Two common ASTM Package Testing specifications are:

  • ASTM D4169, Standard Practice for Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems
  • ASTM D7386, Standard Practice for Performance Testing of Packages for Single Parcel Delivery Systems

ASTM D4169

ASTM D4169 is a laboratory package test procedure used to evaluate the ability of packages and shipping units to withstand the rigors of the distribution environment.  ASTM D4169 contains multiple distribution cycles that simulate various shipping environments such as motor freight, rail, air etc.  Each distribution cycle contains a sequential listing of hazard elements that simulate a specific shipping route from production to consumption.  Choosing which distribution cycle is appropriate depends on the intended shipping environment of your package.   The 18 distribution cycles in ASTM D4169 are:

  1. General cycle - undefined distribution system
  2. Specially defined distribution system, user specified
  3. Single package without pallet or skid, LTL motor freight
  4. Single package with pallet or skid, LTL motor freight
  5. Motor freight, TL, not unitized
  6. Motor freight, TL, or LTL-unitized
  7. Rail only, bulk loaded
  8. Rail only, unitized
  9. Rail and motor freight, not unitized
  10. Rail and motor freight, unitized
  11. Rail, trailer on flatcar or container on flatcar
  12. Air (intercity) and motor freight (local), over 150 lb, or unitized
  13. Air (intercity) and motor freight (local), single package up to 150 lb
  14. Warehousing
  15. Export/import shipment for intermodal container or roll on/roll off trailer
  16. Export/import shipment for palletized cargo ship
  17. Export/import shipment for break bulk cargo ship
  18. Non-commercial government shipments per MIL-STD-2073

The hazard elements are specific events that occur within a distribution cycle that may cause a risk to a shipping container.  The hazard elements in ASTM D4169 are characterized as follows:

  • Handling, manual and mechanical – drop, impact and stability tests
  • Warehouse stacking – compression tests
  • Vehicle stacking – compression tests
  • Stacked vibration – vibration under top loading
  • Vehicle vibration
  • Loose load vibration
  • Rail switching – longitudinal shock
  • Environmental hazard - moisture, temperature shock, and water spray
  • Low-pressure – High altitude
  • Concentrated impacts

Most testing in ASTM D4169 is performed at standard atmospheric conditions, but in some cases special climatic conditions may be required. 

ASTM D7386

ASTM D7386 is a laboratory test procedure used to evaluate packages weighing up to 150 pounds for single parcel delivery systems.  A single parcel delivery system is a carrier such as FEDEX or UPS that transports packages through ground and/or transport systems.  ASTM D7386 uses a sequence of hazard events that simulate the intended distribution cycle. 

The hazard elements in ASTM D7386 are characterized as follows:

  • Handling— Drop testing
  • Vibration and Vibration under load
  • Bridged impact
  • Hazard impact
  • High altitude
  • Concentrated impacts
  • Tip-over impacts
  • Rotational edge drops

 The procedures in ASTM D4169 and ASTM D7386 are similar:

  1. Characterize the shipping container in terms of size, weight and construction.
  2. Establish assurance level which is a level of intensity of the hazards
  3. Determine the acceptance criteria. The acceptance criteria can be the following:
  • Criterion 1—Product is damage-free
  • Criterion 2—Package is intact
  • Criterion 3—Both criteria 1 and 2
  1. Select an appropriate Distribution Cycle (This applies to ASTM D4169)
  2. Write a test plan
  3. Select samples for test
  4. Condition samples in accordance with ASTM D4332
  5. Perform tests
  6. Evaluate results to determine if the container has met the acceptance criteria
  7. Write a test report that includes the results of each step of the test

If you have any questions about ASTM D4169 or ASTM D7386, please contact us.