Shipping drums (also known as barrels) come in different sizes, materials, and types. They are used to transport and store liquids and dry bulk materials such as liquids, powders, granule compounds, chemicals, product parts, and food ingredients. Hazardous materials are also stored and transported in drums.


Steel drums are extremely durable. Stronger and more resilient than plastic or fiberboard drums, they are cost-effective, reusable, and long-lasting.

✓ Manufactured using steel, stainless, cold rolled, or carbon steel
✓ Manufactured by forming the bottom and top, and rolling and welding to sides
✓ Can have an interior plastic lining to accommodate a broader range of liquids
✓ Should never be used to contain acidic materials


The most popular option, plastic drums are lighter than steel drums, making them less expensive to ship. Long-lasting and reusable, plastic drums are a good choice for transporting and storing liquids, dry goods, and food items.

✓ Made of thermoplastics (PVC, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), nylon, and polystyrene)
 ✓ Manufactured by blow molding (extrusion, injection, and injection stretch)
✓ Used for liquids, dry powders, or granular materials
✓ Not compatible with some solvents


Fiberboard drums are cost-effective and incredibly light to handle, but not as durable as plastic or steel. Fiber drums can be adapted for specific uses by changing the size, lid, and lining.

✓ Formed from layers of heavy-weight virgin kraft paper
✓ Fiberboard covers are closed with steel rims and lever clamps
✓ Primarily used to transport dry goods but can be coated or lined for liquids
✓ Can be coated inside with aluminum, polyethylene, colored kraft, polyester, or silicone
✓ When no longer useful, fiber drums can be broken down and recycled


open head shipping drums

Open-head Drums

✓ Removable covers that are closed with bolt rings or a lever lock
✓ Typically used for shipping solid materials and thick liquids

closed head plastic shipping drums

Closed-head Drums (Tight-head Drums)

✓ Non-removable covers
✓ Openings on the top with 2 screw-on bungs to seal the drum
✓ Plastic cap-seals can be affixed over the bungs
✓ Typically used to transport liquids

SHIPPING TOTES (Intermediate Bulk Containers or IBCs)

Shipping totes are cube-shaped industrial containers that are designed to store and transport products in larger quantities than drums. Totes take up less space than the equivalent capacity in round drums and their shape allows them to store 25% more content on a pallet.

IBCs are most commonly used to transport and store liquids, semi-solids, and powders such as:

✓ Liquids
✓ Grains
✓ Food ingredients
✓ Chemicals
✓ Solvents
✓ Pharmaceuticals
✓ Sand

Shipping Tote features:

✓ Can be pallet-mounted, making them easy to move with a forklift or pallet jack
✓ Contents are easily transferred using a tap at the base of the container
✓ Designed to be stacked with 45” wide x 45” long base dimensions that align with pallet size
✓ Height varies based on volume with the most common sizes being 275 gallons and 330 gallons.

Shipping Tote Materials / Types

IBCs are made from a range of materials. The most common type is a Composite IBC, with a rigid plastic inner container surrounded by a galvanized metal outer cage.

IBCs are also available as:

✓ Metal IBCs — constructed of metal (aluminum or steel), collapsible when empty
✓ Flexible IBCs (bulk bags) — made of woven materials (paper, plastic, or fabric), collapsible when empty
✓ Fiberboard IBCs — constructed of fiberboard, cannot be collapsed
✓ Rigid Plastic IBCs — made from a plastic, cannot be collapsed
✓ Wood IBCs — made from a variety of woods, cannot be collapsed


Shipping pails are smaller weatherproof and puncture-resistant containers suitable for industrial, commercial, and consumer applications. They come in a range of sizes, shapes, and colors and can ship individually, as unit loads on pallets, or individually in corrugated fiberboard boxes.

✓ Available in plastic and steel
✓ Cover gaskets and closure options for best product compatibility and easy pouring or blending
✓ Bail handles and/or molded-in handles for secure and comfortable handling and dispensing
✓ Can be colored and/or surface treated to provide your product with the UV protection required
✓ Available open-head (removable lid) or tight-head or closed-head (sealed covers, bung closure)
✓ Open-head shipping pails are available with twist-lock, snap-lock, and tab-Lock Lid options


Disclaimer: This is a general guide only. The information in this chart was compiled from different manufacturer and supplier websites. Product specifications may vary based on construction materials, purpose, options, and manufacturer. Please contact shipping drum manufacturers and suppliers directly for guidance in choosing the most appropriate shipping drum, tote, or pail for your products.

