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Choosing the right pallet truck

Pallet trucks are horizontal handling equipment designed to facilitate the operator’s work when moving heavy, generally palletized loads. They reduce the required effort and working time. There are several types of pallet trucks: manual, semi-electric and electric.

 

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  • How to choose a pallet truck?

    In order to choose the right pallet truck for your needs, you must keep in mind several factors, such as:

    • The working environment: indoors or outdoors. In the first case, it is important to note the limitations imposed by the dimensions, height and accessibility of the products to be transported.
    • The right equipment for your application: hand, semi-electric or electric
    • The maximum load
    • The lifting height
    • The height of the lowered forks

    In addition to these factors, there may be more specific criteria required by your business. For example, you can choose a stainless steel pallet truck if the work to be carried out is in a corrosive or hygienic environment. You can also add a scale function to your pallet truck so you can weigh pallets for applications that require weight information, such as transportation. You will also need make sure that the pallets you need to handle are standard size and note their dimensions.

    You have the choice between different types of pallet trucks, with the following characteristics:

    • Hand:
      • Average capacity: 2,000 kg to 2,500 kg
      • Average lifting height: 300 mm (rare exceptions up to 1 m)
      • Height of lowered forks: 85 mm
    • Semi-electric:
      • Average capacity: 1,000 kg to 1,500 kg
      • Average lifting height: 200 mm
      • Height of lowered forks: 85 mm
    • Electric:
      • Capacity: 1,000 kg to 1,500 kg
      • Average lifting height: 200 mm
      • Height of lowered forks: 85 mm
  • Why choose a hand pallet truck?

    JUNGHEINRICH hand pallet truck
    JUNGHEINRICH hand pallet truck

    A handle drawbar operates the pallet truck lifting device by manual pumping. The pallet truck is moved by pulling on the drawbar. The pallet truck has a mechanism allowing for the rotation of the axis of the drawbar so it can turn safely. Hand pallet trucks are only suitable for use on non-slippery, leveled ground with a slope level of less than 10%.

    The advantage of a hand pallet truck is that the operator does not need any special certification. Training to prevent accident risks in the event of a falling load, such as stuck drawbars or locked castors, is necessary however. Because hand pallet trucks don’t have motors they can be relatively light. They can easily be stored in a delivery truck for use at the destination.

    There are suitable pallet trucks for each specific use:

    • Pallet trucks with short, long or adjustable forks, depending on the load
    • Low-noise pallet trucks: for unloading in populated areas at night
    • Extra-flat pallet trucks (low-profile)
    • Pallet trucks with assisted start-up
    • Quick lift pallet trucks: require fewer pump strokes to lift a load

    Pallet trucks are made of steel for standard industrial use or of stainless steel for wet or corrosive environments, in particular for the food industry.

    The wheels can be made of nylon (optimal for driving on hard surfaces and optimized for handling heavy loads), rubber (low-noise and offering better grip on wet or slippery surfaces), polyurethane (low-noise and flexible) or Vulkollan (low-noise, high wear resistance, does not leave any marks on the ground).

    Advantages:

    • Affordable purchase price and maintainence costs
    • Lighter than an electric pallet truck, therefore easier to transport
    • No certification required
    • Versatile and can transport all types of pallets, some products such as cardboard boxes, large parts (i.e. motors), barrels, etc.

    Disadvantages:

    • Not very ergonomic
    • Limited load weight
    • Less practical to use than semi-electric or electric models
  • Why choose a semi-electric pallet truck?

    BT hybrid pallet truck
    BT hybrid pallet truck

    There are two types of semi electric pallet trucks: those that have electric lifting and manual movement, and those that have electric movement and manual lifting. Semi-electric pallet trucks are also called hybrid pallet trucks.

    Advantages compared to manual equipment:

    • Less work for the operator
    • More efficient, increased productivity
    • Travels longer distances and can be used in larger warehouses

    Advantages compared to completely electric equipment:

    • More affordable
  • Why choose an electric pallet truck?

    STILL electric pallet truck
    STILL electric pallet truck

    An electric pallet truck moves by means of an electric traction motor operated from the drawbar. It lifts using a hydraulic pump driven by the electric motor. Thus the whole pallet truck is motorized. With the electric pallet truck, no physical effort is required from the operator. It can cover more intensive handling applications and longer distances than the hand pallet truck.

    Advantages:

    • Ergonomic: less risk of injury for the operator.
    • Wide choice for various loads.
    • Gain in productivity.

    Disadvantages:

    • Higher purchase price.
    • Higher maintenance costs. It is also important not to overlook the possible costs of replacing damaged parts.
    • Difficulties stopping the machine when transporting very heavy loads.
    • Training of more specialized personnel: operators must be trained and certified according to the norms and standards of the country they are operating in.
  • How to calculate the dimensions of a pallet truck?

    You will need to define the required capacity of your pallet truck (in kg). It should be noted that both electric and semi-electric pallet trucks offer a lower maximum load capacity than a manual pallet truck.

    You will also need to take the lifting height into account. The average height is 200 mm. If you need to lift the load higher, you can opt for a high lift pallet truck, up to 1 m.

    You will also need to know the dimensions of the load (length, width and possibly height), which will determine the length of the forks you need. If you opt for long forks, be aware that the lifting height of the pallet truck decreases.

  • What type of wheels or rollers should you choose for your pallet truck?

    Each pallet truck has two types of wheels (or rollers): smaller ones under the forks and a larger one under the drawbar. The smaller wheels have a diameter of about 7.5 cm maximum so that they can easily be slid under the pallet. These do not rotate. The large wheel is the guiding wheel and has an average diameter of 18 to 20.5 cm (7 to 8 inches). It rotates in order to be able to maneuver the machine. The hub can be made of plastic, steel or aluminium. If you have level floors, you can opt for simple rollers. Wider than they are high, rollers are available with or without bearings. For uneven floors and in order to pass through ramp doors, a bogie is particularly suitable. The load is distributed over several rollers (the bogie), which reduces wheel wear.

    For the hub covering, you can choose between different materials:

    • Rubber: very low noise, good grip, marks the ground, can leave traces. Anti-static option.
    • Powerthane: very low noise, longer service life than rubber, low wear, doesn’t leave marks on the ground.
    • Nylon: noisier, low crushing rate, suitable for heavy loads on flat and hard surfaces.
    • Polyurethane: low noise, suitable for moderate loads, leaves marks.
    • Iron/steel: heavy industrial use, noisy, very robust, low wear.
  • What type of forks should you choose?

    In general, the length of the forks on a pallet truck is 1,150 mm, adapted to the standard dimensions of pallets.

    If you have to handle smaller pallets, you can opt for a short-fork model (between 600 and 1,000 mm). The advantage of these models is that they take up less space and are therefore easier to store. On the other hand, for larger loads, you can find long-fork pallet trucks, ranging from 1,300 mm to 3,000 mm.

  • What operating type should you choose?

    Several positions are possible for the operator:

    • Walk-behind pallet truck: the operator stands and walks while pulling or pushing the pallet truck.
    • Platform pallet truck: the semi-electric or electric pallet truck is equipped with a platform used as a driver’s station. The operator stands in an upright position.
    • Seated pallet truck: with an integrated seat, either facing the forks or to the side.
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