Dunnage Air Bags: The Basics

No matter how you ship your goods, you've almost definitely dealt with product damage – broken goods, destroyed pallets, or worse. This is an expensive problem that will eventually happen to everyone, whether you ship full truckloads or utilize a shipping service to send out just one box at a time. Thankfully, there are a number of effective packaging solutions that can help you minimize product damage while in transit. One option that works wonders for full or LTL truckloads is dunnage air bags.  

What is a Dunnage Air Bag? 

Dunnage air bags are bags made from kraft paper, vinyl, or polywoven material. They can include anywhere from two to eight layers of material and feature an inflatable polyethylene bladder inside. 

How are Dunnage Air Bags Used? 

When inflated, dunnage air bags are placed between pallets or loads on trucks, railcars, or overseas shipping containers. This allows them to fill the void between pallets while blocking and bracing each load, which stabilizes the products and helps minimize any falls or shifts. Additionally, the air bags absorb vibration and will protect your cargo better than any other type of bracing.  

What are the Other Cargo Bracing Methods? 

Should you decide not to use dunnage air bags, you may find yourself needing to place empty corrugated boxes, 2’ x 4’s, or pallets in between your loads. These might work in a pinch, but aren’t safe or effective long-term plans.  

Why Should I Use Dunnage Air Bags? 

Not only will dunnage air bags provide outstanding stability to your load, but they are also much more cost-effective than bracing methods that involve lumber or nails (such as pallets or 2’ x4’s).  

Why Should a Shipping Company Invest in Dunnage Air Bags? 

To put it simply, expenses are constantly on the rise. Whether it’s insurance premiums, fuel costs, taxes, wage increases, or something else, there will almost always be something chipping away at your bottom line. At the same time, asking your customers to absorb the cost can be dangerous territory that drives business away. This means you must invest in keeping products safe in order to minimize damage and the expenses that come with it. Dunnage air bags have the biggest impact on load factor, which is a carrier’s single largest expense. These air bags will save time at the end point by removing the need for restacking, re-wrapping, or re-banding your loads. They also help you utilize container space more efficiently, giving you the ability to put more products inside. 

How Do Dunnage Air Bags Allow You to Use Space More Effectively? 

With dunnage air bags, you can load fragile products anywhere in the trailer. You don’t have to worry about keeping them away from heavier loads that may damage delicate items during shifts. To maximize your cube utilization, double- or triple-deck skids with dunnage bags in front and/or behind the fragile loads. This means you no longer need to stair-step your trailers and that you can improve your load factor. 

What are the Most Frequent Causes of Freight Damage? 

Most often, freight damage occurs when double or triple decked skids bounce against one another or shift during transit.  

Is It Possible to Damage a Dunnage Air Bag? 

This is a possible scenario. Dunnage air bags can be overfilled, which results in bursting. Each bag includes a label near the filling valve that shows you the correct air pressure. 

Will I Need to Protect My Dunnage Air Bags? 

For maximum integrity, we recommend placing corrugated material or another smooth surface on either side of the bag to prevent punctures from sharp products or pallet corners. 

Are Dunnage Air Bags Reusable?  

Yes. Many dunnage air bags can be reused, though not indefinitely. If you plan to reuse your bags, keep in mind that there’s no guarantee of how many times it can be utilized and that it’s not always possible to retrieve it from the end user once your load is delivered. Should this be the case, you may want to consider less expensive, non-reusable options. 

What are Dunnage Air Bag Levels? 

Levels are a measurement that indicate the performance capability of a given air bag. There are five different performance levels.  

What Level Should I Buy? 

  • Level 0 or Level 1: Use these to fill lateral voids in intermodal loads (trailers, sea containers, and boxcars).  
  • Level 2: Used to fill lengthwise voids for loads up to 75,000 lbs. 
  • Level 3: Used to fill lengthwise voids for loads up to 160,000 lbs. 
  • Level 4: Used to fill lengthwise voids for loads up to 216,000 lbs., as well as for horizontal applications in approved roll paper loading methods weighing up to 190,000 lbs. 
  • Level 5: Used to fill lengthwise voids for loads up to 216,000 lbs., as well as for horizontal applications in approved roll paper loading methods. 

*Level 2-5 requirements fulfill all Level 1 requirements. 

How Do I Know Which Dimensions I Need? 

To determine the best size dunnage air bag for your application, measure the length of your pallets, the distance from the trailer floor to the top of your load, and the amount of space between each palletized load. This may help as well: 

  • 8-inch void – 24-inch wide air bag recommended  
  • 10-inch void – 30-inch wide air bag recommended  
  • 12-inch void – 36-inch wide air bag recommended  
  • 15-inch void – 48-inch wide air bag recommended  
  • 20-inch void – 60-inch wide air bag recommended 

What Tools Do I Need to Inflate a Dunnage Air Bag? 

To inflate dunnage bags, you’ll need an inflator tool with an air gauge, as well as compressed air. We carry a variety of options to help you get what you need. 

Why Should I Buy Dunnage Air Bags? 

Dunnage air bags are a useful, versatile, and cost-effective tool that are easy to inflate and install. They decrease incidents of product and cargo damage, while reducing labor costs at the same time. Use dunnage air bags to improve your load factor, minimize transportation expenses, increase your company’s overall quality, and protect your bottom line. 

Want More Info? 

When it comes to packaging supplies, there’s always more to learn. If you’d like more info about Dunnage air bags, we’d love to send you information about what kind of bag you need depending on the type of transportation you use. Just fill out this form and we’ll send it your way!