The 6 Best Pallet Trucks
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in May of 2016. If you have a warehouse, factory, farm or other business that requires moving heavy goods around on a regular basis, you'll be needing one of these pallet trucks. With powerful jacks capable of lifting as much as 6,000 pounds to a height of up to 63 inches off the ground, they will let you and your employees load and unload deliveries with ease. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best pallet truck on Amazon.
What Is A Pallet And How Do I Move It?
Designed to safely move goods across short distances with minimal effort, pallet jacks are a must-have for many business of moderate to large size.
Evolved from shop skids of the industrial age, and simple wooden planks before that, modern pallets were born of necessity in the early 1900s, and have become increasingly standardized since. A worldwide standard helps streamline the complicated international trade process. Not only do industries everywhere rely on pallets for transport, but this lowly set of nails and boards is also the primary means of storing goods in one place. As warehouses execute the intake, organization, and shipping processes, the pallet is there every step of the way. A mere wooden frame a few inches thick, it’s not too cumbersome on its own, but the products shrink-wrapped atop it can weigh up to thousands of pounds.
While effective, forklifts are expensive and potentially dangerous, requiring significant investment as well as safety measures on the part of the company and user. But thanks to simple mechanical advantage, there are quite a few ways to get these stacks just a few inches off the ground. Designed to safely move goods across short distances with minimal effort, pallet jacks are a must-have for many business of moderate to large size.
Types And Features Of Pallet Jacks
There's a surprisingly large variety of different types of jacks. The most common manual trucks are often found at your local grocery store, as their relatively bare-bones design makes them the most agile and versatile type. This ubiquitous machine utilizes a simple hydraulic cylinder and is generally safe for loads up to about 5,000 pounds.
There are several considerations when selecting a pallet jack.
The most straightforward electrically assisted options are called walkie jacks, because the user simply walks behind them. Others, called rider jacks, have a space where the operator can stand, while still fancier models have a seat. They offer some of the functionality of a forklift, but with a fraction of the cost and regulations, and they’re found in warehouses, factories, and loading docks. Because they're safer and easier on the operator's body, they have an advantage over standing ride-on models. While they are some of the heaviest, they're also quite capable: the bottom end of their capacity is around three tons, while more expensive models can far exceed that.
Walkie stackers are another purpose-built variety. Their counterbalanced design has a much higher lifting mechanism than most, taking advantage of one of the pallet’s most important allowances: stacking. A heavy weight in the center of these units lets them position loads as high as about 100 inches. A similar type called straddle stackers doesn't have a balancing weight, but rather outriggers that help the device stay upright. There are also all-terrain models with larger wheels and wider bases, helping to keep loads secure over uneven surfaces. However, they can only carry about half the weight of standard, manually operated units.
Controlled environments like health care institutions and engineering clean rooms often use jacks made entirely from stainless steel, which is easier to decontaminate than other materials. Finally, there are adjustable and miniature jacks that are designed for non-standard pallets and unconventional job sites, though they're often limited in terms of maximum capacity.
There are several considerations when selecting a pallet jack. Overall weight and capacity are near the top of the list, and a unit’s lowered height is also usually pertinent. The standard fork width is seven inches, and the distance between the two forks is usually either 20 or 27 inches. A certain width (or adjustable-width option) is necessary for working with pallets that don’t fall perfectly in line with the (unenforced) international standard. Maximum lift height is a very important consideration, especially for high-volume operations with towers of goods in storage. Additional features like bearing type, and whether or not owners can easily grease those bearings, are also worth considering. And it never hurts to have an extended and fully supportive warranty.
The Safe Operation Of Pallet Jacks
Pallet jacks require the utmost care during use in order to avoid increased expenses and potential disaster. Manual operation of the most common variety is pretty simple. A release lever sits on the handle and makes raising and off-loading rather intuitive. Pull the drop lever to lower the forks, position the unit underneath the pallet in question, and pump the handle until the pallet clears the ground. When extracting a load from a truck or warehouse floor, you’ll often start by pulling the jack toward you, but it’s safer and more effective to push the unit once you’re on the open floor.
A release lever sits on the handle and makes raising and off-loading rather intuitive.
It’s incredibly important to pay attention to your work space. Debris as seemingly insignificant as a piece of paper can easily stop you in your tracks, so be certain that the floor is clear. Loading docks and ramps are ubiquitous throughout warehouses, so balance, concentration, and general situational awareness cannot be stressed enough. Never go too fast, as very few jacks are equipped with brakes. In the event of obstacles or runaways, simply hit the lever and drop the load to the ground to stop.
Electrically assisted units eliminate much of the hard physical labor, but require just as much attention to detail as small jacks, partly because they tend to carry much heavier loads, or lift them much higher. Some powered models do feature brakes or “dead man’s switches,” but these are often only for emergency use; it’s just as important to use planning and caution as with manual jacks. High-end units sometimes use a pump and motor to mechanically off-load heavy items, which removes an additional step from the process.
Pallet trucks are among the most widely used machines in industrial commerce. The right one is an important and even necessary investment for safe and efficient warehouse operation. With the right features, one of these powerful tools can keep stacks upon stacks of goods organized, as well as readily available to workers. And as long as they’re used and maintained properly, they should last for many years before a replacement is needed.
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