ISTA (International Safe Transit Association) is an organization whose main goal is to design protocols for the simulation of supply chains. ISTA tests are the most widely used in the sector, since they cover many aspects of transport simulation. This is the reason why most companies apply these standards when testing the performance of their packages. Among the different types of tests provided by this organization, ISTA 3A is the most widely used when it comes to testing individual lightweight packages (under 70 kg).

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What is ISTA 3A and what does it consist of?

The ISTA 3A procedure has been created to offer a
standard set of tests to evaluate the individual performance of a package when shipped via parcel services or post mail. This procedure involves a general simulation of the real hazards that arise during freight transportation for these types of packages.

The procedures included as part of the ISTA 3A standard have been designed to simulate the handling of packages in both land and air services, dividing them into 4 categories:

  • Standard packages.
  • Small packages.
  • Flat packages.
  • Elongated packages.

ISTA 3A encompasses three different types of procedures:

  • Overview: provides an overview of all the requirements that are necessary before performing a test.
    • Identify the sides, edges and corners of the product as per the instructions of this procedure.
    • Know the weight in kilograms for the metric system and in pounds (lb) for Imperial units of measurement. Additionally, know the length, width and height in millimeters (mm) or meters (m) for the metric system, and in inches (in) or feet (measurements) for British units of measurement.
    • The packaged product needs to be preconditioned in a laboratory at room temperature and moisture for 12 hours prior to the test.
  • Testing: provides the steps to follow to perform the laboratory test depending on whether the package meets the characteristics of a standard, flat, small or elongated package.
  • Reporting: this step indicates what information will have to be recorded in order to submit a test report to ISTA. If the package has successfully passed the test, it will obtain the ISTA Transit Tested Certification Mark. When a transport company adds the ISTA 3A certified label to a package bearing the manufacturer’s license number, it is showing its client that it has complied with the requirements of ISTA before the shipment.

The procedures included as part of the ISTA 3A standard have been designed to simulate the handling of packages in both land and air services

 Products that can be tested on packaging ista 3a


Which products can be tested by the ISTA 3A standard?

ISTA 3A is a general simulation test for packages weighing a maximum of 150 lb (70 kg) and shipped via a parcel delivery service. As already said, this test is adequate for four different types of packages which are normally shipped as individual packages by land or air:

  • Small packages: packages with a volume that is smaller than 13,000 cm³ (800 in), with a length equal to, or less than, 350 mm (14 in) and a weight equal to, or less than, 4.5 kg (10 lb).
  • Flat packages: packages with a size equal to, or less than, 200 mm (8 in). The next longest size is at least four times larger than the shorter size, with a volume that is equal to, or greater than, 13,000 cm³.
  • Elongated packages: packages with a size that is equal to, or greater than, 900 mm (36 in). The other package sizes are 20% (or less) of the longest size each. It is worth mentioning that if the product is both flat and elongated, the package needs to be categorized as elongated.
  • Standard packages: any package that does not fall into the small, flat or elongated categories. They are, for example, plastics, wood or cylindrical containers.

“ISTA 3A is a general simulation test for packages weighting a maximum of 150 lb (70 kg) and shipped via a parcel delivery service

What types of tests are involved in the ISTA 3A test and which companies should perform it?

The ISTA 3A test was created in the year 2008 with the purpose of guaranteeing the safe transportation of individual packages weighing less than 70 kg (150 lb) sent to the end consumer via a parcel delivery system. Therefore, this protocol should be complied with by all companies that send their products via parcel services.

The ISTA 3A protocol is composed of different types of tests depending on the type of package (standard, small, flat or elongated) and its features. The tests that ISTA 3A encompasses are as follows:

In addition to these, ISTA 3A also includes an optional test that is combined with a random vibration at low pressure (high simulated altitude).

Ista 3a standard, elongated & flat packaged-product test

Ista 3a small packaged product test


Machines required to comply with the ISTA 3A standard

At Safe Load Testing Technologies we have three machines that can be used to perform the ISTA 3A tests:

  • Drop tester: simulates drops and rotational impacts that affect packages and products during shipping and handling.
  • Vertical vibration system: performs the vertical vibrations caused by several means of handling and transportation (such as the road, train, air or sea).
  • Vertical vibration + pitch & roll system: simulates vertical vibrations and pitch & roll motions caused by various means of handling and transportation.

If you need more information about the ISTA 3A tests and the machinery required to perform these tests, get in touch with us and we will provide information on the subject.

You can also download our free ebook and learn How to calculate the ROI of investing in your own testing machines.