What Is Dunnage? Definition, Uses, and Types

We explore the definition, diverse types, and the undeniable importance of dunnage in the world of shipping and logistics.

What Is Dunnage? Definition, Uses, and Types


Dunnage, an essential term in the trucking and shipping industry, represents the various packing materials used to ensure the safe transportation of goods. This protective buffering, whether utilized in a cargo ship, truck, or any other vehicle, plays a pivotal role in guaranteeing that items reach their destination without damage. As we navigate through this guide, we'll comprehensively explore the definition, diverse types, and the undeniable importance of dunnage in the intricate world of shipping and logistics.

What Is Dunnage? Definition, Uses, and Types

In the trucking realm, dunnage is the cushion or barrier used to prevent cargo slides, protect goods, and ensure that items are securely stowed. It serves as a shock absorber, safeguarding delicate items like electronic gadgets or medical equipment. Moreover, dunnage prevents loose items from shifting, which can cause damage or jeopardize the stability of the entire shipment. Proper dunnage and its stability is vital for the safety of the cargo, the integrity of the shipping products, and the well-being of individuals involved in the transportation process. With the right dunnage, goods are not only protected from external shocks but also from moisture, dust, and other environmental factors.

Different Types of Dunnage

Within the logistics and shipping realm, the term "dunnage" encompasses a vast array of materials, each tailored to specific cargo items, shipping conditions, and modes of transport. Understanding the unique characteristics and advantages of each dunnage type is essential for anyone involved in the packaging or transportation of goods. Let's dive deeper into the multifaceted world of dunnage and explore the most frequently used materials in the shipping industry:

A diligent worker meticulously wrapping boxes for shipment using protective packing material, ensuring items arrive safely.

Bubble Wrap and Air Pillows:

In the diverse arena of dunnage options, bubble wrap and air pillows stand out prominently. These packing materials are designed specifically for shock absorption. Particularly useful for fragile cargo items that need to be shielded from the rigors of transport, they act as a protective cushion. When shipping products that are delicate or valuable, these materials are often the first choice. Their lightweight nature ensures that, even when used liberally, shipping costs remain manageable.

Paper-Based Dunnage Materials:

Paper-based dunnage materials, including the likes of crinkle paper, serve as a versatile choice. Ideal for filling voids and acting as a buffer, these materials are commonly used in cardboard boxes. They also play a role in damage protection dunnage, ensuring items stay stationary and safe during their journey.

Solid Plastic and Plastic Dunnage:

Plastic dunnage, particularly solid plastic variants, are becoming increasingly popular in cargo ships and other vehicles. Recognized for their robust nature, they provide unparalleled protection for high-value shipping items. These plastics can be molded or shaped into specific dunnage material that fits the exact dimensions of the product, ensuring a snug fit.

Kraft Paper:

Among the more traditional dunnage options, kraft paper remains a staple. Its versatility means it can be crumpled to fill spaces, wrapped around items, or layered for extra padding. Given its affordability, it's often the go-to for many businesses.

Shredded Cardboard:

Serving as an alternative to packing peanuts, shredded cardboard is both eco-friendly and effective. Its firm structure offers a level of protection superior to many other loose materials. It's particularly adept at filling empty spaces, ensuring cargo items are secure.

Molded Infill and Foam Dunnage:

Molded infill, often made of foam dunnage, is crafted with very specific dimensions in mind. Ideal for electronics, medical equipment, or other sensitive items, these materials absorb shock and prevent damage during transport.

Corrugated Paper:

Corrugated paper, often crisscrossed for added strength, provides exceptional shock absorption. It's a common dunnage material for those seeking to protect their cargo from potential moisture damage or condensation, especially on cargo ships.

Close-up of white packing peanuts, a common dunnage material, used for shock absorption and protection of fragile items during transit.

Wood and Floor Dunnage:

Wood dunnage, especially floor dunnage, is used to stack pallets and create barriers between different products. This type of dunnage ensures that heavy items don't shift during transport, safeguarding against potential damage.

Dunnage Bags and Packing Peanuts:

Dunnage bags, filled with air or other materials, and packing peanuts, often made of foam or starch, fill voids and absorb shock. They are essential for ensuring that items arrive safely, especially during long journeys or rough transport conditions.

Expensive Dunnage Materials:

There are certain cargo items that demand the very best protection. For these shipments, the most expensive dunnage materials are employed. These could range from specific high-tech molded infills to advanced plastic dunnages that are tailor-made for the job.

