Moving products in bulk is much easier when they are all secured on a single platform. Wooden and plastic pallets are the centerpiece of transporting goods from one place to another. They are lightweight, inexpensive, and sturdy enough to transport a substantial amount of weight. They are also designed so they can be stacked upon one another empty or full (depending on the packed item). 

When dealing with pallets in your warehouse or truck trailer, you should practice safe loading and stacking methods to minimize injuries and damage to goods.

The Importance of Safe Pallet Loading

Pallets are a universal tool for stacking and storing products in warehouses and trucks. A good understanding of how to handle pallets can help prevent a large number of injuries. It can also keep your company out of trouble with truck loading regulations and standards.

How to Stack Pallets

The key to stacking pallets is even distribution. Maintaining balance without pushing the limits will keep most stacks from tipping over. Ideally, you want to stack pallets in the most space-efficient manner while staying safe. The pallets should be easy to continue stacking or remove from the stack. 

Below are a series of pallet stacking tips that will help you maintain pallet stability while loading, storing, and transporting cargo. 

Stay Within Height Limitations 

Be smart when stacking pallets in the truck, trailer, or on a forklift. If you stack too many on top of each other, you are playing a dangerous game. If the stack gets too high, or you have more pallets on the lift than will fit in the target location, you may end up spilling your cargo. Understanding the available room you have for pallets will become familiar over time, so do not push your equipment at the beginning. 

Place Heaviest Cargo Towards the Bottom 

When loading/stacking pallets, the best practice is to put the heaviest cargo on the bottom of a pallet. The lower the center of gravity is, the more stable the overall stack will be. A stable base is essential to prevent toppling during transport. If pallets are overloaded in the truck or even on the forklift, it could lead to an accident. 

Do Not Reuse Damaged Pallets 

Pallets can be easily damaged if they are not properly maintained. A damaged pallet with any splintering wood or chipped edges can lead to a full stack tip-over. Jagged wood and protruding nails can also lead to worker injuries. The best course of action is to get rid of damaged pallets and use new replacement pallets as often as possible. 

Stack Pallets Evenly 

Weight distribution is important when stacking pallets. Stacking pallets evenly involves factoring in both weight and placement. If two pallets are the same weight, but not stacked evenly, the torque on either side will cause an imbalance. If two pallets are directly next to each other but have different weights, they will also be unstable. Try to maintain balance throughout the stacking and loading process to avoid any unnecessary falls. 

Stay Within Weight Limitations 

Pallets, forklifts, truck trailers, and other equipment are designed with a maximum weight limit. Exceeding that weight limit may not appear to immediately break the item under pressure, but it will cause functional issues. Perhaps a pallet under stress will not break until a truck hits a bump, toppling cargo during a delivery. A forklift may be difficult to control when overloaded, and the operator could crash into an obstacle. 

Use a Pallet Stacking Pattern 

Pallet stacking is typically done in a columnar or interlocking manner. In the columnar-aligned pattern, pallets are placed vertically until the target height is achieved. For pallets that are designed to sit on top of each other, the compression created by column-stacking helps keep the stack stable.

An interlocking pattern involves rotating rectangular pallets to lock in with each other. Every layer is turned 90º to form a more cohesive stack. 

Use a Storage Method for Pallets 

In addition to pallet stacking patterns, the way you store pallet stacks is also important to the safety and efficiency of load planning. Optimizing space in warehouses and other facilities helps to streamline the process from beginning to end. 

Storing pallets vertically can utilize a smaller room more effectively, but may be dangerous during retrieval. Horizontal pallet storage can also lead to injuries when removing pallets from the top of a stack.

Whatever you decide is the most effective way to store your pallets, make sure that only properly trained personnel are tasked with stacking or unstacking them. 

Pallet Stacking FAQ

How high can you stack a pallet?

When loading a single pallet with different boxes, the general rule is to not stack above 60 inches high. While the specific materials you store on the pallet may change the maximum height, it will rarely go above 60 inches. 

How many pallets can you stack safely?

Weight limits for pallet stacking can change depending on whether the pallets are full or empty. Weight limits may also be dependent on the stacking method. Pallets alone can often be stacked 15 feet high, but the materials on them could change that number. 

Especially if the items on the pallets are stable and sturdy, multiple full pallets may be stacked consecutively. These stacks can reach very high heights and must only be unloaded with the proper equipment. 

There are no specific restrictions for pallet stacking, but Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard 1910.159(c)(10) states that there should be at least 18 inches between automatic ceiling sprinklers and any materials below. Even if you have not yet reached what feels like a maximum limit, you may have to stop stacking when you approach the height of the ceiling.

What is double-stacking?

Double stacking pallets involves stacking two pallets on top of each other. While double-stacked pallets increase the effective storage area, they also create a big hazard. The combined pressure caused by these pallet towers is enough to crush an employee or machine nearby. If you are experimenting with double-stacking, make sure you have a reliable method with plenty of storage space. 

Syntelic Load Planning Software for Pallet Stacking Safety

When transferring pallets into a semi-truck trailer for delivery, maintaining the same level of safety and efficiency is imperative to running a smooth operation. Syntelic Load Planning software factors axle weight distribution, delivery orders, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations into the stacking process.

Load Planning provides insight into the boxes that should be placed on each pallet, you simply have to figure out how best to combine them. Understanding how to load and unload trucks with pallets can help you avoid injuries and keep the warehouse efficient. When putting pallets in trucks, however, you can trust that our software will stack them in a way that reduces the chance of cargo tipping or spilling.