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Costco Pallet Requirements: A Painless Way To Ship

Last Modified: December 1, 2022
Shipping goods to Costco requires you to follow quite a few of their pallet requirements. We’ll give the details on what you need to do to have a successful shipment.

By

Jacob Lee
December 1, 2022
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Knowing the fine details of Costco pallet requirements is essential if you want to become one of their vendors. Like many retailers around the country, Costco has a specific set of guidelines that palletized freight shipments have to follow. Fortunately, pallet requirements for palletized Costco freight can be easily broken down into some simple steps. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Costco requires that pallets be no larger than 48”x40” and must be subject to ISBM-15 heat treatment.
  • Packages must pass ISTA 1a and 3e testing requirements. The lower layers of a pallet should be able to sustain 1500 to 2500 pounds based on the shipment's total weight.
  • All palletized freight must be accompanied by a BOL, freight bill and packing list. HAZMAT paperwork must accompany the pallet if HAZMAT goods are being shipped.

We’ll explain the specifics of Costco’s pallet requirements so you can successfully ship your palletized goods to them. 

Two warehouse workers stacking pallets on top of each other

What Pallets Does Costco Accept?

The first thing you need to do when following Costco’s requirements for palletized freight is to obtain a pallet that they’ll accept. There are a few general rules that your pallet will need to abide by. Additionally, all Costco pallets must meet a heat treatment requirement to be accepted.  

General Guidelines

When picking out a pallet or pallets to use for your shipment of freight to Costco, you’ll need to make sure that it has some of the following characteristics:

  • Pallets should be no larger than 48”X40”
  • General use block pallets only
  • Pallets should be able to survive for over 500 miles while in transit

While pallets have a size limit of 48”X40”, you can choose to use pallets that have smaller proportions than this. That said, you should make sure that whatever pallet you use will be able to hold the freight that you’ve loaded onto it without there being any overhang. 

Costco also requires vendors to ship palletized freight on pallets made by specific companies. The type of pallets you use and which company makes them will be determined based on the location of the Costco you’re shipping freight to. The pallet companies you can use and when to use them are listed below:

  • iGPS Pallets - Good for shipping:
    • Within the U.S.
    • Within Canada
    • Within Mexico
    • The Canadian-U.S. border
    • The Mexican-U.S. border
  • Peco Pallets - Good for shipping to Costcos in the U.S. or Canada:
    • Within the U.S.
    • Within Canada
    • Within Mexico
    • The Canadian-U.S. border
    • The Mexican-U.S. border
  • CHEP Pallets - Good for shipping to Costcos in the U.S., Mexico, UK or Australia:
    • Within the U.S.
    • Within Canada
    • Within Mexico
    • The Canadian-U.S. border
    • The Mexican-U.S. border
    • Exporting from Canada, U.S. or Mexico
    • Importing to Canada, U.S. or Mexico

There are some occasions where using pallets made by the companies listed above won’t be an option for you. Some instances where this might occur could be when you’re transporting oversized goods. In situations like these, you’ll need to obtain approval from Costco in advance. Once you’ve gained approval, you’ll be permitted to use purpose-built pallets for your shipment.  

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.

Heat Treatment Requirements

Another requirement that you’ll need to fulfill when shipping goods to Costco are the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures No. 15 heat treatment requirement. Also known as ISBM-15, this regulation must be met when transporting freight on wooden pallets internationally.

Various insects and diseases can be found within wooden materials like pallets. When a pallet comes from another country, it could carry these pests within them. Once they arrive in a new country, the insects and diseases within the pallet can spread and start to wreak havoc on the plants and ecosystems of the country the pallet arrived at. 

The ISPM-15 regulation requires wooden packing materials such as pallets to undergo heat treatment to avoid scenarios like these. To satisfy this regulation, two procedures need to be performed on the pallets. The two options are:

  1. The pallet can be heated to its core at a temperature of 56 degrees Celsius. It must be heated at this temperature for 30 minutes
  2. The pallet can be fumigated using Methyl Bromide  

Most pallets are made from a variety of different woods, with two different species being the most common. We’ve listed these two common wood species and the percentage pallets made from them.

Most Commonly Use Woods For Pallets By Percentage

Pine18 percent
Oak17 percent

Either of these options will suffice for this regulation and once completed, the pallet can receive the ISBM-15 stamp of approval. The only time you won’t need to complete this requirement is if you’re shipping freight to Costco on iGPS plastic pallets.    

