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How many standard pallets can fit in a container?

Picture this: the holiday season is right around the corner, and you need to bulk up your inventory with a large purchase. The products are packed in pallets, and you need to choose whether to pay for FCL (full container load) or LCL (less than container load). The big question is “will all of my pallets fit in a standard 20’ container?” Well, that all depends…

You often see palletized products being offloaded at grocery stores or big retail stores. You may also see people recycle pallets for non-traditional purposes. A pallet is a standard sized platform, usually made of wood, on which goods are stacked. On two of its sides, it has open areas that serve as an entry for the forks of a lifting truck – forklifts are needed to move palletized goods around. The purpose of using a pallet is to help small units of goods (cartons or individual products) stay together and to provide protection from damage.

If you haven’t done much bulk international shipping, you may not know that there are three main pallet types: Standard Pallets, Europallets, and North American standard pallets. International container shipments use mainly the Standard and the Europallets, while the North American pallets are used within the US for inland freight.

Pallets are recommended to be loaded as non-stackable, in order to prevent damage to the goods caused by stacking. However, some shippers choose to stack pallets regardless of this designation. You can make a careful evaluation of your products and whether or not the pallets can be stacked within a container without damaging the goods – if this is the case, more pallets can fit. If you do choose to stack whenever possible, we recommend analyzing whether or not your pallets can be safely stacked with each shipment.

Here is how many of each type of pallets can fit in 20 foot, and 20’ foot HC, 40’ foot and 40’ foot HC containers:

Standard pallets - International

Measurement: 47.24 x 39.27 in

20 foot ST/HC:          10 or 11 pallets

40 foot ST/HC:          20 or 21 pallets

Europallets – International

Measurement: 31.50 x 47.24 in

20 foot ST/HC:          11 pallets

40 foot ST/HC:          23 or 24 pallets

North American standard pallets - USA

Measurement: 40 x 48 in

20’ foot ST/HC:          10 pallets

40 foot ST/HC:          20 pallets

Another frequently asked question about pallets is how many pallets fit in a full truckload. The answer is the same: it depends. In the US, the most common pallet size is 40 x 48 in. Given that the combined weight does not exceed the weight limit for the truck, here is how many pallets will fit in a 48-foot trailer and a 53-foot trailer:

 48’ trailer truck:

24 pallets with straight loading (pallets are placed in the same orientation along the trailer)

28 pallets with pinwheeled loading (pallets are placed with alternated orientation along the trailer)

53’ trailer truck:

26 pallets with straight loading

30 pallets with pinwheeled loading

The arrangement of pallets within a container or truckload should maximize the space in length, width, and height, and should be within appropriate weight limits. In addition, there might be limitations in the loading and unloading heights (perhaps your warehouse cannot receive tall pallets). Therefore, it is best to seek the help of your logistics expert who knows the height and weight restrictions at the locations of departure and arrival of your goods. Once the requirements and limitations are clear, you’ll be able to figure out the number of pallets that can fit your container and subsequently the truckload.


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