Title:
Metal pallet
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A metal pallet includes a first deck subassembly, first and second bumpers, and a plurality of risers. The first deck subassembly includes a plurality of deck boards. The first bumper connects to at least one of the deck boards along a first peripheral edge of the first deck subassembly. The second bumper connects to at least one of the deck boards along a second peripheral edge of the first deck subassembly. The first peripheral edge is oriented approximately normal to the second peripheral edge. The plurality of risers connects to the first deck subassembly for spacing the first deck subassembly above an associated surface upon which the pallet rests. A second deck subassembly can also be employed.



Inventors:
Nielsen, Larry (Lancaster, PA, US)
Application Number:
11/410365
Publication Date:
10/25/2007
Filing Date:
04/24/2006
Assignee:
Worthington Steelpac Systems
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
108/56.1
International Classes:
B65D19/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ING, MATTHEW W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FAY SHARPE LLP (Cleveland, OH, US)
Claims:
1. A metal pallet comprising: a first deck subassembly including a plurality of deck boards; a first bumper connected to at least one of the deck boards along a first peripheral edge of the first deck subassembly; a second bumper connected to at least one of the deck boards along a second peripheral edge of the first deck subassembly, the first peripheral edge being oriented approximately normal to the second peripheral edge; and, a plurality of risers connected to the first deck subassembly for spacing the first deck subassembly above an associated surface upon which the pallet rests.

2. The pallet of claim 1, wherein the first bumper attaches to at least one of the plurality of risers and the second bumper attaches to at least one of the plurality of risers.

3. The pallet of claim 1, wherein the first bumper has a different configuration than the second bumper.

4. The pallet of claim 3, wherein at least one of the first and second bumpers comprises a composite structure comprising a metal portion and an elastic portion.

5. The pallet of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of risers consists of a one-piece stamped piece of metal.

6. The pallet of claim 1, further comprising a second deck subassembly spaced from the first deck subassembly and connected to the plurality of risers, a lower surface of each of the bumpers being spaced from the second deck assembly so that the forks of a conventional fork lift can fit between the lower surface of each of the bumpers and the second deck subassembly.

7. A metal pallet comprising: a first deck subassembly; a second deck subassembly comprising a first member that includes a tongue and a second member that includes a slot that receives the tongue, the first member being disposed at an orientation other than parallel to the second member; and a riser connecting the first deck subassembly to the second deck subassembly, wherein the first deck subassembly is spaced from the second deck subassembly a distance sufficient to define an opening which allows forks of an associated conventional fork lift to fit between the first deck subassembly and the second deck subassembly.

8. The pallet of claim 7, wherein the first member is disposed substantially perpendicular to the second member.

9. The pallet of claim 7, wherein the second deck subassembly includes a third member attached to the first member, the third member being oriented substantially parallel to the second member, the third member connecting to the first member adjacent a first end of the first member and the second member connecting to the first member adjacent a second end, which is opposite the first end, of the first member.

10. The pallet of claim 7, further comprising a first bumper connected to a first edge of the first deck subassembly.

11. The pallet of claim 10, further comprising a second bumper connected to a second edge of the first deck subassembly, the second edge being oriented approximately normal to the first edge.

12. The pallet of claim 10, wherein the first bumper includes a tab which is welded to a deck board of the first deck assembly.

13. The pallet of claim 7, wherein the first deck subassembly includes a component including a substantially flat load contact area surface and at least one corrugation for strengthening a deck board of the first deck assembly.

14. A metal pallet comprising: a first deck; a second deck spaced from the first deck along a first dimension; a riser connecting the first deck to the second deck to form a polygonal structure; and a bumper system connected to a peripheral edge of the polygonal structure, the bumper system being positioned to allow for entry of forks of an associated fork lift device between the first deck and the second deck on all sides of the polygonal structure and to allow for selective contact of the associated device with the bumper system when the forks of the associated device are disposed between the decks.

15. The pallet of claim 14, wherein the first deck defines a loading surface and the bumper system includes a bumper having a section extending above the loading surface.

16. The pallet of claim 14, wherein the bumper system includes a rigid member attached to the first deck and resilient member attached to the rigid member.

