The Most Common Standard Pallet Sizes | Pallet Consultants
Pallets come in many different shapes, sizes, and types. Although 48 x 40 GMA pallets are by far the most common size and have become "standard", there are other widely used pallets.
There are hundreds of millions of pallets used in the United States alone. Although most of those pallets are only used in specific industries, there are some that have become very common in the pallet industry. Accounting for about 35% of the pallet market share, the 48 x 40 GMA pallet is the closest thing there is to a "standard" size. 48 x 48 pallets used to transport drums and 42 x 42 pallets used to ship paint and telecommunication equipment are the next most common sizes. To learn more about how you can optimize your facility with the right pallet, start a conversation with us. The three most common pallet sizes are:
- 48 x 40
- 42 x 42
- 48 x 48
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Is there a standard pallet size?
In short, there is no true "standard" pallet, however the 48x40 pallet is so common it is widely considered to be a standard size. But first, lets back up a bit and review some context and history.
Veterans and newcomers alike to the pallet and shipping industry should be familiar with three very important letters – GMA. That’s the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and although it has now been renamed the Consumer Brands Association, it set some of the standards for pallets and other equipment in the transportation of many consumer goods in the US.
The GMA pallet specifications the organization initially created are important because one of the standard pallet dimensions it set are 48 inches by 40 inches, or 48 x 40. By having all manufacturers, distributors, and retailers on the same page with a standard pallet, the whole industry runs smoother. A very common pallet measurement allows equipment and automated processes switch between pallets from different manufacturers without trouble. Because of this ubiquity in the United States, 48 x 40 is poplar throughout North America and the world.
Part of a design schematic for a 48 x 40 GMA pallet.
Quick 48 x 40 GMA facts:
- Usually 6.5" tall
- Weigh an average of 37 lbs., but can be much heavier
- Deck boards are 3.25" wide, 40" long and .31" thick
- Can hold up to 4,600 lbs.
The 48 x 40 pallet is so common because it is very versatile. Also made to International Organization for Standardization (IOS) recognized specifications, it can be used for many things, from dry goods to dairy items and produce.
With all this in mind, it's important to note that 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, some sizes are so widely used they become “standard”, like the GMA pallet.
Here are the other common pallet sizes:
Wood vs. Other Materials
Most pallets are made of wood, although some are plastic and metal. However, wood does have some advantages over other materials. Wood is renewable, and doesn’t require mining like metals or long-term landfill waste like plastic pallets. They can also easily be recycled or fixed, which can’t be said for other materials. Additionally, alterations can also be made to wooden pallets without much time or special equipment. Pallets can be taken apart and made into a different size through cutting or combining pieces, all that is needed are nails and saws.
Two and Four-Way Pallets
The 48 x 40 GMA pallet we’ve been talking about either comes in a two or four-way entry type depending on its design. Two-way pallets are designed to be lifted by the deck boards, since that is the only way a forklift or pallet jack can lift them. With this design, the stringers are not notched, and therefore it can only be lifted along the length of the pallet in between the stringers. Notching is when a small cutout is made to the bottom of the stringer, allowing a forklift to pass through the pallet’s sides. Four-way pallets are best lifted by their more rigid stringers or blocks. Four-ways are usually heavier, bigger and more durable than two-way pallets. Four-way pallets have entry slots on all four sides for full accessibility, and can either be supported by stringers with notches or by wood blocks instead of stringers.
Stringer and Block Pallets
The use of stringers or wooden blocks determine if they are known as stringer pallets or block pallets, and can give clues to how the pallet will be handled on the forklift. Although some stringer pallets have notches in the stringer to allow for side pickup, not all are notched. A block pallet is always four-way.
When made by a reputable and competent pallet supplier, new pallets are generally pretty similar. Some might be of different styles, like block and stringer pallets, but they are generally considered a commodity.
However, recycled pallets can vary in appearance and quality. Some just don’t look as clean as new ones but are structurally the same. Some have minor splits or cracks in the wood, while others have damaged stringer boards and have been repaired once to multiple times. Just as there's no true standard for a pallet size, there is also no standard for grading recycled pallet quality. Different companies have different ways to grade pallet quality, and the names of their grades will often be different as well. For example, we have eight recycled pallet grades so you know exactly what kind of pallet you'll be getting.
A Pallet’s End of Life
Usually after three stringer repairs, a pallet is scrapped. It can be cut into its component pieces where good parts are used in other recycled pallets. Sturdy pieces can be cut down and used as plugs or runner repairs. Top boards and lead boards are taken off and reused if possible, but anything that can’t be put onto another pallet is usually ground into mulch or pressed into biomass. The mulch can be used to decorate gardens and landscapes in homes and around businesses.
Damaged pallets being fed into an industrial wood chipper to become mulch.
Mulch can also be made to certain stringent certifications and be approved for use in playgrounds, making it safe for use in schools and around other areas children frequent. Biomass is used as fuel in generating energy, so even if the wood isn’t good enough for mulch it can still help power our homes and businesses.
Pallet Consultants is a national pallet manufacturer offering a wide variety of pallet products including recycled pallets, specialty pallets, custom-sized pallets, new pallets and more. We provide quality pallets and pallet retrieval services to industries around the country. Start a conversation with our expert team to see how we can meet the pallet needs of your operation.