You’ve found the right products and a reputable truckload liquidation broker to purchase from, so you’re all set up for success, right? Not so fast. Although a good source and carefully selected products are vital to your business, you can’t afford to ignore logistics.

Logistics in the truckload liquidation business is the process of moving goods from their original point all the way to the customer. When you’re buying and selling liquidation pallets, logistics for you involves the transportation, receipt, unloading, storage and final shipment or delivery of your products to whoever buys them. In this post, we’ll answer one of the biggest questions beginners have about truckload liquidation business logistics: how many pallets fit in a truckload? Then, we’ll get into how to prepare for truckloads and organize your storage space to get you on the path to successful selling.

You Want to Know: How Many Pallets Fit in a Truckload?

Two main things determine how many pallets fit in a truckload: the size of the truck and the size of the pallets. In addition, there are other smaller details that can impact how many pallets a truck can carry. Let’s dive into all of it.

Truck Size

Most often, you’ll receive liquidation pallets in a 53' dry van. A dry van is a fully enclosed trailer, and the 53' measurement refers to its length. For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on 53' dry vans. If your liquidation pallets are coming in a different type of vehicle, the dimensions and the number of pallets in a truckload will vary accordingly.

Shipping Container Size

When goods travel overseas, they are loaded into shipping containers. There are a few standard sizes of shipping containers and each one can hold a certain number of pallets. Standard sizes include the 20' and 40', and there are three common high cube or HQ containers that are taller to provide extra space: the 20HQ, the 40HQ and the 45HQ.

When you’re buying liquidation pallets that are still in the original shipping containers, the size of the container will dictate how many pallets are in the container. For example, a 20' shipping container can hold 10 standard North American pallets single-stacked or 20 double-stacked. If you purchased a full shipping container, you could reasonably expect to receive 10 or 20 pallets, depending on their height.

Pallet Size

So just how big are pallets? That can vary, too. Check out the photos of our current inventory, and you’ll quickly see the variations. In North America, the standard pallet size is 48" long by 40" wide, but the heights of the product stacked on the pallets can vary. Many are 48"-72” high, but they can be shorter and taller. The height of pallets is a major determiner of how many can fit in a truckload. Stackable pallets can be double-stacked if their height is such that they can fit within the trailer.

Loading Methods

Open up the back of a few trailers, and you’ll quickly see that they’re not all loaded the same. Here are the main methods:

  • Straight: This loading method is when pallets go straight into the truck. It’s easy to load and unload, but it often results in wasted space between the pallets and the walls of the trailer. To use this method, pallets need to be two-way or four-way. A two-way pallet has forklift entry points on two sides, while a four-way has them on all four sides.

  • Turned: This loading method works for four-way pallets and involves turning all of the pallets so that they’re perpendicular with the front of the trailer. This can reduce the amount of wasted space, but it complicates unloading for sellers. This arrangement means you’ll have to have a forklift, as pallet jacks can’t get under pallets from the side.

  • Pinwheeled: With pinwheeled loading, you alternate the directions of pallets. The first one that goes in is straight and the second one is turned. This uses more of the available space, but half of the pallets (the turned ones) won’t be able to be lifted with an ordinary pallet jack.

Depending on the loading method and what’s inside the pallet, stuffing may be placed between pieces. The purpose of the stuffing is to fit more merchandise in the truckload to maximize the value the buyer receives. Stuffing plays an important role in maximizing the value received in export containers. Generally, stuffing does not occur in standard 53’ dry vans.

The Effects of Weight

Even though standard size pallets have the same length and width dimensions, their weights can vary greatly. Part of this is because of the potential for height differences, but the biggest reason is due to the variability of what’s inside. For example, a pallet full of pillows is going to weigh less than a pallet of large screen televisions because the products are so much lighter.

All dry vans have floor loading limits, and these can’t be exceeded. As a result, a truckload of heavy items may contain fewer pallets to ensure that the load isn’t too heavy for the floor of the trailer.

