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The Surprising Power of Pallet Sizes

What are the standard pallet sizes or dimensions and why are they important for supply chains.

· A review of common standard sizes, and related resources.

· Do you say 48×40 or 40×48? It depends!

APRIL 4, 2022

Pallet size is an important consideration for supply chains. There are several standard sizes for pallets used in the United States and internationally. Pallet dimensions can vary between countries, as well as between industries, and may include informal standards as well as formal standards. This article lists standard size information for applications in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Sizes are presented in inches as well as centimeters.

Most supply chain professionals don’t pay much attention to pallet dimensions. In many supply chains, they are well established and taken for granted, unless there is a need to revisit them. A different pallet size may be required, for example, to meet the needs of a new customer, new retail format, or perhaps to optimize newly installed warehouse automation. The operational and sales benefits offered by half pallets or quarter pallets, for instance, are currently motivating some companies to revisit their approach to pallet size.


48×40 or 40×48-inch? How to Determine Pallet Length and Width

People often become confused about the order that pallet dimensions are listed. Pallets are listed in the order of length and then width. The length of a pallet refers to the length of the stringers, in the case of a stringer pallet, and the length of the stringer boards, in the case of a block pallet. Both stringer pallets and block pallets popularly used in North American FMCG supply chains are 48×40.

Here are some basic definitions from the Uniform Standard for Wood Pallets:

pallet length – pallet dimension between the extreme pallet ends, parallel to the stringers or top stringerboards. For panel-deck block pallets without stringerboards, it is the top deck pallet dimension parallel to the face grain for plywood (strong panel axis).

pallet width – pallet dimension between the extreme pallet sides, parallel to and corresponding to the length of the top deckboards. For panel deck block pallets without stringerboards, it is the top deck panel dimension perpendicular to the face grain for plywood (strong panel axis).

pallet size – pallet dimension specified by stringer or stringerboard length, followed by top deckboard length and overall pallet height. For panel deck block pallets, it is the length, width, and overall pallet height.

Source: NWPCA Uniform Standard for Wood Pallets

Standard Pallet Sizes in North America

In the years following the Second World War, did you know that the 40×48″ pallet was much more popular than the 48×40-inch? While the former was popular for rail shipment, the increasing popularity of truck transport helped harken the adoption of the latter.

Today, when people think about the standard dimensions in North America, they rightfully think of the 48×40-inch pallet (1219×1016-mm) pallet, which became popular in the 1960s. The 48×40-inch pallet is one of six ISO standard pallet dimensions (see below). The notched stringer GMA-style pallet has long been the unofficial “standard” for fast-moving consumer good (FMCG) supply chains. It maintained this position despite considerable variation in such pallets for decades regarding component thickness and width, lumber grade, wood species, fasteners, repair techniques, and allowable damage tolerance.

Because of such variability, it is important to communicate detailed pallet expectations to pallet suppliers or inbound shippers. Many companies enforce a corporate packaging and pallet policy to dictate pallet requirements for inbound palletized merchandise.

The 48×40-inch block pallet began to also establish a presence in FMCG supply chains in the latter 1990s and the early 2000s, thanks to pallet rental providers CHEP and subsequently, PECO, making them readily available to pallet users in the U.S. (Block pallets were already popular at that time in other supply chains, as well as in Europe.)

One question that comes up has to do with CHEP pallet dimensions. In North America, the CHEP standard size is 48×40-inch. More recently, the 24×40-inch half pallet was introduced. There is also a CHEP 48×20-inch pallet offered in Canada. Internationally, CHEP pallet dimensions typically conform to existing or emerging standards in the region of use.

Today, about 30% of pallets manufactured in the U.S. are 48×40-inch. There are other standard sizes such as 48×45-inch for automotive, 48×48 for drums, 40×40 for dairy, and 36×36 for beverage distribution. Popular sizes are outlined below, based on research performed many years ago at Southern Illinois University.

Common pallet sizes in the United States. Sources SIU and Wikipedia

Standard Pallet Sizes in Europe

When discussing European standard pallets, the 800×1200 mm footprint typically comes to mind first for most of Europe, with the 1200×1000 mm size in the UK. The European Pallet Association (EPAL) has developed a range of standard sizes, including fractional pallets – half pallets (600×400) and quarter pallets (400×300).

Standard pallet size in inches and millimeters.

Pallet converting 1000mm to inches: 1000mm =39.37 inches.

Chemical Industry Pallets

CP pallets are specified by many companies with the plastics and chemical supply chain. The CP pallet pool was established in 1991 by the VCI (Verband der Chemischer Industry) in Germany. Pool oversight subsequently passed to the APME (Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe), now Plastics Europe. The European Pallet Association (EPAL) has also expanded its pallet range to include quality-assured EPAL CP pallets.

In many pools, there is a tradeoff between standard pallets and optimizing particular applications. The CP pallet pool addresses this issue by incorporating several sizes. The most popular CP pallet sizes in North America are CP1, CP3, CP7 and CP9.

Typical applications for various CP pallets are as follows:

· CP1 pallet (1200 x 1000 mm) – boxes and sacks

· CP2 pallet (1200 x 800 mm) – carton boxes and sacks

· CP3 pallet (1140 x 1140 mm) – drums and bulk bags

· CP4 pallet (1100 x 1300 mm) – sacks

· CP5 pallet (760 x 1140 mm) – small packages such as boxes and bins

· CP6 pallet (1200 x 1000 mm) – sacks

· CP7 pallet (1300 x 1100 mm) – sacks

· CP8 pallet (1140 x 1140 mm) – container transportation

· CP9 pallet (1140 x 1140 mm) – containers, drums and bulk bags

Standard Pallet Sizes Internationally

Six pallet sizes are sanctioned by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as presented in ISO Standard 6780: Flat pallets for intercontinental materials handling—Principal dimensions and tolerances.

While the 45.9×45.9-inch pallet endures as the Australian standard, the 1100×1100 mm is entrenched in Japan and Korea. In emerging markets of China, India and South Asia, the 1200×1000 has become the footprint of choice for FMCP industries.

When considered in conjunction with prescribed pallet design and quality, standard pallet sizes can help make supply chains more efficient. In that their establishment creates a financial barrier to change, however, pallet system design should include a mechanism to facilitate change as new oppo

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