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Your large or palletized cargo needs to be suitable for transportation to allow for consolidation with other commodities and protect your goods from damage. In this first article of a series of three, learn the essentials of good packaging, with a focus on the correct usage of pallets and the stackability of your cargo.

Protection Starts With The Right Information

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Stackable, Forkable, Tilt-Proof, Shock-Immune

They are the four key handling requirements that you should consider when packing your items.


Ensure your piece is packaged to enable it to be stacked or have items stacked upon it.

Learn how to make your cargo stackable


Larger pieces will be handled by a forklift; the pieces must be loaded to a pallet or a fork-movable base to ensure safe and damage-free handling.


Ensure your item is secure and stable both on a pallet and within the packaging. Goods will tilt during flight.

Shock & Vibrations

Vibrations and minor shocks can occur while under mechanical handling. Ensure your items are sufficiently packaged.

Crate or Pallet?

Crate It

  • Heavier, larger items such as engines or industrial equipment should be crated.
  • Fully enclose your goods with quality hardwood and brace your crate diagonally to increase its strength. Ensure the wood is heat or chemically treated prior to use.

Palletize It

  • For bulk shipping or heavily boxed pieces, place the items on a pallet and secure using the methods outlined in this series of articles.
  • Ensure a level and even surface on top of the pallet, and do not allow boxes to overhang the pallet’s edge.

Using Pallets

The following section will outline the DHL-recommended standards for palletized shipments such as what pallet to use, how to stack your pallet, and how to protect and secure your goods. 

DHL can support the movement of most every pallet size so the most important element of selecting the correct pallet for your shipments are: 

Pallet Weight Capacity 

Standard Wooden Pallets can support between 3,300 lbs / 1,500 kgs and 6,600 lbs / 3,000 kgs. Plastic Pallets can support >3,000 kgs. It is important to confirm weight capacity limitations with the manufacture or determine in a controlled environment such as Pre-Shipment Testing. 

Pallet Size 

Selecting the correct pallet size for your cargo is one of the most important elements in mitigating the risk of damage to your cargo. Cargo should not overhang the edge of the pallet.  Individual box strength can be reduced by more than 30%. Drums overhanging the edge of pallets can become dented or scraped by coloaded cargo. 

What Are the Most Common Pallet Sizes?

  • 48” x 40” / 122 cm x 102 cm
  • 48”x 48” / 122 cm x 122 cm
  • 48 x 46” / 122 cm x 117 cm
  • 47.25” x 31” / 120 cm x 80 cm (Euro Pallet)

Selecting the Right Pallet


  • Strong and suitable for heavy items
  • Reusable
  • Widely available & less expensive than plastic
  • If shipping internationally, be sure the wood meets international treatment standards for the markets where it will be used
  • Ensure the pallet has bottom bracing to increase stability


  • High loading capacity and anti-slip surface 
  • Low weight
  • Resistant against humidity and corrosion
  • More expensive compared to wooden pallets


  • Light weight
  • 100% recyclable
  • Single use only
  • Not suitable for heavy items and in humid environments
  • Low cost

Stackability and Damage Prevention

Making Your Boxes & Cartons Stackable

In order to be shipped as stackable, boxes and cartons need to have:

  • A pallet on bottom
  • Edge protectors on all angles/sides to increase stability
  • Bracing and shrink wrapping

Making Your Drums Stackable

In order to be shipped as stackable and reduce damages, drums need to have:

  • A pallet on bottom and a pallet on top or a pallet on bottom and a wooden protection on top
  • Shrink wrapping to increase stability

To avoid denting drums should not exceed the length of the pallet. Based on drums dimensions, it might be necessary to reduce the number of drums on a pallet.

Making Your Bags Stackable

In order to be shipped as stackable, bags need to have:

  • A pallet on bottom
  • A carton cupboard protection on top
  • Shrink wrapping

Making Your Jerrycan Stackable

In order to be shipped as stackable, jerrycans need to have:

  • A pallet on bottom
  • A carton cupboard on top
  • Shrink wrapping

Jerrycans can be packaged in secondary packaging (fiberboard cartons)

Stacking Your Pallet

DHL can support the movement of pallet built to most all heights. However, limiting the height of your pallet build to between 48” – 60” / 120 - 150 cm can allow for the greatest number of routing options for your cargo. Skid/pallets with a height over 60” / 150 cm require movement on the main deck of freight aircraft. This limitation is due to the height of the cargo hold doors on the aircraft. Aircraft belly cargo hold doors have a maximum height of 63.5” / 160 cm.

Column Stack

Column stacking boxes to a pallet is the best way to maintain their strength during transport and protect goods against compression.

Stack boxes in columns, corner-to-corner and edge-to-edge, for the greatest stacking strength. The pallet can then be stabilized and secured with banding or stretch-wrap.

Interlocking Stack

If the goods inside a box are rigid, interlocking stacks will result in increased pallet stability.

If the goods inside a box are not rigid, interlocking stacks can actually reduce compression strength by as much as 50%, leaving goods susceptible to damage.

Stack boxes corner-to-corner and edge-to-edge, for better stacking strength.

Pyramid Stack

Pyramid-shaped pallet loads do not provide a level top surface and expose goods to damage.

To create a level top surface with an odd number of boxes, consider how the boxes are stacked, use empty boxes to create a level top layer, or ship the excess boxes as loose pieces.

Overhang Stack

Boxes must not overhang the pallet edge as it unduly exposes the goods to damage during normal handling.

Using an overhang pallet stacking method can also reduce individual box strength by more than 30%.

You now know the essentials of good packaging. With the basics covered, why not go further by learning more about protecting your cargo from the most common hazards or learn how to pack your specific type of goods?

Goods All Packed and Ready to Ship?

It's time to book your freight shipment! Get a quick estimation, from city to city, based on their estimated total weight and total volume.