17. The pallet of claim 14, wherein a component of the bumper system is welded to the riser.

18. The pallet of claim 14, wherein a component of the bumper system includes a box-like configuration in a cross section taken normal to a greatest dimension of the component.

19. The pallet of claim 14, wherein the first deck includes a plurality of corrugated members, and a component of the bumper system includes a plurality of tabs, at least some of the tabs being configured to fit between adjacent corrugations.

20. The pallet of claim 14, wherein the bumper system includes a section that protrudes from a periphery of the polygonal structure.

21. The pallet of claim 14, wherein the bumper system includes a metal sheet which is thicker than a thickness of a metal sheet comprising the first deck.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Conventionally, pallets have been made from wood. Wood pallets are heavy and subject to warpage, splintering and splitting. Furthermore, wood pallets are not fireproof. To overcome the disadvantages found in wood pallets, pallets have also been made from plastic. Plastic pallets require a large amount of resin to be made so that they are of sufficient strength to support freight and goods. Furthermore, plastic pallets are also not fireproof.

Metal pallets have been made to overcome the shortcomings of wood and plastic pallets. Known metal pallets are manufactured as welded metal sections, as metal pipe constructions or as deep-drawn components in metal sections. Metal pallets that are manufactured as welded metal sections are often damaged by pallet handling equipment and/or by the movement of freight onto and off of the metal pallet. Typically, known metal pallets that are manufactured as welded metal sections do not absorb the impact energy that can be delivered by pallet handling equipment, such as the forks of a conventional forklift as the equipment contacts the pallet. Additionally, the welded metal sections, upon which the freight that is being transported by the pallet rests, are prone to damage during the loading and unloading of freight onto and off of the metal pallet.

Accordingly, it is desirable to provide a metal pallet that overcomes the disadvantages of both wood and plastic pallets. Furthermore, it is desirable to provide a metal pallet that overcomes the disadvantages of known metal pallets and provides benefits not found in currently available metal pallets.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

According to an embodiment, a metal pallet includes a first deck subassembly, first and second bumpers, and a plurality of risers. The first deck subassembly includes a plurality of deck boards. The first bumper connects to at least one of the deck boards along a first peripheral edge of the first deck subassembly. The second bumper connects to at least one of the deck boards along a second peripheral edge of the first deck subassembly. The first peripheral edge is oriented approximately normal to the second peripheral edge. The plurality of risers connects to the first deck subassembly for spacing the first deck subassembly above an associated surface upon which the pallet rests.

According to another embodiment, a metal pallet includes a first deck subassembly, a second deck subassembly, and a riser connecting the first deck subassembly to the second deck subassembly. The second deck subassembly includes a first member that includes a tongue and a second member which includes a slot that receives the tongue. The first member is disposed at an orientation other than parallel to the second member. The first deck subassembly is spaced from the second deck subassembly a distance sufficient to define an opening which allows forks of an associated conventional forklift to fit between the first deck subassembly and the second deck subassembly.

According to another embodiment, a metal pallet includes a first deck, a second deck spaced from the first deck along a first dimension, a riser connecting the first deck to the second deck to form a polygonal structure, and a bumper system connected to a peripheral edge of the polygonal structure. The bumper system is positioned to allow for entry of forks of an associated forklift device between the first deck and the second deck on all sides of the polygonal structure and to allow for selective contact of the associated device with the bumper system when the forks of the associated device are disposed between the decks.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is top perspective view of a metal pallet according to one embodiment of the disclosure;

FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of an upper deck subassembly of the metal pallet of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an assembled view of the upper deck subassembly of FIG. 2 with bumpers exploded away from the upper deck subassembly;

FIG. 4 is an enlarged side elevational view of a first side of the metal pallet of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is an exploded bottom perspective view of a lowerdeck subassembly of the metal pallet of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is an enlarged side elevational view of a upper deck support board of the lower deck subassembly of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is an enlarged perspective view showing a lower surface, i.e. a surface that typically rests against the ground, of the upper deck support board depicted in FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a lower surface of a width board of the lower deck subassembly depicted in FIG. 5;

FIG. 9 is a greatly enlarged perspective view of a riser for the metal pallet depicted in FIG. 1;

FIG. 10 is an assembled top plan view of the lower deck subassembly depicted in FIG. 5;

