How to Load Pallets onto a Trailer?

On December 18, 2022

How to Load Pallets Onto a Trailer

Here are some tips on loading and unloading pallets from a truck.

Consider Your Container

In any cargo load, the goal is to fit as much product inside the trailer as possible without making the trailer overweight or causing the load to shift during transport. An important aspect of the entire process is planning your load orientation carefully.It is unofficially accepted that pallets must be 40″ wide and 48″ long in the United States. A 40″ by 48″ pallet load is ideal for most material handling equipment and tractor-trailers, which can handle many variations of load sizes. The average semi-trailer in the United States measures 8′ and 6″ wide, 14′ tall, and 53′ long. Multiple loading styles and pallet placements are possible with this trailer size.

Find out what the maximum weight of the tractor-trailer is and how much your load weighs. Then you can calculate how much cargo can be loaded on the trailer. Overweight trucks pose a danger to the driver and other road users and can result in heavy fines.The load orientation can be planned once the weight has been determined. In order to balance the trailer, the loads need to be placed in a way that will balance the front, rear, and sides of the trailer. To ensure that the load remains stable throughout the entire trip, make sure each load is positioned as tightly as possible.

Pallet loading can be done in three different orientations:

  • Side-by-side – This is simply loading the pallets with the short ends facing forward and backward.
  • Turned – Long sides facing forward and backward
  • Pallets are pinwheeled – half of the pallets are turned

There are a number of variables that affect palletized product loading and other unitized loads. We need to start with weight. There’s a chance that the trailer or container’s capacity will limit your loading options if the load is heavy. As loads get lighter, cube utilization becomes more important. Sadly, it’s not as easy as figuring out what method uses the most cube. It’s usually more labor-intensive to load and unload a shipment when you increase cube utilization. Productivity vs. transportation costs must be balanced here. Longer distance loads will justify putting more effort into utilizing the cube than short distance ones. Pallets may be straight-loaded for local and regional shipments, turned or pinwheeled for shipments further away, and floor loaded containers for shipments overseas. The following is an explanation of the three types of loads:

Straight Loading Wooden Pallets


Loading straight into the trailer or container involves using two-way pallets and loading them in the direction of the pallet stringers. Pallets of standard size 48″ x 40″ can be loaded side by side with plenty of space between them and the trailer’s sidewalls. Despite being the fastest way to load pallets, this method does not optimize the trailer cube and may not provide adequate protection against shifting. Lift trucks with extended carriages and two pairs of forks are often used by high volume operations loading standardized palletized loads. This allows them to load two pallets at the same time very quickly. Productivity can be increased significantly in this way.

Loading Wooden Pallets Turned (sideways)

This method requires the use of partial or full four ­way entry pallets. As a result of this method, the pallets are picked up perpendicular to the pallet stringers by the lift truck and placed in the trailer. Most dry trailers can accommodate two pallets loaded side by side with standard 40′ x 48′ pallets. Standard pallets may not fit in overseas containers or refrigerated trailers due to their narrow widths. Loading palletized loads with turned pallets maximizes space utilization and prevents product shifting. When you pinwheel, every other pallet is turned in the opposite direction. Combining straight and turned lading pallets.

Pinwheeling Wooden Pallets

When trailers or containers have an insufficient width to load two pallets side by side, pinwheeling can be used to maximize space. Pallets can be loaded this way when the depth is greater than half the trailer width, but the depth plus the width is less than the trailer width. Interlocking pallets with different load orientations provides additional stability when pinwheeling. You will find that shipping palletized loads made from layers of stacked cartons can cause seemingly stable loads to lean or fail in the trailer due to lateral forces placed on the loads during shipping. Particularly in the case of tall loads that are barely stable when standing still, this can cause serious problems. In the grocery industry, tall unstable loads consisting of a mix of weights, sizes, and shapes pose a challenge. In order to assemble a stable load from a “little bit of everything”, it is often up to the order picker’s skill level. Since it offers greater cube utilization than straight loading, pinwheeling can also be used as a compromise because it requires less labor than turning all the loads (which can make for some tight loading conditions). Equalized weight distribution is essential when loading anything other than the lightest loads. As you load, you may need to alternate commodities using braces to leave empty spaces as you load, or you may need to alternate side-by-side pallets with single pallets. Often times this requires an experienced forklift operator to maximize the load capacity

Loading and Unloading a container

Loading the trailer

  1. Loading your cargo is now easier once you know how your load will be oriented. Forklifts and pallet jacks can both be used. Forklift loading should always be done in a proper manner when using a forklift.
  2. Forklifts or pallet jacks should first be loaded with the pallet. A final visual inspection of the palletized load is a good idea now.
  3. In the second step, start moving pallet loads into the container. Make sure your load will match the orientation you planned.
  4. Lastly, fill the remaining cargo into the container.

It‘s that simple! It’s time to close the container and transport it! A tractor-trailer container was the primary focus of these instructions. Despite the differences in dimensions, the basic principles remain the same for boat and plane containers.

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