Plenty of equipment and technology goes into shipping freight to ensure loads get from point A to point B intact. But the base of many (or most) loads is something seemingly simple: the standard pallet. The size of the standard pallet in the U.S. can be boiled down to the size of the most common pallet, which is 48 x 40 inches. However, the word "standard" can depend on the type of product as well as where it's traveling - as international pallets have their own "standards."
Domestic Standard Pallet Sizes By Type
While the most common domestic pallet is the 48x40 - also known as the GMA tracing its origins to the Grocery Manufacturers Association - there are several domestic standard pallet sizes depending on the type of load they are meant to carry, including:
48x40 - Grocery and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs)
48x48 - Drums
48x45 - Automotive
48x42 - Chemicals, Beverages (check which one before consuming)
48x36 - Packaged Paper, Shingles, Beverages
48x20 - General Retail
44x44 - Drums, Chemicals
42x42 - Paint, Telecommunications
42x31 - Tiles
40x48 - Military, Cement
40x40 - Dairy
36x36 - Beverages
ISO and European Standard Pallet Sizes
Outside of North America, pallet size standards are a bit different. The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has settled on six standard pallet sizes by region:
As you may imagine, with so many "standard" pallet sizes - and some not overlapping with ISO standards, there can be some difficulty matching pallet to container if not properly planned.
How Many Pallets Fit Into Containers and Trucks?
With so many variations on sizes, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how many pallets fit into a container or truck. Instead, the answer is: it depends. A 45-foot container holds 24 standard pallets and 27 of the most common EUR pallets. A 40-foot container holds 20 standard 48x40 pallets or 24 of EUR pallets. Not quite halving that gets you the 20-foot container capacity, with roughly 10 standard and 11 EUR fitting in those.
A standard 53-foot dry van trailer holds 26 standard domestic pallets, and up to 34 EUR, while a 48-footer holds up to 26 EUR and 24 standard domestic pallets. All of these numbers assume no stacking or other special circumstances, simply fully loaded pallets.
How Much Weight Can Pallets Hold?
Different pallets can hold different weight capacities, but the domestic standard pallet holds up to 4,600 pounds. Among other pallet sizes, the highest capacity is that belonging to the 42x31 - Tile pallet, which can handle just north of 6,500 pounds.
The lowest capacity among other domestic pallets is about 3,500 pounds for the 40x40 dairy and 36x36 beverage varieties. The most common EUR pallet holds 1,500 kilograms (roughly 3,300 pounds). Again, these numbers do not account for stacking.
Knowing the pallet basics is an important start. Knowing the container basics is another plus. If you're ready for the next step - shipping, reach out to us and we'll be happy to get in touch to talk strategy with you. For more information about InTek, or logistics and supply chain issues in general, check out our Freight Guides.