North American Pallets

The USA led the world in automated materials handling with the original pallet concept in the 1920s, but the first time the pallet idea was exported in a big way, was to Australia in 1942 when the US set up a Pacific base when they entered World War II. This was the first time other parts of the world had seen such vast amounts of materials moved with such speed and efficiency. At the time the US military used a 42 inch square, 2-way stringer pallet (bearer pallet in Europe)  but they had changed by the late 1940s to a 40 x 48 inch, 2-way stringer pallet. The change was not just the military but the food industry also started to use the same footprint, though reversed as 48 x 40 inch, 2-way, since it fitted railcars and trucks more efficiently. (For the significance of 48 x 40 or 40 x 48 see the BRITISH PALLETS page). 

Since the USA (alongside their stringer pallet) also adopted the European 9-block, 1200 x 1000 mm pallet design during the 1990s, USA and Canadian pallet designs are not now substantially different from European pallets. However, to the outsider, the typical USA/Canadian pallet is still a 48” x 40” notched stringer pallet, made with helical nails and similar to the pallet shown. One of the reasons for the helical nail is that much more hardwood is used in North America and the helical nail penetrates the denser harder timber more easily than the annular ring nail common in the softwood pallets of Europe.

1.4_400
US Notched Bearer Pallet

Apart from one-trip pallets there are a number of pool and exchange pallet schemes in North America. One of the oldest exchange pallet schemes is the Canadian CPC (Canadian Pallet Council) exchange pallet very much like that shown here, but with more robust stringers and deckboards. This is a pallet made under licence with quality independently controlled by CPC much as EPAL do for the Europallet. An example of a much less controlled scheme in the USA is the GMA (Grocery Manufacturers Association) pallet which is perhaps the best known of the USA 'white' pallets responsible for about one-third of the volume of new white (non-pool) pallets. Some GMA pallets are exchanged and some treated as one-trip much like the European CP pallet range. A typical specification of the GMA pallet is given in Datasheet 15d below. Chep USA were the first to introduce the 9-block bearer style of pallet to North America in the 1990s in an extension of their European rental pool and that now also has a strong user base. IFCO and PECO are newer rental pools widely used in North America and a new plastic pool has recently started, iGPS (Intelligent Global Pooling Systems) with each pallet fitted with RFID tags. 

In similar manner to BSI in the UK and DIN in Germany, the US body ANSI is involved in timber pallets and timber testing and a range of standards are produced. An example is in the printing industry where an ANSI technical committee has developed performance criteria for 4 printing industry pallet sizes: 44"x 44", 48"x 42", 48"x 40" and 42"x 42" which are now covered by ANSI standard CGATS.7-1995

European goods exporters are often required to ship to North American buyers on pallets that will be easy to handle in North America and not require goods being transferred to a 'local' pallet. One of the reasons that dictates this approach is the pedestrian operated pallet truck (pallet jack in the USA) which has a lower fork height (low profile) designed to easily engage the notches of the common notched bearer pallet. There are also tough technical and environmental requirements in the North American market such as the new requirement for ISPM 15 heat treatment for all countries shipping wood pallets and packaging into North America. Another is that the US has tight limits on heavy metals contamination such as might be introduced by a pallet treated with preservative such as copper chrome arsenate (CCA) if coming from parts of the world where CCA is still used (Europe has banned CCA). Shippers need to be able to ensure wood packing material meets all US requirements.

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PDF14c CPC - Canadian Pallet Council - exchange pallet. (PDF 54kb)
PDF15d The North American GMA pallet specification. (PDF 89kb)
PDF19a Internationally conforming pallets - entry and dimensional requirements. (PDF 55kb)
PDF28a Software for computer aided pallet design. (PDF 13kb)
PDF52f 'Penny Nails' - common USA method of nail length measurement (PDF 22kb)
PDF52m Mibant, Rockhi, Verus - nail bending test methods (PDF 56kb)
PDF72j Sawn softwoods of NORTH AMERICA suitable for pallets and packaging (PDF 27kb)
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