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IBC Totew/palletHDPE/ Steel135 gal.40″ x 48″ x 27″ H20.4 lbs.
IBC Totew/palletHDPE/ Steel275 gal.40″ x 48″ x 46″ H135 lbs.
IBC Totew/palletHDPE/ Steel330 gal.40″ x 48″ x 53″ H155 lbs.
Steel DrumTight-head304-2B Stainless Steel5 gal.14″ W x 9.4″ H10 lbs.
Steel DrumTight-head304-2B Stainless Steel8 gal.14″ W x 15.1″ H14 lbs.
Steel DrumTight-head304-2B Stainless Steel10 gal.14″ W x 18″ H15 lbs.
Steel DrumTight-head304-2B Stainless Steel16 gal.14″ W x 26″ H19 lbs.
Steel DrumTight-head304-2B Stainless Steel20 gal.18.25″ W x 20″ H27 lbs.
Steel DrumTight-head304-2B Stainless Steel30 gal.18.25″ W x27.8″ H33 lbs.
Steel DrumTight-head304-2B Stainless Steel55 gal.22.5″ W x 33.5″ H48 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel5 gal.14″ W x 8.9″ H10 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel8 gal.14″ W x 14.4″ H14 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel10 gal.14″ W x 17.4″ H15 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel16 gal.14″W x 25.6″ H19 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel20 gal.18.25″ W x 19.2″ H25 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel30 gal.18.25″ W x 26.6″ H35 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel55 gal.22.5″ W x 32.8″ H50 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel65 gal.30″ W x 21.4″ H  – inside86.5 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel85 gal.26″ W x 36.8″ H – inside82 lbs.
Steel DrumOpen-head304-2B Stainless Steel110 gal.30″ W x 40.8″ H – inside105 lbs.
Plastic DrumOpen-headHDPE8 gal.13.25″ W x  19.6875″ H4.5 lbs.
Plastic DrumOpen-headHDPE 15 gal.15″ W x 19.5″ H7 lbs.
Plastic DrumOpen-headHDPE30 gal.18.5″ W x  29.75″ H17.5 lbs.
Plastic DrumOpen-headHDPE55 gal.24.25″ W x  36″ H25.5 lbs.
Plastic DrumClosed-headHDPE15 gal.14.5″ W x 26.5″ H9.5 lbs.
Plastic DrumClosed-headHDPE30 gal.19.25″ W x 29.5″ H15.5 lbs.
Plastic DrumClosed-headHDPE55 gal.23.75″ W x 35″ H23 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel6.5 gal.16″ W x 9.5 ” H4 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel10 gal.16″ W x 13.5″ H7 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel15 gal.16″ W x 20.5″ H7 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel20 gal.16″ W x 25.5″ H8 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel30 gal.19″ W x 27″ H13 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel35 gal.19″ W x 31.625″ H14 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel41 gal.22.125″ W x 27.25″ H15 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel44 gal.22.125″ W x 29.25″ H16 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel55 gal.22.125″ W x 35.5″ H17 lbs.
Fiber DrumsOpen-headPaper/Steel72 gal.23.5″ W x 41.25 ” H20 lbs.
Steel PailOpen-headSteel1 gal.11.75″ W x 8.25″ H1.25 gal.
Steel PailOpen-headSteel2 gal.11.75″ W x 9.5″ H2 gal.
Steel PailOpen-headSteel5 gal.11.75″ W x 9.875″ H3 gal.
Steel PailOpen-headSteel5 gal.8.5625″ W x13.375 ” H6 gal.
Steel PailOpen-headSteel6 gal.7.125″ W x 15.875 H7 gal.
Steel PailClosed-headSteel1 gal.6.375″ W x 8.625″ H2 lbs.
Steel PailClosed-headSteel3.5 gal.10.875″ W x  10.5″ H4 lbs.
Steel PailClosed-headSteel5 gal.10.875″ W x 13.625″ H6 lbs.
Steel PailClosed-headSteel7 gal.10.875″ W x  18.5″ H6.5 lbs.
Plastic PailScrew TopHDPE1.25 gal.8.5″ W x 8.25″ H1.5 lbs.
Plastic PailScrew TopHDPE2 gal.9.75″ W X 10.25″ H2 lbs.
Plastic PailScrew TopHDPE3.5 gal.12.75″ W x 10.75″ H3 lbs.
Plastic PailScrew TopHDPE5 gal.12.75″ W x 13.5″ H4 lbs.
Plastic PailScrew TopHDPE6.5 gal.12.75″ W x 16.625″ H4.5 lbs.
Plastic PailSnap TopHDPE1.25 gal.8″ W x 7.25″ H0.75 lbs.
Plastic PailSnap TopHDPE2 gal.9.5625″ W x 9.5″ H1 lb.
Plastic PailSnap TopHDPE3.5 gal.12″ W x 10.5″ H3 lbs.
Plastic PailSnap TopHDPE5 gal.12″ W x 14.5″ H3.5 lbs.
Plastic PailSnap TopHDPE6.5 gal.12″ W x 17.5″ H4 lbs.

Commercial Freight Services, Inc., (CFS) operating as a certified cargo screening facility (CCSF) in Detroit Michigan since 2008, is capable of screening bulk commodities in shipping drums, totes, and pails and is currently certifying shipments at their facility near Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).

To speak with a CFS cargo screening specialist: Phone: (866) 255-6153, email: – or request a callback consultation.

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