Pallets are crucial for materials handling operations. But what types of wood actually construct these ubiquitous platforms? Understanding pallet materials helps determine strength, weight limits and durability when operating forklifts. Whether you’re looking for a new forklift for sale or a used forklift, knowing the wood your pallets are made from may help you to make a more informed choice.
The most common woods used to manufacture pallets in the UK include:
Softwoods like pine, fir and spruce represent the most popular and economical choice for constructing pallets thanks to:
- Abundant supply
- Low density makes pallets lighter
- Easy to machine and fabricate
- Good load-bearing strength for the price
Within softwood pallets, pine offers the best blend of affordability and structural integrity.
Hardwood pallets provide added strength and load capacity over softwood alternatives. Common hardwood pallet materials include oak, birch, beech, maple and poplar.
However, hardwood pallets cost more due to scarcer supply and additional fabrication effort. They become cost-effective for repeatedly reused pallets where durability offsets higher prices over the long run.
Oak pallets are exceptionally robust options able to carry heavier loads up to 1.5 tonnes without splintering or cracking. This makes oak suitable for rugged conditions that would quickly destroy softwood pallets.
Composite Plastic Pallets
Increasingly common are plastic pallets constructed from mixed plastic compounds or other synthetic materials like resin. They provide benefits like:
- Resilience against moisture, mould and rot
- Impervious to pests like termites
- Easy to clean and sterilise
- Consistent dimensions that don’t warp over time
- Durable construction that handles heavy loads
- Recyclability at end of life
However, composite plastic pallets often weigh more and cost significantly more than wood alternatives. They become cost-effective through extended 10-20 year lifecycles where durability offsets higher upfront pricing.
How Pallet Materials Impact Forklift Operations
Understanding what wood pallets are made of and their specifications directly impacts forklift truck operations, including:
Load Capacities – Hardwood pallets can handle heavier cargo than softwood alternatives before failing. Forklift load limits must align with pallet ratings.
Pallet Weight – Heavier pallets reduce net carrying capacity of trucks. Lighter softwood pallets maximise cargo capacity.
Pallet Integrity – Brittle, cracked or warped pallets risk collapsing when lifted, especially under edge loading. Inspect pallets carefully before handling unstable loads.
In summary, softwood pallets like pine offer affordable general purpose options, while resilient oak and composite plastic pallets provide heavy duty solutions for intensive usage. Consider load demands and environmental exposure when selecting pallet materials.
For guidance optimising your pallet and forklift operations, contact the team at TAG Forklift Trucks on 0161 848 0555. Our specialists are ready to evaluate your operational requirements and specifications to deliver the right materials handling equipment and training.