Some of the main hazards faced by goods when being transported are the vibrations resulting from the route and the means of transportation itself, whether when transported by road, sea or air.

Being aware of the detrimental effects of vibrations on the products being transported, there are many international organizations such as ISTA and ASTM that have developed vibration testing standards that define how to optimize packages with the purpose of guaranteeing the protection of their contents within a global distribution environment.

This way, companies can simulate the damages caused by vibrations during the design of the package thanks to transport simulation machines, and create an optimized packaging that protects the load against this threat.

Among the most common procedures that include vibration testing standards we can find ISTA 1A, B, C, D, E, G, H; 2A, B, C; 3A, B, E, F, H; 4 Series; 6-FEDEX, 6- SAMSCLUB; 6-AMAZON.COM, as well as the EN 15552:2009 standard and the ASTM D4169-16 standard.

Throughout this article we will discuss some of these protocols, their benefits and the machinery that is required to perform these tests.

Do you want to know what are the most important vibration parameters to keep in mind during transportation? Don’t miss our post!


ISTA testing protocols that include vibration testing

ISTA is the leading association in the industry of testing protocols and design standards that define the requirements that packages must meet to guarantee the protection of their contents during the ever-changing risks of the global distribution environment. ISTA is composed of an alliance of freight companies, providers, testing laboratories and educational & research institutions focused on developing packages that are designed for endurance, sustainability and success.

ISTA is composed of 7 series that outline the testing procedures, as well as the test blocks that must be performed. Among these tests, we can find vibration testing standards.

>ISTA 1 Series: non-simulation integrity performance tests

This is the most basic performance testing category aimed at challenging the strength and robustness of the product and package system. This series is not designed to simulate environmental incidents, but is useful as a set of detection tests, especially when used as a constant point of reference in time.

This series includes the ISTA 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E and 1 H testing procedures, categorized based on the type of load to be tested and its weight.

  • ISTA 1A: Packages up to 150 lb (68 kg)
  • ISTA 1B: Packages over 150 lb (68 kg).
  • ISTA 1C: Extended testing for individual packaged-products weighing up to 150 lb (68 kg).
  • ISTA 1D: Extended testing for individual packaged-products weighing over 150 lb (68 kg).
  • ISTA 1E: Unitized loads.
  • ISTA 1G: Packages up to 150 lb (68 kg) (random vibration).
  • ISTA 1H: Packages over 150 lb (68 kg) (random vibration).

The testing protocols included in series 1 have been designed to provide a standard set of tests that can be used to verify the individual performance of packages and loads when facing certain transportation hazards.

The tests required by ISTA 1 series procedures include:

  • Vibration test using the 1-inch fixed displacement method, peak-to-peak, at a predetermined frequency for the ISTA 1A and 1B procedures.
  • The 1C, 1D and 1E procedures require a vibration test using two alternative methods: fixed linear vertical displacement or random vibration.
  • Instead, for procedures 1G and 1H, the testing sequence requires a random vibration test.

>ISTA 2 Series: partial simulation performance tests

The ISTA 2 Series tests are a combination of the basic testing components of the ISTA 1 Series (non-simulation integrity performance tests) and advanced testing components of the ISTA 3 Series (general simulation performance tests).

The 2 Series testing protocols defy the ability of the package and the product to withstand transportation hazards, but they only simulate some of the real-life transportation hazards and don’t necessarily comply with the transport company’s packaging regulation.

This series is composed of three testing procedures:

  • The 2A testing procedure covers the testing of individually-packaged weighing 150 lb (68 kg) or less when ready to ship.
  • The 2B testing procedure covers the testing of individually-packaged weighing over 150 lb (68 kg) when ready to ship.
  • The 2C testing procedure covers the testing of individually-packaged furniture (boxed products) for shipping.

The 2A, 2B and 2C testing procedures are partial simulation tests for individually-packaged products, and therefore:

  • They can be used to evaluate the performance of a packaged product.
  • They can be used to compare the relative performance of package and product design alternatives.
  • They must be applied when evaluating packaged products for international distribution.
  • The package and the product are considered as a unit, not as separate entities.
  • Certain transportation conditions, such as humidity or unusual handling, might not be covered.

