Pallets can make it much easier to handle and transport your goods traveling via air freight, as is the case with goods shipping via ocean freight. Additionally, freight that’s placed on a pallet can be moved without touching the actual goods themselves, reducing the possibility of damage.
That being said, incorrectly prepping your palletized freight puts it at high risk during transit. In order to decrease the possibility of damage to your goods, we’ve put together a list of the most common mistakes we see in palletized air freight. We’ll also share our solutions to help you correct these mistakes. By reviewing this list, you’ll set the stage for ensuring that your shipment reaches its destination in perfect condition—and on time.
Mistake #1: Overpacking Your Shipment
When you’re preparing your air freight shipments, remember that your carrier will measure the weight and the volume of your shipment—and charge you based on whichever is greater. The bottom line? Lighter freight will cost you less, and overpacking can cost you big.
Solution: To control your costs, only include as much packing as you need to protect your shipment. Overpacking won’t provide significant extra protection, and it will likely end up costing you in the end.
Mistake #2: Pallet Overhang
As you pack your goods, make sure to position them within the pallet’s boundaries. Avoid overhang, in which your goods extend over the pallet’s edge. Overhang causes two big problems, both of which can lead to damage during handling and transit:
- Exposure to impact. Keep in mind that the carriers who move your goods will be placing pallets in tight quarters next to each other. They’ll expect your goods to stay inside the footprint of your pallet. As they arrange and rearrange their cargo, any goods that extend beyond the base of your pallet will be exposed to crushing, bumps and impact from machinery, surrounding pallets and more.
- Structural stress. Boxes are strongest at their edges. When boxes overhang a pallet, it puts extra stress on the opposite edge. It can also exert force on a section of the box that’s not meant to carry the load. As a result, overhanging boxes are much more likely to get crushed, especially if other pallets are stacked on top of yours.
Solution: Avoid overhang at all costs. You may need to break up your goods into multiple pallets. While this might seem costly at first, you’ll ultimately save yourself the cost of the damage that overhang can incur.
Mistake #3: Letting Goods Slip Below the Top Deckboard
You might notice a theme here. In addition to making sure your freight doesn’t hang over the pallet’s edge, you also want to make sure that your goods don’t hang below the top deckboards. If your pallet is picked up by a forklift at any point, any goods that have slipped between those boards could easily be damaged by the forks.
Solution: Look for pallets whose top deckboards are spaced as narrowly as possible. Avoid putting the corners and edges of your boxes in those spaces to keep them from slipping through. This kind of shift in your load could interfere with its structural integrity, and it could also expose those boxes to the possibility of damage from a forklift.
Mistake #4: Using the Wrong Type of Pallets
When you’re buying pallets, you’ll have a lot of options to choose from. The strongest pallets have bottom deckboards for maximum stability. When it comes to air freight, you may also want to consider four-way pallets, which allow them to be picked up from any side. Space in an aircraft can be tight. As a result, if your pallet can be maneuvered from any side, it will be easier for your carrier to move your load, reducing the possibility of mishandling damage.
Solution: If you’re uncertain about the right pallets for your shipments, talk to your carrier. By following their recommendations, you’ll ensure that you’re choosing the pallets they can move carefully and easily.
Mistake #5: Contributing to Broken Pallets
We’ve heard plenty of stories about broken pallets, which can be disastrous for a shipment. In addition to potential harm to your cargo, broken pallets can also delay your shipment significantly. Unfortunately, sometimes pallets can get damaged due to circumstances beyond your control, such as poor handling by a forklift driver. However, there are a few things you can do to prevent broken pallets.
Solution: Every pallet comes with a rated capacity. Make sure your load is well within that number. Additionally, if you’re re-using pallets, make sure you inspect them thoroughly for damage before packing a new load. Something as small as a cracked deckboard can significantly weaken the structural integrity of your pallet.
Mistake #6: Wrapping Your Pallet Incorrectly
Stretch wrapping your pallet can be an effective way to stabilize your load. However, one of the biggest mistakes we see shippers make is neglecting to secure the load to the pallet first.
Solution: No matter whether you’re doing it by hand or using a machine, start at the bottom of the load to secure your load to the pallet before wrapping the rest. For extra reinforcement and security, you may want to use banding or strapping to secure the load to the pallet.
Giving Your Air Freight Shipments the Protection They Deserve
Although air freight is subject to significantly less handling than ocean freight shipments, air cargo still needs protection to ensure that it arrives at its destination in excellent condition. Pallets can offer your shipments that protection, as well as ease and simplicity in moving your cargo during its journey.
By checking your shipments for these six mistakes, you’ll eliminate the most common causes of damage to palletized air freight—and ensure that yours arrive in the condition your customers have come to expect from you.
Have questions about your palletized freight? We’d be happy to connect you with one of our experts to walk you through any inquiries you might have about palletized air freight, packaging best practices and more. Just get in touch with us for a free consultation.