Check out our articles on Walmart pallet requirements and Amazon pallet requirements if you’d like to have more options on where you want to send your goods to.

Boxes stacked on shelves inside of a fulfillment warehouse

International Safe Transit Association Requirements

Before you can start loading your freight onto a pallet, you’ll need to complete one more requirement. Costco requires that the packaging of all palletized freight sent to them must pass the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) pre-shipment tests.

There will be two pre-shipment tests in particular that your packaged shipments must be able to pass:

  • ISTA 1A Package Testing
  • ISTA 3E Package Testing

ISTA 1A is used to determine if the packages being shipped are durable enough to last while it’s in transit. This test, in particular, is applied to individually packed products that weigh 150 pounds. During the ISTA 1A test, your packages will go through vibration and shock testing. 

The ISTA 3E test is designed specifically for palletized freight shipments. This test simulates the shipping environments that palletized shipments will be subject to while they’re in transit. Like the ISTA 1A test, the ISTA 3E test subjects palletized loads to vibrations and shocks to check their integrity. 

To get your shipment certified by the ISTA, you’ll need to become an ISTA member. Once you do, you’ll just need to follow their transport testing laboratory certification procedures. ISTA provides videos for this procedure that easily explain each step. 

Package Strength

An ISTA certification will show that your palletized shipment of packages can withstand vibrations and shocks while in transit. That said, Costco also requires that the packages you use are strong enough to withstand some of the other factors that they could be subjected to, such as:

  • Load factors of long haul transit that are 500 miles or over
  • Packaging should be able to survive forklift, pallet jack and mechanical layer clamping
  • Packaging should be able to maintain integrity when in 80 to 90 percent humidity environmental conditions
  • Packaging should be able to survive a minimum of four weeks in storage under load weight
  • Packaging for refrigerated/freezer goods should be able to survive the refrigerated temperatures in moist environments 

You’ll have little to no control over what environments your packages will go through while in transit. Therefore, it’s imperative for the well-being of your goods and to obtain acceptance by Costco that you make sure that the box or boxes carrying your goods can survive these environments. 

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.
A warehouse worker using a forklift to load a pallet of freight

How Should Pallets To Costco Be Loaded?

Once you’ve obtained a pallet that’s accepted by Costco and ensured that they’ve passed the ISTA 1A and 3E tests, you can begin preparing your shipment for loading. Costco has some fairly specific guidelines for loading pallets, so you’ll need to make sure you follow them accordingly.

  1. Stacking Procedures

The first step of Costco’s loading procedures you’ll need to take care of is their stacking procedures for palletized shipments. In particular, Costco is concerned with the ability to stack freight on pallets to withstand the weight. Costco’s requirements for stacked freight on a pallet  are as follows:

  • Pallet loads under 750 pounds should be able to withstand 1,500 pounds of weight on the bottom layer
  • Pallet loads over 751 pounds should be able to withstand 2,500 pounds of weight on the bottom layer

While 751 pound palletized shipments must be able to hold 2,500 pounds on the bottom layer, Costco doesn’t accept palletized shipments with a total weight heavier than 2,500 pounds. Freight can be stacked on a pallet using a variety of different methods. Costco doesn’t specify which stacking method you should use in particular, but there are a few good rules to go by when you start stacking:

  • Put the heaviest packages at the bottom of the pallet
  • Use an overlapping stacking pattern for:
    • Different box sizes that are heavy
    • Same size boxes that are heavy
  • Use a columnar stacking pattern for boxes that are the same and that are light

Having heavier packages on the bottom will prevent you from crushing lightboxes. Heavy boxes on the bottom layer can also better withstand weights of 1,500 to 2,500 pounds. One last Costco requirement that you’ll need to consider when stacking freight onto a pallet comes in regards to display-ready packaging. 

Costco requires that these types of boxes at least have the display-ready part facing outward on the 48” sides of the pallet. If possible, Costco recommends the display-ready side facing outward on both the 48” and 40” sides. 

  1. Load Dimensions

Costco requires that all palletized shipments sent to them adhere to strict load dimensions. These guidelines are:

  • Pallets must be no taller than 58 inches. This also includes the 5.5 inches of pallet height
  • Don't let the freight hang over the pallet
  • Don’t let freight underhang on the pallet anymore than 44”x37”

Overhanging freight on a pallet can cause the freight loaded on it to be damaged. Likewise, freight that has an underhang could weaken the integrity of your stacked freight. Costco recommends using a pallet footprint of 47.4”X39.5”. 