Putting It All Together

So, assuming that the floor of the truck is strong enough and there isn’t a lot of bulky packaging to take up space, a 53' dry van can hold 26 standard single-stacked pallets or 52 if double-stacked pallets when loaded “straight .” Pinwheeling can hold 28 pallets or 56 if double-stacked. Side-loading will hold 30 pallets or 60 if double-stacked.

Remember: there are other trailer sizes and pallet sizes out there and even among 53' dry vans, interior designs may vary. Many have lips that can get in the way of loading tall pallets. As a result, you may not be able to stack pallets all the way to the ceiling inside. The information above is an estimate only. Always consult your inventory listing to determine how many pallets you’re actually getting. Don’t assume that you’re getting 24 to 26 pallets just because you’re buying a full truckload.

Why Use Pallets Anyway?

Some wonder if it’s possible to get truckloads shipped without pallets, thinking it would save space and maximize the value being shipped. The answer is, “yes!” This is called floor-stacking. This is common when exporting containers to load them this way. Sometimes, this method is used for 53’ dry vans, but it only works if the shipper that is loading the truck ensures that it is packed very tightly, floor to ceiling, front to back and wall to wall. If it is not packed tightly, then it will result in limited extra value, but significantly more time involved to unload.

Imagine that you bought a pallet of toys. The toys come packaged by the dozen in 20" by 20" shipping boxes. A standard 48-inch high pallet can hold 230 of these boxes. You purchase by the pallet and get 24 pallets in your truckload. When the truck arrives, you have 24 pallets to move into your storage area.

Now, take the pallets out of the story. Twenty-four pallets that each contain 5,520 boxes of toys. That’s significantly more trips back and forth to the truck, even if you’re able to move multiple boxes at a time. So, if you are only getting the 5,520 units, then it is not a good deal. However, if because of floor stacking, you are able to fit 7,000 units in the same dry van for the same cost of transport, then it may be significantly worth it.

Sometimes, liquidation merchandise does come in individual boxes and needs to be floor-stacked on trailers, but when it is available in a pallet, taking it that way can save you time and effort.

What Else You Need To Know: How to Plan the Space for Your Truckload

Part of learning how to buy liquidation pallets is planning out the size of everything from the truckload to your storage space. To buy truckloads of returns and other merchandise the smart way, you need to consider the following.

Your Available Space

Do you have enough room to store a full truckload? If your floor space is limited, think vertically. Double-stacking your pallets in your storage can allow you to take advantage of the ceiling height in your storage area, so that you can fit more without cramming the floor so full of product that you can’t navigate around it. This can also be accomplished with unloading a pallet item-by-item on top of another pallet if you do not have the equipment to lift and stack a second pallet.

When choosing truckload liquidations to purchase, pay attention to the pallet height. Calculate the volume by multiplying the length, width and height together and then do the same for your space.

If the cubic volume of the goods far exceeds that of your storage area, you’re not going to have enough room for everything. If your storage area is just slightly bigger, you’ll likely need to stack pallets to fit it all, and if the pallets you’re buying aren’t stackable, that means you won’t be able to accommodate the full truckload.

What you want to see is a significantly larger cubic volume of storage space compared to the cubic volume of your inventory. This likely will mean that you have enough room for everything and will still be able to move through the storage area to retrieve items and to safely maneuver equipment through the space.

Details of the Truckload

How much are you paying to ship your items? Size really matters here. The more product that you can put on the truck, the less you’re paying in freight per item or on a percentage basis of per retail value dollar basis. Other elements of logistics matter, too. For example, you’ll need to know when the truck is coming to ensure you’re onsite when it arrives. You only receive 2 hours to unload from the scheduled appointment time, or when the truck arrives, whichever is later.

Man and Machine Power

You’re going to have to get all those pallets off the truck when it arrives, so are you ready for it? Do you have a forklift and/or pallet jack? If you only have access to the latter, asking how trucks are loaded is going to be key. Remember: pallet jacks typically can’t easily unload turned and pinwheeled pallets. If that’s how your merchandise is coming or you do not have a loading dock, renting a forklift for the day ahead of time can save you plenty of headaches.

