Today, nearly two billion pallets are used in the United States alone every day. When the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) opened in 1910, the closest thing to a pallet was a wood skid that was generally only used to move heavy equipment.
Around the 1930’s, with the evolution of forklift trucks, two-faced skids (pallets) were developed. During World War II, the need for moving large quantities of goods exploded, and hence the use of pallets greatly expanded.
FPL researchers took on the challenge of extending the useful service life of pallets, and they did just that through pallet and fastener design, as well as the development of an impact panel for forklift trucks
In the above photo from the 1960’s, a researcher observes how a wood pallet reacts to the effects of rough handling by subjecting it to a series of drops provided by a 14-foot-diameter revolving drum tester developed at FPL. The drum test accelerates the handling of the pallet so that scientists can understand the weak points in its construction and improve its performance through better materials an designs.
For a short but moving (ha!) tribute to the humble pallet, check out this video from the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association. It’ll make you see pallets in a whole new light.