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ASTM D4169 - Performance Testing of Shipping Containers and Systems

ASTM D4169 is a standard that serves as a guide for the evaluation of shipping units using established test methods to represent the actual distribution environment. The recommended test levels are based on available information from the industry or government regarding the shipping and handling environment, as well as experience. The tests should be conducted sequentially on the same packaging-product systems.

This standard provides a basis for laboratory evaluation of the shipping unit's ability to withstand the distribution environment. This is achieved by subjecting them to a test plan that includes a sequence of elements encountered in distribution cycles (DC).

ASTM D4169 defines several distribution cycles composed of schedules and Assurance Levels to test packages under conditions that simulate the actual transportation and handling environment. These distribution cycles are designed to represent different types of shipping, such as truck, rail, air, or ocean, as well as different types of handling and environmental constraints.

Each distribution cycle includes a series of tests that may include impacts, vibrations, compression, and variable atmospheric conditions. The specific details of each distribution cycle, including the types of tests to be conducted and the levels at which they are to be performed, are defined within the ASTM D4169 standard itself.

The ASTM D4169 standard includes various distribution cycles, which are suites of tests intended to simulate different types of shipping and handling. The "DC" in "DC1" stands for "Distribution Cycle," and the number that follows indicates the cycle number.

"Distribution Cycle 1" (ASTM D4169 DC1) is one of the test cycles described in the ASTM D4169 standard.

We can also mention:

  • ASTM D4169 DC1: General Distribution Cycle - Undefined distribution system
  • ASTM D4169 DC2: Specifically Defined distribution system, User-specified
  • ASTM D4169 DC3: Single package without pallet or skid, LTL motor freight
  • ASTM D4169 DC4: Single package with pallet or skid, LTL motor freight
  • ASTM D4169 DC5: Motor freight, TL, not unitized
  • ASTM D4169 DC6: Motor freight, TL, or LTL—unitized
  • ASTM D4169 DC7: Rail only, bulk loaded
  • ASTM D4169 DC8: Rail only, unitized
  • ASTM D4169 DC9: Rail and motor freight, not unitized
  • ASTM D4169 DC10: Rail and motor freight, unitized
  • ASTM D4169 DC11: Rail, TOFC and COFC
  • ASTM D4169 DC12: Air (intercity) and motor freight (local), over 150 lb (68.1 kg), or unitized
  • ASTM D4169 DC13: Air (intercity) and motor freight (local), single package up to 150 lb (61.8 kg)
  • ASTM D4169 DC14: Warehousing (partial cycle to be added to other cycles as needed)
  • ASTM D4169 DC15: Export/Import shipment for intermodal container or roll on/roll-off trailer (partial cycle to be added to other cycles as needed)
  • ASTM D4169 DC16: Export/Import shipment for palletized cargo ship (partial cycle to be added to other cycles as needed)
  • ASTM D4169 DC17: Export/Import shipment for break bulk cargo ship (partial cycle to be added to other cycles as needed)
  • ASTM D4169 DC18: Non-Commercial Government shipments in accordance with MIL-STD-2073–1.


The mentioned ASTM standards are:

  • ASTM D642: Test Method for Determining Compressive Resistance of Shipping Containers, Components, and Unit Loads
  • ASTM D880: Test Method for Impact Testing for Shipping Containers and Systems
  • ASTM D951: Test Method for Water Resistance of Shipping Containers by Spray Method
  • ASTM D996: Terminology of Packaging and Distribution Environments
  • ASTM D999: Test Methods for Vibration Testing of Shipping Containers
  • ASTM D4332: Practice for Conditioning Containers, Packages, or Packaging Components for Testing
  • ASTM D4728: Test Method for Random Vibration Testing of Shipping Containers
  • ASTM D5276: Test Method for Drop Test of Loaded Containers by Free Fall
  • ASTM D5277: Test Method for Performing Programmed Horizontal Impacts Using an Inclined Impact Tester
  • ASTM D6055: Test Methods for Mechanical Handling of Unitized Loads and Large Shipping Cases and Crates
  • ASTM D6179: Test Methods for Rough Handling of Unitized Loads and Large Shipping Cases and Crates
  • ASTM D6344: Test Method for Concentrated Impacts to Transport Packages
  • ASTM D6653: Test Methods for Determining the Effects of High Altitude on Packaging Systems by Vacuum Method
  • ASTM D7386: Practice for Performance Testing of Packages for Single Parcel Delivery Systems

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