In addition to material moving equipment, you need manpower to operate it and sets of hands to pitch in and help. If you’re a one-person operation, you’re likely going to have to recruit some helpers. Set terms upfront. If you’re paying them, let them know how much they’ll get and how long you expect them to work. You don’t want your helpers running off halfway through the unload. Many beginners think the truck driver will help unload. This rarely happens and if it does, the driver expects to be paid for his work. This is not a standard service offered by drivers.

Is Your Space Truck-Ready?

Not all storage areas are ready for tractor trailer trucks. The driver is going to need to be able to reach your location, so a paved road is a must. Low hanging branches and power lines can also make accessing your location a challenge, so deal with any obstacles before the day your shipment arrives.

Also, make sure there’s enough paved surface for the truck to turn around and back up. Don’t assume that the driver can just turn into the grass. They typically can’t because trucks can sink and get stuck. There isn’t much that you can do to entirely change the layout of a loading area to prepare for a truck. If there’s not enough clearance for turning, you may need to find a completely new location.

Check out our guide on how to receive truckloads of merchandise for more information about what to do before and after the truck gets there.

Organizing Your Truckload Inventory for Maximum Space

As mentioned before, calculating cubic volume will give you a good indication of whether your space is suitable for the shipment. If you have enough space, the next step is to focus on organizing your liquidation pallets. You’ll need to lay out the pallets in a way that allows for an easy flow of traffic and leaves space to receive the pallets. If you’re going to break down pallets in your warehouse, you’ll need space for that, too.

If you’re just starting your liquidation business, you may wonder if you need to invest in racking and shelving in your space. When you’re first starting your business, these fixtures likely aren’t necessary unless you anticipate having to store your items for a long time. With liquidation selling, quick sell-through of items is always the goal. Having in-demand products and taking a smart approach to selling should mean that you’re not holding onto inventory for long, and in that case, it’s simply not efficient to put everything on racks and shelves only to have to take it all down quickly. Remember, you are in the liquidation business, not the storage business.

Planning to sell your inventory by the piece? If so, you’ll need to itemize and catalog as you go. In this case, you’ll likely want space for a table and chair, so you can have your laptop there. Also, plan on having shelving to store your items on so that you can find them when needed. Sellers that are going to try and sell the entire pallet at once have less of a need to catalog, but that depends on the business. All that’s necessary is knowing what program the pallet came from.

Trust the BuyLow Warehouse Experts for Your Next Truckload Purchase

We covered a lot, so let’s review the key points:

  • Most 53' dry trucks can hold 24 to 26 single-stacked standard pallets and 48 to 52 double-stacked standard pallets when “straight loaded” which is the most common.
  • Always consult the inventory listing. Don’t assume you’re getting a certain number of pallets because you bought “a truckload.“
  • Truck size and pallet size are the key determiners of how many pallets are on a truck.
  • Loading methods, the weight of pallets and stuffing between pallets also play a role in determining pallets-per-truck counts.
  • Calculate your available space and make sure your location is truck-ready ahead of time.
  • Determine how much man power and what equipment you’ll need to move pallets before the truck comes.
  • Store items vertically to maximize available space when possible.
  • Ask questions about cost and loading methods to avoid costly and inconvenient surprises.

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when it comes to logistics and your liquidation business. The good news is, you don’t have to figure it all out on your own. When you choose BuyLow Warehouse as your liquidation broker, you have a partner with years of experience and tons of knowledge in the industry to help you.

Don’t know whether you can double stack certain pallets? We can tell you. Having a hard time figuring out if you’ve got enough room for the inventory coming on a truckload? Give us the details of your space and leave the math to us. Unsure if you need a forklift or extra hands to move everything? We can provide you with advice on that, too.

At BuyLow Warehouse, we measure our success based on yours. We’ll provide you with the information you need and supply answers to all of your questions to make managing logistics as a beginner in the liquidation business a whole lot easier. Learn more about us or contact us today. We’re ready to help!

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