Annual Pallet Survey Provides Glimpse of the U.S. Pallet Market

Annual Pallet Survey Sees Increased Interest in Alternative Materials for Export

Modern Material Handling Magazine has announced results of its 2016 pallet user survey, which was based on 286 responses from people employed at locations that use pallets. The research was undertaken by the Peerless Research Group (PRG). The results, as usual, provide some glimpses into trends and preferences, such as the importance of price, concerns about used pallet availability, and increased interest in block pallets. In interpreting the survey, note that total percentages for most responses are greater than 100% to reflect that some operations are using more than one type of pallet.

There were a few points of interest to me. One is that plastic pallet interest seems to be in more of a hold than growth mode, after being in a growth trajectory in recent years. Also noteworthy, respondents using alternative material pallets for export increased from 12% in 2015 to 19% this year.

According to survey respondents, the most important factors that go into their pallet usage decision include:

  • Price (61%)
  • Strength (56%)
  • Durability (54%)
  • Reusability (44%)

Wood pallets were reported most often used (96%), while 37% used plastic pallets, 15% used wood composite pallets, and 5% employed metal pallets.

More wood pallets being used

Used pallets are the purchase of choice for 65% of respondents, with 54% going with new pallets. About 13% said they are making use of pallet pools, either rental or another pooling system. More wood pallets are being used than last year by 42% of readers, with 46% using the same quantity as last year. Only 12% are using fewer wood pallets than a year ago.

Around 31% of readers report used pallet availability as an issue, while 35% indicate they haven’t experienced sourcing issues. Declining pallet quality was identified by 27% of readers, while 18% said they are paying more for their pallets. A majority of respondents felt that pallets had risen in price by about 52%.

In dealing with used pallet shortages, 53% of those people surveyed looked to buy more new pallets, while 18% intended to establish their own pool. Another 9% planned to make use of pallet pools. Modern Material Handling noted that these responses are nearly identical with results from the previous two years.

Stringer pallets are most commonly used (54%) with people preferring block at 20%. Another 20% use similar quantities of stringer and block pallets.

48×40-inch most popular, followed by 48×48-inch

The 48 x 40-inch pallet is most widely used (66%) while 28% prefer 48 x 48 inch. The 42 x 42 inch is employed by 19% and the 36 x 48 inch by 13%.

In terms of plastic pallets, 73% of respondents report they are using a similar amount of plastic pallets as last year, with 13% using fewer and another 13% using more. Key benefits cited include durability (57%), cleanliness/safety (43%) and sustainability (37%).

Around 76% of plastic pallet users expect to maintain their buying pattern, with 12% looking to increase their use of plastic, and 11% looking to decrease their use of plastic.

Other notable results:

  • 24% said they have considered managing their own pallet pool, while 76% have not.
  • 49% use their own treated pallets for international shipping, while 19% use alternative materials. Another 16% say they use the same strategy for export as for domestic pallets. The 19% figure for alternative materials is up from 12% in 2015. Altnerative material pallets are exempt from ISPM-15.
  • 53% have exported the same amount of product over the last two years while 38% have shipped more. Over the next two years, 48% expect steady or increasing exports.