-spoke model, which means trucks have to go in and out of a lot of different terminals and hubs.
Before loading, make sure you have all of the required documentation for your pallet. This includes paperwork with a shipping date, carrier and shipper details, shipment details (description, quantity, weight, freight class), and special instructions.
The pallet is loaded on the truck using a forklift or dock. If the pickup location doesn’t have these methods of loading, you may have been charged an additional loading cost per pallet.
Once onboard, your pallet can take a rest knowing it’s in good hands.
If you have any perishables or temperature-sensitive items, you can ship your pallets in refrigerated trucks. These ensure that your products are safe and comfortable and that they’ll make it to their destination as fresh as they were on loading. Learn more about reefer vs fridge box shipping here.
After a nice nap on the truck, your pallet is delivered to its final destination. A pallet is likely headed to a terminal or warehouse as opposed to a residential delivery since pallets usually carry large quantities of goods. So your pallet will be unloaded at the commercial dock.
Now it’s ready for unpacking, labeling, and storing in your warehouse. Or it might be getting ready for another trip on an LTL truck if it’s being transferred with a hub and spoke model—ready to start the process again.
Pallet shipping is the most common type of freight, especially for LTL transportation. Your pallet is well cared for from beginning to end when you use a caring, efficient company like Redwood.
Check out our recent LTL market update and the trends shippers can expect in the new year. If you're in need of an LTL freight quote, contact us and a freight specialist will get in touch with you as soon as possible.