Input on the Plastic Pallet Equation

By John Dusek on 2009-03-07 13:35:41 -

Since publishing my Low Profile Pallet Trucks weblog, I've received numerous inquiries regarding the use of plastic pallets for their specific distribution process.

It has been estimated that there are well over 48 million plastic pallets in circulation in North America. The auto industry during World War II has been credited for creating plastic pallets for shipping car parts when metals were a precious commodity due to war effort. The fact is that they have continued to grow in popularity annually due to a number of invironmental-economic factors.

The number 1 advantage of plastic pallets today is being able to reuse them.  According to the RCPA Reusable Container & Pallet Association plastic pallets:

  • do not require treatment for pests 
  • benefits of hygiene
  • constant quality and dimension
  • no splintering or nails
  • no water absorption and weather resistant
  • stack and nest for excellent space utilization
  • can be easily repaired or replaced
  • can be uniquely colored

It's obvious that recycling requires a closed loop distribution system that assures the return of your pallets.  This is becoming more common in our developing technologically based distribution processes.  I prefer not to mire this article with the complicity of not recycling and the Green Movement as well as codes, but do want to emphasize that the typical life span of wood versus plastic composition in pallets is 1.5 years to 7 year.

There are basically three categories of plastic pallets.  I will highlight each of them with a topic heading and picture.  There is a multitude of manufacturers, some that have come and gone.  A predominate manufacturer that seems to stand out in North America is the Orbis Corporation.  I will be using their resource material and products as examples even though companies such as Buckhorn and Vestil are important players as well.

One of the common denominators I'll be using in conjunction to the categories is dynamic capacity rating which is the capacity of the pallet load while in motion by pallet handling equipment eg pallet trucks and forklifts.  

Nestable Pallet - designed in such a way as to allow the pallet to fit or "nest" in another so as to facilitate better use of storage space. Pallets in which foot design is such that the pallets can stack within each other when empty generally at a 4:1 ratio.  There is considerable savings in shipping costs of empty nested pallets as they can be shipped at a lower cost classification.

Orbis CISC Nestable Plastic Pallet with 2,500 lbs dynamic capacity rating


Export/Lightweight Pallet - a subdivision of Nestable Pallets designed for "one way" or one time light duty pallets that are generally used for exporting goods out of country.  Can have optional bottom runners added to make this plastic pallet "stackable" as defined below.  These can be used "in-house" for light duty applications.

Orbis CICP Export Plastic Pallet with 1,200 lbs dynamic rating


Stackable Pallet - a pallet constructed in such a manner as to allow one pallet complete with load to be placed on another without damage to the lower unit load. This is generally achieved by utilizing a superstructure within the pallet.

 Orbis CIISF Stackable Plastic Pallet with 3,500 lbs dynamic capacity


Rackable Pallet -  a pallet constructed by utilizing a strong superstructure within the pallet that will evenly support itself and the load on a pair of beams only from the rack structure.  These units are considered the most heavy duty of any plastic pallet type.

 Orbis OP CIISF Rackable Plastic Pallet with 5,000 lbs dynamic capacity