FIG. 11 is a side elevation view of an alternative embodiment of a portion of a bumper system of a metal pallet according to the present disclosure;

FIG. 12 is an end view of a bumper attached to a deck board of a metal pallet according to an embodiment of the present disclosure;

FIG. 13 is a further alternative embodiment of a bumper and a deck board for a metal pallet according to the present disclosure; and,

FIG. 14 is an end view of an alternative bumper assembly having a resilient material mounted to the bumper.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

With reference to FIG. 1, an embodiment of a metal pallet 10 includes a first deck subassembly 12 that is connected to a second deck subassembly 14. One manner in which the two subassemblies can be connected will be described in more detail below. For ease of understanding the figures, the first deck subassembly 12 may also be referred to as the upper deck subassembly and the second deck subassembly 14 may be referred to as the lower deck subassembly. These directional terms are used for the convenience of the reader and are not meant to be limiting to the orientation of components with respect to one another. Moreover, throughout the description the orientation of components may be referred to using the term “width” being the shorter of the two rectangular dimensions and the term “length” being the longer of two rectangular dimensions. This should not be taken to mean that “width” parts could not be oriented in the longer rectangular dimension, or that “length” parts could not be oriented in the shorter rectangular dimension, or, for that matter that the pallet cannot be laid out with equal length and width dimensions. In other words, the pallet could be square if desired.

The-metal pallet 10 is designed to be handled by pallet handling equipment, such as a conventional forklift truck or manual or powered floor pallet jacks. In the depicted embodiment, the upper deck subassembly 12 is spaced from the lower deck subassembly 14 to accommodate forks of the conventional pallet handling equipment. In an embodiment that does not include the lower deck subassembly, the upper deck subassembly can be spaced from a support surface, e.g. ground surface, upon which the pallet rests, and be spaced from that surface a distance great enough to allow for the entry of forks. In the depicted embodiment, the pallet 10 has a generally rectangular configuration and could be square. It is designed to allow 4-way access for the pallet handling equipment. It should be recognized, however, that the pallet 10 can take other polygonal configurations, such as hexagonal, etc.

The upper deck subassembly 12 includes a plurality of deck boards, which in the depicted embodiment will be referred to as upper deck support boards that run generally parallel to a greater dimension of the upper deck subassembly and upper deck boards that run generally parallel to a smaller dimension of the upper deck subassembly. In the depicted embodiment, the boards are made from formed metal sheets; however, the boards can be made in other manners and be made from other known materials, such as composites, etc.

With reference to FIG. 2, the upper deck subassembly 12 includes outside upper deck boards 30 that are disposed at opposite ends of upper deck support boards 32. A plurality of inside or intermediate upper deck boards 34 are also attached to the upper deck support boards 32 and are interposed between the outside upper deck boards 30.

The outside upper deck boards 30 each include a box formed outer lateral edge 36 disposed along an outer lateral edge of the first deck subassembly 12. The boxed lateral edge 36 strengthens the outside upper deck board 30 and stiffens the edge of the pallet 10. Each outside upper deck board 30 also includes a corrugation 38 that stiffens and divides the deck board so that it includes first contact surface 42 and a second contact surface 44 disposed on opposite sides of the corrugation 38. While the corrugation 38 is shown as being centrally positioned, it should be appreciated that the corrugation can readily be disposed at other locations on the upper deck board 30. Thus, the first and second contact surfaces can be of different widths. Moreover, while the corrugation is shown in this embodiment as being rectangular, it could take other forms as well. Also more than one corrugation could be provided if desired. The contact surfaces 42 and 44 can reside in the same plane (see FIG. 4). A connection flange 46 extends outwardly from an inner lateral edge of each outside upper deck board 30 opposite the boxed end 36. The connection flange 46 and the lower surface of the corrugation 38 contact the upper deck support boards 32 so that the outside upper deck boards 30 can connect to the upper deck support boards 32 via a resistance weld, or another known manner of connection. The number of welds can vary, depending on application requirements.

