Skid, pallet, crate, box, drum, barrel…
While some freight packing types are pretty intuitive to figure out, the terms “pallet” and “skid” are often used interchangeably.
What’s the difference between the two, and does it matter?
Keep reading to learn what separates a skid from a pallet, which is best suited for which type of freight, and how to pick the best freight packing for you — skid, pallet, or otherwise.
Skid vs. pallet: How do they stack up?
Skids and pallets are rigid freight packing options, typically constructed from wood or plastic, that help keep your shipment safe and secure during transit.
The main difference between the two — as shown in the image below — is that the pallet has two deck boards (on the top and bottom) while the skid has one (on the top).
This attribute makes the pallet more stable, and suitable for storage and shipping. On the other hand, the skid is more challenging to maneuver and is appropriate for storage.
The skid: pros, cons, and uses
What is a skid?
The skid came into use in the 1930s, making it the original form of freight packing in the United States.
In general, a skid is a basic type of pallet that:
- Measures 48” x 40” (in North America)
- Consists of a top deck and legs
- May include a solid or slatted top deck
- Is easy to move around or drag
- Can also be used as a base for equipment or machinery
Pros of using a skid
There is a range of benefits of using skids, including that they are:
- A great storage option
- Cheaper to purchase than pallets
- Easy to move around (offering less resistance due to having no lower deck)
- Often nestable, making them compact to store
- Enable the movement of heavy machinery
Cons of using a skid
However, skids offer quite a basic packing option and, as such come with a variety of limitations, including they are:
- Typically less stable than pallets
- Difficult to maneuver with a forklift
- Less suitable for shipping than for use in storage
- Less able to support hefty loads
When to use a skid
With these pros and cons in mind, using a skid can make a lot of sense if you’re looking for a packing structure that will:
- Be mainly used for storage, such as in a warehouse setting
- Support heavy machinery in place
- Need to be dragged along the ground to be moved
- Provide a cost-effective packing option
If you’re looking for a sturdier option that’s more suitable for freight transportation, however, you might want to consider the pallet:
The pallet: pros, cons, and uses
What is a pallet?
Freight pallets are typically made from wood, plastic, or metal, and their sturdy and versatile nature makes them a popular packing option in the US. A freight pallet:
- Measures 48” x 40” (in North America)
- Consists of a top deck, bottom deck, and connecting legs
- May include either a solid or slatted top deck
- Can accommodate a range of sizes and weights
- Easily stackable due to the bottom deck
Pros of using a pallet
Pallets are a popular freight packing choice and for a good reason. Shipping using pallets offers a range of benefits since:
- They are sturdy and stable due to a double-deck design
- They are easy to stack (during transit or storage)
- They can be easily moved or lifted using a forklift or pallet jack
- A standard pallet can carry up to 4,600 pounds
- They are easy to stack or rack
- Their bottom deck ensures an even weight distribution, contributing to their ability to hold heavy loads.
Cons of using a pallet
- Heavier than a skid, which can increase the cost
- More challenging to drag than a skid due to the bottom deck
When to use a pallet
A pallet is a reliable choice for most types of freight shipping and offers a degree of stability that the older skid design simply doesn’t provide.
Pallet packing is suitable for a wide range of products and goods. While skids may suffice for storage, pallets are likely better for transporting most loads. Not only can they be easily maneuvered by forklift, but their design makes them well-suited to LTL shipping, in which carriers transport multiple shipments within the same vehicle.
Pallets are also a great way of transporting bulk goods or goods stored in a warehouse before or after transit.
What’s more, if you’re expecting to transport your shipment using intermodal shipping, then packing using pallets helps to ensure that you can move your freight quickly between train and truck.
Overall, if you’re expecting your packing set-up to work equally well for shipping and storage, or are likely to have to move your shipment multiple times while it is in transit, then pallets may work better for you than skids.
The crate: pros, cons, and uses
We’ve covered the differences between pallets and skids and the types of loads suited to each. But what if neither solution is the right fit for your shipment?
Luckily, there are plenty of other ways to pack your shipment. A crate is a smart option — let’s see how it stacks up.
What is a crate?
A crate is a box that, unlike skids and pallets, contains the load within four walls.
Much like a skid or pallet, crates are made of wood or plastic and typically include a lid that fully contains the load. This feature makes a crate a very secure packing method but also decreases its maneuverability.
Crates are sturdy, stackable, and capable of holding high-weight and high-volume loads but can prove bulky and more difficult to lift and move than a pallet.
Pros of using a crate
- Come in a variety of sizes to suit your shipment
- Offer a higher degree of security
- Ideal for holding fragile products or machinery
- Can hold a large volume
Cons of using a crate
- Typically heavier than a skid or pallet, which can increase the cost
- Vary in ease of maneuverability — some may be liftable by a forklift
- Can be bulky, depending on size and weight
When to use a crate
While a pallet will do an excellent job for most common loads, a crate might be a better choice for you if you’re planning to ship a load that:
- Needs a higher degree of security
- Is highly fragile (you can also fill empty crate space with cushioning for additional protection)
As such, if a pallet or skid won’t fit the needs of your shipment, shipping by crate provides a practical third alternative. However, due to the increased cost associated with shipping by crate, as well as the fact they can be challenging to lift and move, it might be wise to reserve crates for your most fragile items and make use of pallet shipping for other products or goods.
How to protect your freight shipment
No matter the type of packing you choose — skid, pallet, crate, or something else entirely — there are concrete steps you can take to minimize damage and protect your shipment.
Following the steps below as you prepare to pack your shipment can help to reduce risk and avoid damage in transit:
- Measure your shipment in advance
- Pick the correct type of packing (pallet, skid, crate, etc.) for your shipment
- Pick the right size of packing for your shipment
- When packing, ensure your load fits — there shouldn’t be an overhang
- Never exceed your pallet’s weight capacity
- Use high-quality materials to pack your shipment
- Stack carefully, and ensure your load is properly secured
- Label your shipment clearly and accurately
Get ahead with premier logistics from Jansson
Still confused about whether a skid, pallet, or crate would be best suited to your shipping needs?
Whether it’s how to pack the shipment that’s confused you, or if you’re unsure of the best way to ship it from A to B, our friendly team at Jansson is here to help.
From LTL and hazmat to rail and intermodal, Jansson leverages the Landstar advantage to connect you with our extensive network of third-party carriers. No matter your location, destination, or shipment requirements, we’re happy to help. With exemplary 24/7 support, you can rest assured that your shipment is in safe hands with Jansson.
For a free quote or simply to ask any questions, you can reach out to us at Jansson today.