The footprint is a supply chain term used to describe the width of a pallet. While you don’t have to use this specific footprint, it will help you maximize space.

  1. Layer Sheets

Layer sheets are an item that is often used when palletizing freight. The purpose of layer sheets is to give your palletized load more stability. Costco requires layer sheets for some, but not all, palletized freight shipments that are sent to them. The palletized shipments that do require layer sheets are: 

  • Products in display-ready, corrugated packaging
  • Bagged products over 10 pounds in weight i.e.:
    • Pet food
    • Sugar
    • Flour
    • Rice

First, we’ll discuss Costco’s layer sheet guidelines for palletized shipments of display-ready corrugated packaging. For these types of palletized shipments, apply layer sheets in the following manner:

  • Apply layer sheets between product layers for items shipped or master displays that are already open (display modules that weigh more than 35 pounds should utilize a layer that is a minimum of 150 pounds of mullet test board)
  • Use non-skid coated layer sheets for shink-wrapped products or for products shipped in boxed packages that have surfaces that are smooth or slippery

The layer sheet requirements for palletized bagged products are a little bit more simple. Simply place a sheet on the bottom layer of the product and the top of the loaded shipment. 

  1. Securing the Freight

The last part of Costco’s pallet loading requirements that you’ll need to suffice is the securing requirements. As with the layer sheet requirements, Costco’s pallet load securing requirements vary based on the freight that’s being transported on the pallet. 

Costco has specific securing requirements for the following types of palletized freight shipments:

  • Products in display-ready corrugated packaging
  • Bagged products over 10 pounds in weight
  • Products in fully enclosed corrugated shipping containers

The requirements for products in display-ready corrugated packaging and products in fully enclosed corrugated shipping containers are the same. To secure this form of palletized freight shipment follow these steps:

  • Apply stretch wrap starting from the bottom of your pallet load and work your way up the length of the shipment
  • Wrap the shipment with a stretch film three times
  • Stretch film should be in a .79 gauge

Costco recognizes how difficult it is to secure bagged freight to a pallet. Therefore, they allow shippers of freight to use one of three options to secure their bagged freight to a pallet. These options are:

  1. Use 1.2 mils one-side cling, puncture-resistant blown film. Wrap the palletized shipment a minimum of three times around the bottom third of the pallet load. Wrap the palletized shipment a minimum of three times on the top third of the pallet load. Afterward, wrap the pallet with stretch wrap from top to bottom.
  2. Enclose your palletized load on all sides with a corrugated shroud. Stretch wrap the entire load to the bottom of the pallet. Make sure to use a minimum .79 gauge stretch film and wrap it around the pallet three times. Tie off the bottom end of the stretch wrap to the pallet. 
  3. Put a corrugated 40”X48” tray around the palletized load. Make sure that the tray has a minimum height of 12” and stretch wrap the load to the bottom of the palletized shipment. A minimum of .79 stretch film is required and must be wrapped around the shipment three times. Tie off the end of the stretch wrap to the pallet.

Any of these three options are allowed by Costco when shipping palletized bagged shipments. To get information on some universal shipping practices, check out our article on 12 common shipping mistakes. 

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.
Aerial view of a warehouse where freight is loaded and unloaded

What Documents Should Accompany Costco Pallet Shipments?

Costco doesn’t explicitly state which documents should accompany a palletized load, but it’s safe to say that you should include all of the essential shipping documents with your load. The essential documents that you’ll need include the following:

  • Bill of Lading (BOL)
  • Freight Bill
  • Packing List

If your palletized shipment has hazardous materials within its contents, you’ll need to include the appropriate hazardous materials paperwork. Our article on documents required for domestic shipping will provide you with more information. 

After Following Costco Pallet Requirements, Ship With USA Truckload

If you’ve got a palletized load that you need to be shipped to Costco, USA Truckload Shipping can help you get it there. We partner with numerous small carriers all over the country to accommodate our many customers. We offer standard truckload shipping for normal palletized loads. However, we also have refrigerated shipping partners that move your cold or frozen palletized goods. 

Another service that we provide is freight insurance. Palletizing your load to Costco’s standards is important to keep your freight safe. That said, there’s always a possibility that something could go wrong and that your shipment could suffer damages. Freight insurance will keep you protected should something like this occur. 
If you’re ready to ship, fill out your quote or call our team at (866) 353-7178 if you have any questions.

Looking for a solution to move truckload freight? R+L Global Logistics handles truckload shipping. Let us know when and we'll handle the rest.
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