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Members of Western Pallet Association Hold Annual Meeting
Western Pallet Assn. Meets: Western Pallet Association enjoys stable growth as members meet in California for annual business session, program and leisure activities.

By Mary and Sandy Campbell
Date Posted: 4/1/2006

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – The Western Pallet Association enjoyed stable growth in 2005. The association added 11 new members for its recent annual meeting. With six members who did not renew, the organization experienced a net growth of five new members.

The association elected Kelly Bennion of Challenger Pallet & Supply in Idaho as its president for 2006 when members gathered for the annual meeting in February. A total of 68 people were in attendance.

The market outlook for industrial lumber supply is favorable, according to Don Haid, an economist for Weyerhaeuser, one of several speakers at this year’s meeting. Several factors are impacting lumber supply issues, he noted. Even though there are fewer sawmills, more lumber is being produced from the same log because of advances in sawmill technology. Also, demand for paper products is increasing but not as strongly as it has in the past; the weaker growth is attributed in part to increasing use of electronics and digital technology for producing documents, such as e-mail. In addition, demand for new housing appears to be peaking, which will improve availability of industrial lumber.

Elton Potts, senior vice president for asset management for CHEP, said the global pallet rental company is launching a pallet testing program. CHEP will make pallet testing services available to pallet suppliers, he indicated.

Composite material used for blocks in block pallets is more effective than wood, Elton said, because the composite material gets harder over time, even if it gets wet. The increased hardness is due to the binding agent used in manufacturing the composite material, he said.

Elton also discussed the use of radiata pine imported from Chile, pallet theft, and heat-treating.

Bruce Scholnick, president of the National Wood Pallet and Container Association (NWPCA), discussed pallet sizes around the world and the feasibility of global pallet standards.

The NWPCA now has two registered lobbyists to represent its members, Bruce noted. As an example of its lobbying efforts, he said that the federal government at one point used prison inmates to manufacture pallets for the Department of Defense. The NWPCA’s representatives took the issue up with federal officials, who agreed only to use inmate labor to build pallets for internal use, he indicated.

The NWPCA is working cooperatively with OSHA for safety in the workplace, Bruce noted. He also discussed issues related to the global phytosanitary requirements for pallets used in export. A new requirement by the European Union to prohibit pallets made of any lumber containing bark was scheduled to take effect in March, but the new rule was deferred to the end of 2008.

Gordon Hughes, executive director of the Canadian Wooden Pallet and Container Association, talked at length about international issues, including a report on last year’s Interpal VI-World Pallet Congress.

Gordon discussed the phytosanitary rules for export pallets, including heat-treatment and fumigation methods to prevent pallets from carrying wood-eating insects, and stamping and marking of approved lumber and pallets. European Union (EU) countries have a strong preference for pallet components that are free of bark and knots, he noted; if EU countries require pallets originating from North America to be free of bark and knots, pallet suppliers in the U.S. and Canada would have to user higher – and more costly — grades of lumber, Gordon observed.

When pallets are inspected at a port of entry, if they are found to contain insects, the unit load will be fumigated and returned to the shipper at the shipper’s expense, he noted. France and Germany appear to be the only countries currently penalizing shippers for now.

Gordon also discussed the phytosanitary rules as they pertain to recycled pallets and containers.

Charles Fox, president of the Timber Products Manufacturers Association, talked about ways to control group health insurance costs. Pallet companies should ask insurance providers about their loss ratios, he suggested, although insurance carriers are not required to disclose them. A carrier’s loss ratio is the amount it paid out for claims compared to the premiums it collected. Insurance companies that collect substantial premiums but pay only a small amount in claims have less justification for increasing premium rates, he suggested.

Other speakers at the WPA annual meeting included Mike Sorenson of IBM Global Services, who discussed radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, and John McLeod of Virginia Tech, who talked about the latest upgrades to the Pallet Design System computer program.

Members also enjoyed a number of social events, including golf, the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, and group dinners.

This year’s outgoing president was Pat Sherry of NEPA Pallet.

Attendees of the WPA 2006 annual meeting agreed that this year’s program was particularly strong.

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