Importance of Pallets

I recently read that shipping pallets have been referred to as the single most important thing in the shipping industry...really? Usually pallets are a small square of either wood or plastic that can hold multiple boxes or other pieces of freight to make it easier for loading and unloading cargo. Warehouse workers can use machines like forklifts and pallet jacks to move cargo instead of moving it one case at a time. This is especially useful for heavier merchandise. It is no secret that the invention of pallets has changed the shipping industry. Some companies are even making shipping containers that will more easily suite pallets now.

But does that alone make the pallet the most useful item in the shipping industry? What about the cranes at the port that lift containers on and off ships? Or what about the shipping containers themselves or tractor trailer trucks or shrink wrap or other items that make shipping life easier? What about computers and the internet? When I first started in the shipping industry, I worked in the pricing department of a shipping line quoting international freight rates to freight forwarders and NVOCC’s. Now shipping lines do not need these huge teams. People can go online and get their quotes from websites like and never speak to anyone about it. That seems like a pretty important item to me.

So pallets are a wonderful tool, but hardly the most important. They aren’t even standard sizes half the time. They are, however, meaningful in that they allow companies to ship in larger quantities at a faster pace so they are to be commended. Pallets, like many other items that have been invented to make life easier in the shipping industry, will always be considered a great tool of the trade.