What are the vibration testing standards required by the ISTA 2 series?

Among the tests required in the aforementioned procedures we can find the following vibration testing standards:

For the 2A and 2B procedures, the testing sequence outlines two testing procedures: the fixed-displacement vibration test and the random vibration test. However, the ISTA 2C procedures require a random vibration test under dynamic load.

>ISTA 3 Series: general simulation performance tests

The ISTA 3 series testing procedures are designed to offer a laboratory simulation of motions, forces, conditions and sequences that cause damages in transportation settings.

These procedures apply to a wide range of circumstances, such as a wide range of vehicle types and routes, or a variable number of exposures to road travel. For this reason, the tests include simple random vibrations, drops from various heights applied to the sample package and/or atmospheric conditioning, such as humid tropical or winter / freezing conditions.

Series 3 is composed of four procedures and project 3K:

  • Procedure 3A: Packaged products of 70 kg (150 lb) or less (standard, small, flat or elongated) for shipment through a parcel delivery system The 3A testing procedure is a general simulation test for individual packaged-products shipped via a parcel delivery system.
  • Procedure 3B: Packaged products for less-than-truckload (LTL) shipment. Procedure 3B is a general simulation test for packaged products shipped through a transportation company delivery system (truck), where different types of packaged products – often from different shippers and intended for different ultimate destinations – are mixed in the same load. This type of shipment is called LTL (Less-Than-Truckload). Procedure 3B is appropriate for four different types of packages commonly distributed in LTL shipments: Standard 200 lb (91 kg) or less, Standard over 200 lb (kg), Cylindrical, and Palletized or Skidded.
  • Procedure 3E: Similar packaged-products in unitized loads for truckload shipment. Basic requirements: atmospheric conditioning, compression, random vibration and shock testing.
  • Procedure 3H: Performance test for products or packaged-products in mechanically handled bulk transport containers. Basic Requirements: atmospheric conditioning, random vibration and shock testing.
  • Project 3K: This project is a general simulation test for fast-moving packaged consumer products shipped through the multiple-retail supply chain environment in Europe. Project 3K is appropriate for the range of packages commonly merchandised through large retailer stores and large retail chain convenience stores, and where retailer operations include shipment of store-specific mixed loads in roll cages or as mixed pallets.

What vibration testing standards are required in the ISTA 3 Series?

The ISTA 3A procedure is composed of different types of tests depending on the package to be tested (standard, small, flat or elongated) and its characteristics. In the case of vibration tests, the performance of a random vibration test with or without top load is required for all types of packages. Optionally, a random vibration test at low pressure may be performed.

The ISTA 3B procedure requires the performance of a random vibration test with top load. However, protocols ISTA 3E and 3H also require the performance of a random vibration test, but without top load in this case.

Project 3K requires a random vibration test.

ISTA 4 Series: enhanced simulation performance tests

This series is not composed of testing procedures, but rather of project 4AB, which is an enhanced performance simulation test, launched as version 1.0.0 and currently under development by ISTA. This project is a web-based application to generate personalized testing plans.

This series closely ties the tests and the sequence with a user-defined pattern of distribution, and includes a wide range of current and quantitative information on distribution environment hazards. The focused simulation elements are test-tailoring to individual situations, and the usage of up-to-date and specific hazard profiles and parameters.

What vibration testing standards are required by the ISTA 4 series?

In addition to a random vibration test with or without top load, project 4AB requires further testing as per the sequence outlined in the table below: 

vibration testing standards

Advantages of performing the ISTA procedures

According to ISTA itself, when companies correctly apply the procedures outlined in the series they can enjoy a number of tangible benefits, such as:

  • Product protection throughout the distribution cycle,
  • Reduced packing times,
  • Reduction of costs linked to product loss or damage,
  • Reliability at product launch,
  • Economically balanced distribution costs,
  • Improved reputation upon product delivery,
  • Higher customer satisfaction,
  • Business continuity.

Why you need to become ISTA certified


ASTM standard practice

Since its foundation, ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials) is one of the largest standard development international organization in the world, with over 12,000 published standards. ASTM brings together manufacturers, users and consumers, among others, from around the globe, to create voluntary consensus standards.

