Wood pallets are easy to overlook. They’re used everywhere—from storage facilities to DIY furniture projects. Despite their simplicity, wood pallets have a fascinating history.
Since the 1900s, pallets have played a pivotal role in the international transportation industry. Here are some things you should know about the colourful history of wood pallets:
Today, pallets can withstand incredible weight and pressure, and are designed to be easily transported, loaded, and unloaded. In the early 20th century, goods and other items were shipped using wooden barrels, kegs, and boxes. These methods took an inordinately long time to unload, and were often heavy and cumbersome to handle.

The invention of the wood pallet, in combination with the introduction of the first modern forklift around the 1930s, revolutionized the packing and shipping industry. Now, things could be stored vertically—exponentially increasing warehouse space and efficiency.

The first wooden pallet, however, did not look like today’s classic, solid model. In the beginning, pallets consisted of a wooden board nailed across two or more runner boards, raising the platform enough to accommodate for the prongs of a forklift underneath. Eventually, with addition of boards nailed across the bottom, this skid-like model evolved into the wooden pallet we are familiar with today. Later, the four-sided pallet evolved, allowing forklift access from any side.

Pallets were made out of wood because it was the most cost-effective, widely available product on the market, both then and now. Wood is also a strong enough material to withstand the forces imposed with high stacking storage.

Nowadays, we’re used to the same, 48-inch by 40-inch pallet (the kind you see at Home Depot or stacked with canned goods in grocery stores.) But pallet sizes weren’t always standardized—or square. Some measured as little as three by three feet, and others as large as four by eight feet.

In the 1960s, grocery stores across the continent were using pallets of all shapes and sizes, making storage inefficient and time-consuming. With the help of General Foods and Grocery Manufacturers of America, a pallet industry standard was established. Although many businesses used different types of wood to cut costs, the 48-inch by 40-inch size was relatively uniform across the country.

It’s safe to say that wood pallets played a hugely important role in the development of the shipping industry, but also the global economy. In fact, during World War II, pallets played a crucial role in supply efforts, employing millions of pallets along supply lines.
If you have any further questions about wood pallets, the professionals at Pallet Management Group can help.

At Pallet Management Group, we are committed to providing our clients with the high-quality recycled wood pallets they’ve come to expect from us. We also buy your used and broken wood pallets, so you can turn your old scraps into cash.

For more information about our recycled wood pallet products and services, contact us today at Pallet Management Group.