Why is pallet stability testing important?

The background

Pallet stability has become a buzz word within transport and packaging fields, because of drives to improve safety on our roads, reduce damage to products during transit, and for companies to be more responsible.

The statistics behind that first point are overwhelming – over 1,000 deaths every year in the EU because of products becoming dislodged or falling from vehicles is reason enough for us to take load stability seriously.

In fact, the European Commission has set up an organisation to tackle the issue – EUMOS . This has developed passed legislation and directives specifically designed to make our roads safer. In 2019 a man died on the M62 after an unsecure load fell on him as he tried to make the load safe.

In 2021, according to the HSE website, there were more than 500 Carriage of Dangerous Goods Prohibition notices issued in the UK – 6% of them were for unsafe loads.

So, the risk associated with this is both considerable and real.

What is pallet stability?

EUMOS categorise “load stability” to include all aspects that affect the stability of the load.

This includes:

  1. Unit load – in most cases this is the pallet.
  2. Load securing – this is about how the unit load is secured to or in the vehicle.
  3. The vehicle – this is about the type of vehicle used for transportation.

For example:

A business is seeking to transport a metal frame, measuring 200mm x 200mm x 200mm,and weighing 6kg which is stacked 30 per layer on a pallet 1400mm high (7 layers). The frame is self-supporting and locks into both the frame beside it and below and above. This is the Unit Load.

The unit load is being transported inside a 40ft Box Van type trailer.

If you take this example, the load securing could be ensuring that the unit load is able to remain stable on its own, as the Box Van type trailer will do the rest.

However, it may require something different if it were to be placed into a Curtain side trailer.

How to test the stability of a unit load:

The testing of the stability of the unit load comes under EUMOS 40509:2020 standard which can be accessed via the EUMOS website. This details the method and parameters to be used to determine whether a pallet is proven to be safe for transit.

How pallet stability testing should be used

Pallet stability testing should be a simulation of what happens to a unit load during transit. Your unit load should be accelerated in both length and width directions at different forces to see what elastic (amount of maximum movement of the pallet load) and the permanent (how much movement there is once the unit load is finished moving) deformation of the pallet is.

This should allow you to:

  • See how your current packing methods protect your unit load.
  • Test new products – such as different films or wrap patterns, use of strapping materials, slip sheets or layer pads, or use of edge boards to help in pallet stabilization etc.

You need to remember the reason for these trials should be to create a stabile pallet (unit load) not to reduce the costs. However, if you are in the 25% of companies that have stable pallets but apply too much packaging you should be able to test the results in stability if you take some of these packaging away.

What you should achieve from correctly testing pallet stability

If you test pallet stability correctly:

  • You may increase packaging costs, where you may need more packaging as a result. However…
  • You will decrease damages (4% of all products are damaged during transit).
  • You will decrease risk – as testing facilities replicate the forces applied to a pallet during transit.
  • You will decrease the risk of fines, levied if you are found to be transporting an unsafe load.

What shouldn’t pallet stability testing be used for

Some businesses consider checking the tensions applied to a pallet to be adequate for testing load stability. EUMOS standards suggest otherwise – as would our experienced team at MorsaPack.

Pallet stability testing should not:

  • Pallet stability testing should not be used for reducing packaging costs, or the amount of packaging used. If your pallet is unstable, reducing the amount of packaging used will mostly be a wrong move.
  • Pallet stability testing should not be used test of how much pressure is being applied to a pallet or how much tension. This alone does not confirm that the pallet is stable, according to EUMOS 40509:2020. This is known as checking containment forces and is a useful way of ensuring that you are achieving a level of containment. However, it does not tell you if the level of containment you are achieving makes for a stable pallet.

A recent study of pallet stability found that out of 100 pallets tested, 70 were unsafe, 25 were safe but had too much packaging, and 5 were optimised. Just 5% of loads being optimised is a frightening statistic, indicating that most pallets being transported are unsafe, and the rest inefficient, at best.

Claims that you can reduce costs by testing your pallet stability must be substantiated.

Robert McEwan, managing director of MorsaPack, commented:

“With 28 years’ experience in the packaging industry, I have seen a lot of bad advice given to companies about pallet stability. Here’s how you can get the best from your supplier to ensure your pallets are safe.

  • The best way to ensure you have the right packaging in the right amounts and the right place is to test the pallet using our accelerator/Pallet stability testing rig. This will not only allow you to get this right and see how it performs in controlled circumstances but also gives you a recipe for us to implement within your packaging environment.
  • Be honest with your packaging supplier about any damages, pallet fails, movement you might get within your distribution network and help them understand where or why it is caused. One extra revolution of film in the right place has removed £000’s of damage a company has endured for many years.
  • Approach this project to get a stable pallet. The next stage is how can you achieve that stable pallet for the lowest cost or the lowest packaging weight depending on your companies focus. Out of the three areas of pallet stability, low cost and low packaging weights you normally can only achieve 2 of these but, typically, not all 3.
  • Ensure that the supplier is able to implement and audit these results through the lifetime of your relationship.”

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