Each inside upper deck board 34 includes a corrugation 52 that divides each inside upper deck board into a first contact surface 54 on a first side of the corrugation 52 and a second contact surface 56 on an opposite side of the corrugation. While the corrugation is shown as being centrally located in this embodiment, it does not have to be so positioned. Thus, the first and second contact surfaces can be of different widths. Moreover, the corrugation can take other configurations, for example rounded or curved. The contact surfaces 54 and 56 of the inside upper deck boards 34 reside in the same plane as the contact surfaces 42 and 44 of the outside upper deck boards 30 to define a flat surface upon which freight can be loaded. Each inside upper deck board 34 also includes connection flanges 58 at opposite lateral edges for facilitating attachment of the intermediate width deck boards 34 to the length deck boards 32. With reference again to FIG. 1, in the depicted embodiment, the width boards 30 and 34 are grouped together in pairs such that a space, which can also be referred to as a slot, is disposed between adjacent pairs of width boards. Such a design provides an adequate contact area on the upper deck 12 needed to support multiple smaller items similar to conventional wood pallets that the metal pallet 10 is designed to replace. The slots between adjacent pairs of width boards are small enough so that smaller packages do not fall through the openings in the upper deck assembly. On the other hand, the width board spacing is designed to provide adequate strength and durability to the pallet 10 without utilizing too much material.

In the depicted embodiment, the upper deck upper deck support boards 32 are all in the same configuration. But, different configurations could be used if desired. With continued reference to FIG. 2, each upper deck support board 32 includes first and second lateral boxed ends 64 and a corrugation 66. The corrugation 66 stiffens and divides the upper deck support boards into two contact surfaces 68 and 72, respectively. Even though the corrugation is shown to be centrally located in the upper deck support board, it can be located elsewhere such that the two contact surfaces can be of different widths. The corrugation can take other configurations than that which is shown. In the depicted embodiment, the contact surfaces 68 and 72 of the upper deck support boards 32 reside all in the same plane and this plane is parallel to a plane in which the contact surfaces 42 and 44 of the outside upper deck boards 30 and the contact surfaces 54 and 56 of the inside upper deck boards 34 reside.

In the depicted embodiment, the pallet 10 includes a bumper system around the perimeter of the upper deck assembly 12. The bumper system works in conjunction with risers (which connect the upper deck assembly 12 to the lower deck subassembly 14 and will be described in more detail below) upper deck support boards and outer and inner upper deck boards to improve impact resistance and absorb pallet handling equipment impact energy, by transferring the impact energy to other components in the pallet. The bumper system can also increase resistance to static load deflection, so that the pallet 10 can maintain substantially planar contact surfaces, i.e. loading surfaces, throughout its life and accommodate greater loads safely. With reference to FIG. 3, the bumper system of the depicted embodiment includes two length bumpers 80 that attach to opposite lengthwise sides of the upper deck assembly 12 and two width bumpers 82 that attach to opposite widthwise sides of the upper deck assembly 12. In the depicted embodiment, the length bumpers 80 are disposed perpendicular to the width bumpers 82.

Where the upper deck assembly 12 or the pallet 10 takes an alternative polygonal configuration, the bumpers can take alternative configurations and be disposed at angles other than perpendicular to one another. In the depicted embodiment, once the bumpers 80 and 82 are attached to the upper deck assembly 12, substantially the entire perimeter of the upper deck assembly 12 is surrounded by the bumper system. Such a configuration allows the bumper system to absorb impact energy from a pallet handling device from any side of the pallet 10 and to transfer that energy into other components of the pallet.

In the depicted embodiment, the length bumpers 80 include a plurality of tabs 84 that are configured to be received in the space defined between a lateral edge and the central corrugation 38 or 52 of a respective upper deck width board (either end board 30 or intermediate board 34). As more clearly seen in FIG. 1, the tabs 84 (depicted in phantom) contact a lower surface of a respective width board. The tabs are resistance welded to the bottom faces of the upper deck boards. If desired, attachment can be made in other known manners. Each tab 84 extends generally perpendicular from a vertical leg 86 (as per the orientation in FIG. 3) of the length bumper 80. Accordingly, each tab resides in a plane that is generally parallel to the contact surfaces 42, 44, 54, and 56 and thus the lower surfaces of the respective boards 30 and 34 to which the tabs attach. A lower flange 88 also extends perpendicularly from the vertical leg 86 of the length bumper 80. The lower flange 88 attaches to a lower surface of one of the boxed ends 64 of a respective upper deck support board 32 of the upper deck assembly 12. Openings 90 in the lower flange 88 can receive material deposited from a MIG welding operation, or the like, to attach the lower flange to a lower surface of the boxed end 64.

