Tips for Transporting Unstable Pallet Loads

By John Dusek on 2009-02-14 15:04:53 -

Poor unit load stabilization practices contribute to hundreds of millions of dollars in unsaleable goods annually as well as unfortunate workplace injuries and deaths.

Virginia Tech University's William H. Sardo Jr. Pallet and Container Research Laboratory has performed studies into the most effective means of providing unit load stabilization.  They have identified load shifting, ripped or loose packaging, crushing and water damage as the major causes of these types of problems.

Load bearing and dynamic forces caused by movement, impacts, and vibrations such as that from a loaded tractor-trailer traveling along a highway can lead to large stresses, causing displacements of product and packaging within the load.  Throw in environmental factors, such as potholes, poor suspension system, rough road surfaces, flexing of the trailer floor, and-or improperly balanced tires spells a formula towards disaster.

The key component to unit load stability is the use of various load stabilization materials and practices. Common techniques typically include banding or strapping along with the use of stretch wrapping.  It is known that steel strapping provides the best tensile strength binding over polyester strapping as well as over that of Mini (generally about 5" wide) Stretch Wrap binding techniques.

The second most common modern technique is using stretch wrap.  This method allows for high product visibility such as required with barcoding and it provides a waterproof barrier.

Virgina Tech's study compared the two methods to determine which would be the best applicable technique. They conducted the study using the strapping method with a total of 4 straps per load, two on each side, as per the illustration.

 http://pallet-trucks.indoff.com/media/PLT/Strapping_Illustration.jpg

The second method utilized was using an 80 gauge stretch wrap material wrapped around the test load in a common pattern of three layers with approximately a 50% overlap through the middle.

 http://pallet-trucks.indoff.com/media/PLT/Stretch_Wrap_Illustration.jpg

It was concluded that the strapping method was near perfect in eliminating unitized pallet container displacement and that stretch wrapping the pallet load was just over half as effective as the steel strapping method.

Even though steel strapping and hand stretch wrapping pallet loads are proven unit stabilizers, other factors cannot be dismissed such as pallet condition, load stacking technique and material handling equipment used.  A pallet jack/truck is going to be more stable transporting such a load by lifting it 1-2 inches up to move it versus a powered lift truck operator who is either inexperienced or anxiously enthusiastic to finish his task at hand.

The bottom line is using the best applicable techniques to significantly impact on reducing your cost of secondary and tertiary packaging, reducing product damage and reclamation and ensuring workplace safety.