Among the published standards related to the distribution of goods, we can find ASTM D4169 – 16 – a standard practice for performance testing of shipping containers and systems.

>ASTM D4169

This practice offers a uniform baseline for the laboratory evaluation of the ability of shipping units to withstand the distribution environment. This is achieved by subjecting them to a testing plan which consists of a sequence of expected hazards found in many distribution cycles.

ASTM D4169 proposes 18 different distribution cycles based on the type of load, as well as the type of transport.

Each of these types outlines the tests to be performed based on the hazards that the load will be exposed to depending on the distribution cycle. In the case of the ASTM D4169 standard, it requires the performance of vibration, impact, drop, compression and pressure tests.

The purpose of the ASTM D4169 standard is for the shipments to be more protected, avoiding damages to the goods and reducing costs.


Machines required to comply with the vibration tests

According to the ISTA procedures, the equipment required to perform the fixed vibration test is as follows:

  • Vibration test system with a 1 inch (25 mm) fixed or controlled displacement complying with Method A1 or A2 of the apparatus section of ASTM D 999.

And random vibration testing requires the following:

  • A random vibration system that complies with the equipment section of ASTM D4728. Certain procedures, such as 3A, 3B and project 3K, also outline that the equipment may comply with the equipment section of the ISO 13355 standard.

In the case of ASTM D4169, the performance of the vibration tests will require the use of a vertical vibration table as per the equipment outlined in the ASTM D4728 standard.


How can Safe Load TT help you?

At Safe Load Testing Technologies we have the necessary equipment to perform the vibration testing standards required by major international associations.

In the innWave family, designed to comply with the vibration tests required by ISTA and ASTM, we can find the Rotational Vibration System, as well as the Vertical Vibration System, designed and manufactured as per the most important required standards:

  • ASTM D4728 Standard test method for random vibration testing of shipping containers.
  • ASTM D999 Standard test methods for vibration testing of shipping containers.
  • ISO 8318 Packaging: Complete, filled transport packages and unit loads. Sinusoidal vibration test using a variable frequency.
  • ISO 13355 2016 Packaging: Complete filled transport packages and unit loads. Vertical random vibration tests.
  • ISO 2247 Packaging: Complete, filled transport packages and unit loads. Vibration tests at low frequency.

Vertical Vibration System

The vertical vibration system is designed to simulate the vertical vibrations generated by several means of handling and transportation, both for standard and real recorded transport routes.

In addition, it is designed to have our patented Pitch & Roll Module installed, which allows us to update any vertical vibration table in existence, regardless of its manufacturer, turning it into a 3-axis vibration system that measures Vertical, Pitch & Roll motions.


These are some of the technical specifications of the vertical vibration system:

  • Servo-hydraulic vibration system.
  • Dynamic force of up to 130 kN.
  • Up to 70 mm displacement for standard protocols.
  • Optional 200 mm displacement for monitored routes.
  • Frequency range of up to 300 Hz.
  • 1-G pneumatic static load support.
  • Testing table sizes: 500, 1,000, 1,250, 1,500, 1,800mm.
  • Vibration isolation: steel seismic mass.
  • The machine can be installed inside an environmental chamber that allows for testing under real environmental conditions.
  • Can reproduce previously-recorded PSD (innRecord and other data recorders).
  • Standard PSD for testing included.
  • Real Vibrations intuitive control software.
  • Ready to install the Pitch & Roll Module by Safe Load TT

>Rotational Vibration System

Rotational vibration testing systems are used to test the products and packages for designed purposes, as well as to simulate the effects of vibrations over them during the distribution cycle.

Some of its technical specifications are:

  • 25mm displacement.
  • Frequency range: 2-5Hz.
  • Vibration table size of up to 1500×1500 mm
  • Maximum load: up to 1,000 kg.
  • Vibration isolation: steel seismic mass.
  • Easy-to-use control software

Whether you are in the package design phase or you need to guarantee that your contents are protected, do not hesitate to contact us. We can help you optimize your packaging so that it can withstand the vibrations and other hazards of any distribution environment, so that you can:

> Protect your product + package systems

> Reduce costs resulting from shrinkage

> Increase your logistic efficiency

> Improve your company’s reputation when delivering your products

> Improve customer satisfaction