The attachment of the width bumper 82 will now be described in more detail with reference to FIGS. 3 and 12. The width bumper 82 includes a rectangular channel 92 that is dimensioned to receive the box-shaped end 36 of an outside upper deck board 30 of the upper deck subassembly 12. An integral flange 94 extends outwardly from the portion of the width bumper 82 that defines the channel 92. The flange 94 resides in a plane that is parallel to a lower surface of the outside upper deck board 30 to allow for connection via a resistance weld between the width bumper 82 and the outside upper deck board 30. If desired, the width bumpers 82 can also include a plurality of openings 96 (only visible in FIG. 3). The openings 96 can be provided so that a MIG weld can be used to attach the width bumpers 82 to the upper deck assembly 12 and to the risers (described below). In this embodiment, the width bumper 82 is made of a heavier gauge of metal than is the gauge of metal from which the outside upper deck board 30 is made. As a result, the pallet is stiffened and becomes more resistant to impact by handling equipment.

With reference to FIG. 5, the lower deck subassembly 14 also includes a plurality of deck boards. More particularly, the lower deck subassembly 14 includes lower deck tab boards 110 that connect to lower deck slot boards 112. In the depicted embodiment, the lower tab boards 110 each have the same configuration. With reference to FIG. 6, the lower deck tab boards 110 are symmetrical with respect to two perpendicular axes and include polygonal rolled edges 114 and a corrugation 118. The corrugation 118 stiffens and divides the lower deck support board 110 so as to define contact surfaces 122 and 124 that typically rest on a surface upon which the pallet 10 will rest, for example the floor of a warehouse, the bed of a truck or the contact surface of another pallet disposed beneath the subject pallet. The corrugation 118 is shown as centrally located, but this is not required. The lower contact surfaces 122,124 reside in the same plane. They are also generally parallel to the upper contact surfaces that were described with reference to the upper deck subassembly 12.

The lower deck tab boards 110 of the lower deck subassembly 14 also include a plurality of tongues 126 that extend from widthwise ends of the lower deck tab board to facilitate loose interconnection of the components of the lower deck subassembly 14. In the depicted embodiment, two tongues 126 extend from each end of the lower deck tab board 110, one on each side of the corrugation 118. Each tongue 126 includes a raised lip 128. The raised lip 128 resides in a plane that is generally parallel to the contact surface 122.

With reference to FIG. 5, the lower deck slot boards 112 each have a similar configuration. With reference to FIG. 8, similar to the lower deck tab boards 110, the lower deck slot boards 112 each include polygonal rolled ends 152 and a corrugation 156. The corrugation 156 stiffens and divides the lower deck width board 112 in a manner to provide a first lower contact surface 158 on a first side of the corrugation 156 and a second lower contact surface 162 on an opposite side of the corrugation 156. Again, the corrugation 156 need not be centrally located. The lower contact surfaces 158,162 of the lower deck slot board 112 reside generally in the same plane as the lower contact surfaces 122,124 of the lower deck tab board 110 being separated by only one material thickness. The lower deck slot board 112 also includes a plurality of slots 164 that are configured to receive the tongues 126 of the lower deck tab boards 110. The raised lip 128 extends through the slot 164 in the lower deck slot board. This serves two main purposes. The first is a loose fixturing/indexing of the pieces. The second purpose is to keep the end of the raised lip in place where it cannot be easily snagged on the floor when the pallet is pushed across or slides across a floor without being lifted.

With reference to FIG. 10, the lower deck subassembly 14 can be loosely assembled by inserting the tongues 126 (only lip 128 of tongue being visible in FIG. 10) into the slots 164 so that the lips protrude outwardly from the polygonal rolled end 152 allowing for space for a resistance weld or other means of connection between the lips and the upper surface of the lower deck slot board 112. When assembled, the lower deck slot boards 112 are situated perpendicular to the lower deck tab boards 110 and one slot board is attached at each end of the lower deck tab board.