Benefits and Uses of Dunnage

Damage Protection:

Central to the concept of dunnage is its unparalleled capability for damage protection. In the ever-evolving landscape of shipping, where fragile items are frequently transported across vast distances, the protection afforded by dunnage becomes paramount. These protective measures shield goods from the adverse effects of shocks, jolts, vibrations, and even environmental factors. With the right dunnage in place, products, whether they are delicate electronics or ornate glassware, can weather the rigors of transport and emerge unscathed.

Efficiency in the Shipping Process

Beyond mere protection, dunnage plays an instrumental role in streamlining the shipping process. Employing the appropriate packing material, such as recycled paper or industrial solid plastics, can drastically optimize space within a shipping container. This spatial efficiency not only ensures items are snugly packed, minimizing the risk of in-transit movement, but it also translates to cost savings. When every inch of a shipping container is effectively utilized, shippers can reap the benefits of reduced shipping costs. Furthermore, by using materials like kraft paper, which is incredibly cheap, or air pillows that provide air circulation, shippers ensure that items not only arrive safely but also in the condition they were sent.

Steel beams neatly stacked at a cargo yard, securely placed on wood dunnage to prevent damage and ensure efficient shipping.


In today's diverse shipping industry, one size doesn't fit all. This is where the flexibility of dunnage shines. With a vast array of options at their disposal, shippers can customize their packaging solutions to fit the unique requirements of their cargo. Custom dunnage, for instance, can be tailored to fit the exact dimensions of an item, ensuring it's housed in an appropriate box or within specialized component packs. For items that are extremely valuable, industrial solid plastics or other multi-material varieties offer an added layer of security. On the other hand, for lighter or bulkier items, common dunnage materials like crisscrossed dunnage or kit packs might be more apt. This adaptability ensures that whether you need to ship products that are bulky, delicate, or anywhere in between, there's a dunnage solution perfectly suited for the task.

In essence, the importance of dunnage in the shipping realm cannot be overstated. It's not just about protection; it's about ensuring efficiency, flexibility, and ultimately, customer satisfaction. As shipping continues to evolve, the role of dunnage as a guardian of goods, ensuring every shipment arrives safely and in impeccable condition, remains ever crucial.

Why Shippers Use Dunnage

Shippers, irrespective of their scale and scope, are all too familiar with the challenges of transportation. Ensuring that goods reach their destination in pristine condition is paramount, and this is where the role of dunnage becomes indispensable. Let's explore some of the reasons shippers hold dunnage in high regard:


At the very core, the primary role of dunnage, in all its dunnage types, is to act as a safeguard. Serving as a protective buffer, dunnage ensures that products, irrespective of their fragility or value, remain untouched and unscathed during the entirety of their transportation journey. But beyond mere physical protection, there's also the element of moisture protection. Certain dunnage materials, such as those infused with moisture-wicking properties, guarantee that goods remain free from potential water damage or dampness, which is especially important for sensitive products.


In an industry where every penny counts, the cost-effectiveness of dunnage materials stands out. While there are various materials available, many popular options like kraft paper or corrugated paper come without a hefty price tag. These affordable choices provide robust protection, ensuring products remain intact without significantly inflating shipping costs. It's a delicate balance between quality and cost, and part of what makes dunnage important.

Custom dunnage: a robust wooden structure specially designed to securely hold a round piece of steel freight, showcasing the importance of specific dunnage material for unique cargo items.


The world of shipping is vast and varied. From delicate porcelain to robust machinery, the range of items that need transporting is immense. This is where the customizability of dunnage shines. With an array of materials at their disposal, shippers have the flexibility to select the most appropriate dunnage based on the specific nature and requirements of their cargo. Whether it's foam for shock absorption, wood dunnage for heavier items, or materials that offer moisture protection, there's a tailor-made solution for every shipping need.

The Importance of Dunnage in Modern Shipping

Dunnage, in its myriad forms and functionalities, stands as an indispensable pillar in the shipping and logistics arena. Whether you're a boutique store dispatching artisanal crafts or an industry titan like Revolution Trucking orchestrating vast, global shipments, the importance of choosing the right dunnage material remains paramount. It's not just about the physical safety of products; it's about the brand's reputation, customer trust, and overall satisfaction.

Choosing the appropriate type of dunnage goes beyond just safety; it's about building trust. A customer receiving a product in pristine condition, shielded by thoughtfully selected dunnage, is a testament to a shipper's dedication to quality and service. In an industry where precision, efficiency, and reliability are non-negotiable, dunnage stands as a silent yet potent ally, ensuring products reach their destinations in impeccable condition every single time.

At Revolution Trucking, we prioritize the safety and integrity of every shipment. Rely on our expertise and insights on dunnage to optimize your shipping processes. Reach out to us today for a consultation and elevate your logistics game!

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