So, you have been put in charge of purchasing 48" x 40" used pallets for your company's shipping needs and after spending a few hours on the phone researching quotes, you feel like you want to pull your hair out. Sound familiar? Why does one pallet cost $7.00 and another cost $4.00? They are both the same size right? Why should you care if it's a #1 or #2 pallet?
Actually, you should care a lot because there is a major difference between the two. You don't want to be paying for a #1 pallet but actually be receiving a #2 pallet. Also, storing product in a racking situation will require you to know the difference.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's start at the beginning. Both of these pallets begin as a brand new 48" x 40" pallet. Then, as they cycle around the supply chain, transferring product from manufacturer or supplier to a retailer, they usually become damaged by forklift, transporter or pallet jack use. Once this happens, they are pulled out of use. Pallet recycling companies across the country will purchase these damaged pallets, which are referred to as cores, and will put them through a repair process. Depending on how badly they were damaged and how much repair was needed, they are graded/inspected to a classification called a #1 or a #2 pallet. Some companies even have a #3 grade, but it's rare and you should only consider using these once you have actually seen them for yourself. Both the #1 pallet and the #2 pallet are pictured below, see if you can spot the difference.
They look very similar, but If you look closer, you will notice a crutch in the bottom photo. This is a companion stringer on the #2 pallet, that is positioned next to one, or more, 2x4 stringers. Why? Because the existing 2x4 was damaged enough to where the structural integrity of the pallet was compromised. Without the crutch, the pallet cannot be used again, however by adding and nailing it into place, the pallet has been prepped for additional use. Take a look again, I've circled the crutch in the picture below. I've also included a close up view.
Take Note: Common traits of both
Size: Both the #1 and #2 pallets measure out as 48" in length and 40" in width. In fact, unlike any other size of pallet, you don't even need to reference the size when ordering or requesting a quote for a #1 or #2. Once you say these terms, it's assumed that you referring to a 48"x40" pallet.
Usability: Both the #1's and #2's are repaired pallets, meaning they have been inspected and all broken pieces of lumber have either been removed and another usable piece of lumber has been reattached. Both will be able to have product loaded on it and will be able to be moved around by material handling equipment.
Heat Treated for Export: Both types can be put through the heat treating process and stamped with an ISPM symbol for export out of the country.
Style: Both types refer to a stringer style pallet (pallets made with 2x4's) and not block pallets.
Look closely: Examining the Differences
Reduced Forklift Opening: Because there is another companion 2x4 sitting next to a current 2x4, the width of the area that the forks of a forklift or pallet jack have to enter the pallet shrinks. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but the smaller the entrance, the harder it is for a forklift driver to safely enter the pallet.
Unit Load Weight: The safe maximum load that a pallet can carry drops considerably when a pallet becomes a #2. Depending on several factors like grade of wood, fastener strength, and the thickness of the lumber, a #1 will safely hold more weight.
Rack Storage: If you are storing product in a racking situation, be very careful with a #2. For safety reasons, you should consider only racking a #1, especially if it's suspended racking (no support). If you are racking in a supported racking situation, some customers can use a #2, but you will want to carefully evaluate the unit load weight.
Pallet Spec: The more times a pallet is repaired, the better chance that integrity will be an issue. Why? The pallet might have been repaired by several different pallet companies, each with it's own repair standards. If you pay attention, you will discover a noticeable range in the #2 pallet spec from pallet to pallet. The gap (distance between the decking boards) can vary greatly. Most new 48" x 40" pallets start out with seven top deck boards, however the more that it has been repaired, the greater chance of this spec changing.
Comparing the Cost Variation:
A #1 pallet will usually be sold for around the $6.50-$8 dollar range and a #2 will go from anywhere in the $4-$5.50 range. I'm giving ranges because there are a lot of variables that play into this number which include:
Region: Both a #1 and #2 are used pallets, there is a limited number of them floating around the country at any given time. Sometimes this float migrates to certain parts of the country due to product positioning and larger amounts can accumulate in a certain regions. This plays into how many are available and ready to be sold. We've seen situations to where there is a surplus on one coast yet there is a shortage on the other coast. At one point a few years ago, we had over half a million pallets in our yards, yet right now, we only have a fraction of that amount.
Seasonality: If you are ordering when everybody else is ordering (peak times) there might be a situation where you cannot get the desired quantity that you need. We are located in California's central valley. If you give us a call in February, we will probably have plenty of pallets to sell you. Call us in late July during the harvest season and we probably won't be able to spare any pallets.
Delivery quantity: If you only need 100 pallets delivered, you are going to pay more for the pallet than if you have a full truckload (approx 500-750 pallets) delivered at one time. Also, commit to a large volume over a certain time period and you might get a discount as well.
Remember, 48" x 40" pallets are great to use for shipping needs. You purchase them, put product on them and send them on their way. You don't have to keep track of them any longer, so the less you can spend the better. However, like I've said several times on this blog, going cheap on your pallets isn't always the best idea. When considering which pallet to use, remember that it's the product that should guide your decision. Think of the #2 as a pallet's last go-around before it throws up the white flag. It's still has some fight left in it and can save you money, but you must pay attention to what you are needing it do. If you're concerned about the weight you are putting on it, how it's stored or if the product could be damaged, stick with a #1.