Use of both slot and tab boards for the lower deck subassembly 14 provides an increase in strength (as compared to having lower deck boards that only run in one direction) and reduced deflection across the width of the pallet during static loading. When stacking loaded pallets 10 on top of each other, the lower deck boards in the depicted embodiment also reduce pressure exerted on the load below by increasing surface contact area. Further, having lower deck boards that attach to one another at right angles increases the stability of the pallet 10 during handling when forks are inserted through a short side and when loaded pallets placed on top of each other are offset from each other.

With reference back to FIG. 1, a plurality of risers is provided to attach the upper deck subassembly 12 to the lower deck subassembly 14. As seen in FIGS. 1 and 4, the risers are appropriately spaced from one another to define fork lift receptacles 170 on all four sides of the pallet 10. In the depicted embodiment, each of the risers is formed from a one-piece stamped piece of metal to allow each riser to be produced in an economical manner. Regarding the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, five different configurations of risers are provided to attach the first deck subassembly 12 to the second deck subassembly 14. First corner risers 172 are disposed on opposite diagonal corners of the pallet 10 and second corner risers 174 (only one visible in FIG. 1) are disposed on the other corners of the pallet 10. In this embodiment, the first corner riser 172 is a mirror image of the second corner riser 174. A third type of riser, which is referred to as a tall side riser 176, is centrally located along the longer lateral edges of the pallet 10.

A second type of side riser, which is referred to as a short side riser 178, is disposed on the widthwise edge of the metal pallet 10. The side risers 176 and 178 are spaced from the respective corner risers 172 and 174 an adequate distance to define forklift receptacles 170. Finally, a fifth type of center riser (not visible) is centrally located in the pallet 10. The center riser attaches to the upper deck support board 32 and to the lower deck support board 110. As seen in FIG. 1, the corner and side risers 172,174, 176, and 178 attach to an outer surface the bumpers 80 and 82. Accordingly, when a pallet handling device contacts, i.e. hits the pallet, energy that is transferred to the bumpers 80 and 82 can be transferred into the risers 172, 174, 176, and 178 which are typically made of a heavier gauge material as compared to the deck boards.

With reference to FIG. 9, the second corner riser 174 will be described in more detail. It should be appreciated that the remaining risers will have similar configurations in that they will include surfaces to allow the riser to connect to and support the respective deck boards and bumpers. The corner risers 174 (and each riser) include openings 182 to facilitate a MIG welding operation between the riser and the component to which it attaches be it one of the bumpers or one of the deck boards of the metal pallet. The risers can also include a plurality of ledges 184 and notches 186 that are appropriately dimensioned to allow the ledge 184 to contact an appropriate surface of a respective deck board so that the riser can be resistance welded to the respective deck board. It should be appreciated that the ledges 184 can also support loads. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 9, the risers can also include rolled edges 188 for added strength and to provide a smooth rounded edge.

The bumper system can take alternative configurations from those that are shown in FIG. 1. For example, with reference to FIG. 11, an alternative embodiment of a length bumper will be described where like numerals having a primed (′) suffix will correspond to components or portions thereof that are the same or similar to the embodiment depicted in FIG. 3. In FIG. 11, the bumper 280 includes a plurality of tabs 284 (only one shown) that are received underneath a respective upper deck board 30′ (additional deck boards, such as boards 34 shown in FIG. 2 are not visible in FIG. 11). The length bumper 280 depicted in FIG. 11 also includes a section or portion 298 that extends from a peripheral edge of the upper deck assembly 12. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 11, the section 298 extends in a direction above and generally normal to a contact surface 42′ (this can be similar to contact surfaces 42, 44, 54 and 56 depicted in FIG. 2). The section 298, which can be a rolled section at the top of the profile of the bumper 280, covers the outside edges of the deck boards 30′. The rolled section 298 can cover and or protect the exposed edges of the pallet 10′ to lessen the likelihood of packages and other items catching the exposed edges and perhaps ripping one of the width boards 30′ off of the upper deck support boards 32′. Such occurrences can happen during the loading and unloading of packages from the pallet 10′. The length bumper is made of a heavier gauge of metal than the metal of the deck boards 30′ and upper deck support boards 32′. This heavier gauge material, combined with the section 298, serve to strengthen the bumper 280.

An alternative configuration for a width bumper will be described in more detail with reference to FIG. 13. Many of the components are very similar to components described with reference to FIGS. 1, 2 and 12. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 13, a width bumper 382 attaches to an outside upper deck board 330 that, instead of including a boxed end (as shown in FIG. 3), includes a downwardly extending flange 340. The width bumper 382 includes a connection flange 404 that attaches to an undersurface of the deck board 330 in a similar manner as the width bumper 82 disclosed in FIG. 3. The width bumper 382, however, does not receive a boxed end section. Instead, the width bumper includes a boxed end section 400. The additional bends in the bumper profile of the width bumper 382 can increase the strength of the width bumper as compared to the width bumper 82 (FIG. 3) not having as many bends. The box-end section 400 includes an upper ledge 402 that resides in a plane that is generally coplanar to a pair of contact surfaces 342 and 344 of the upper deck boards. The upper ledge 402 terminates at a flange 406 so that a space is provided between the vertical flange 340 and the bumper flange 406. Accordingly, the bumper 382 can accommodate some lateral deformation before contacting the upper deck board 330.

With respect to FIG. 14, another embodiment of the disclosure is there illustrated. The embodiment is quite similar to the embodiment of FIG. 13. Thus like components are identified by like numerals with a primed (′) suffix, and new components are identified by new numerals. In this embodiment, a resilient member 420, for example a rubber cushion or similar resilient component, can attach to the width bumper 382′. The resilient member 420 includes an outer portion 424, a top portion 426 and an inner portion 428. The inner portion 428 of the resilient, or elastic, member 420 can be sandwiched between the flange 406′ of the upper ledge 402′ and the vertical leg 340′ of the end deck board 330′. This holds the resilient member in place. The resilient member 420 can help dissipate energy from contact with the forks of the handling equipment. An upper surface 430 of the resilient member 420 can reside in the same plane as contact surfaces 342′ and 344′ of the width boards 330′.

To accomplish this, the upper ledge 402′ resides in a plane that is vertically beneath and generally parallel to a pair of contact surfaces 342′ and 344′ of the outside upper deck board 330′. This allows a space for a top surface of the top portion 426 of the resilient member 420 to reside in generally the same plane as contact surfaces 342′ and 344′ of the outside upper deck board 330′. Different bumper configurations using different profiles and/or thicknesses of material can be substituted without changing the deck board profile. It is apparent in FIG. 14, the gauge of material from which the bumpers (for example bumper 382′) are made can be thicker than the gauge of material used for the deck boards.

It is often desirable to wirelessly identify, track and/or provide information about the location of pallets or the products held on them. One method of tracking-and providing information about items is to attach a wireless communication device such as a radio frequency identification (RFID) transponder or other identification device to the item. Multiple RFID devices, one attached to each of the items on a pallet, would then be located on a single pallet. However, communication collisions may occur if a pallet contains more than one item with an RFID tag and the communication devices communicate at the same frequency. Therefore, a better alternative is to provide a single RFID tag for the pallet itself. While pallets often include more than one item, the items may be a plurality of the same type of item having the same information characteristics, such as date of manufacture, lot number or other information that may be communicated via a single RFID.

Therefore, an RFID tag provided on the pallet may be adequate to communicate information about all the items held on the pallet. Alternatively, the RFID can communicate information about the pallet itself. As is well known, such RFID devices require the use of an antenna. In one embodiment of the present invention, either the entire metal pallet disclosed herein or some portion thereof, such as one of the boards, can be used as the antenna of an RFID device (not shown). This is advantageous in order to eliminate the need for employing a separate pole antenna or slot antenna with the RFID tag. The RFID can be placed in a suitable desired location on the pallet to prevent damage thereto. The RFID tag can be secured to the pallet by suitable known means, such as a clip or adhesive. Moreover, the RFID tag can be grounded to a ground plane on the pallet.

Several embodiments of a metal pallet have been described herein. Modifications and alterations will occur to those of average skill in the art upon reading and understanding of the foregoing detailed description. However, the invention is not limited to only the embodiments described above. Instead, the invention is defined by the appended claims and the equivalents thereof.