The Comprehensive Guide to Pallet Trucks


April 19, 2024

Every warehouse worker knows firsthand how tiresome and time-consuming moving heavy inventory can be. That’s why pallet trucks are indispensable tools in warehouse operations. These devices let personnel move palletized materials from Point A to B with greater speed, efficiency and ease.

What are pallet jacks? How do they boost productivity in warehouses and distribution centres? This extensive pallet truck guide covers all you need to know.

What Are Pallet Trucks?

Also called “pallet jacks” or “walkies,” pallet trucks are devices used to lift, carry and transport inventory. While they’re most commonly used in warehouses, you can also find them in other commercial establishments like retail and grocery stores. They contain numerous components that work together to facilitate the movement of heavy loads:

  • Handle: Located at the front of the pallet jack, the handle controls the wheels and lets the operator steer the truck left or right. Electric models allow you to twist the handle to move the vehicle forward or backward.
  • Forks: Forks are flat structures that support and stabilize materials during transportation. They rest on the load wheels, supported at the base by the steer wheels and hydraulic pump. Most pallet trucks include two forks for holding pallets.
  • Control lever: Manual pallet jacks have control levers that enable you to raise and lower the forks.
  • Hydraulic pump: The hydraulic pump sits at the base of the handle. The handle controls the direction of the truck, and the hydraulic pump supplies the power that makes this movement possible.
  • Steer wheels: The steer wheels rest below the hydraulic pump, control lever and handle. Controlled by the handle, these wheels allow you to steer the pallet jack as you drive it. Pallet trucks usually have two steer wheels.
  • Load wheels: The load wheels sit under the pallet forks. They simplify loading and unloading by easing the weight on the forks. Pallet jacks can have two or four load wheels, depending on the type and model.

Pallet Trucks vs. Forklifts

Pallet jacks and forklifts are quite similar, and both are handy tools for transporting palletized loads. That being said, they differ in a few key areas:

  • Load capacity: Forklifts can generally carry heavier loads than pallet trucks. Many internal combustion forklifts and electric forklifts have maximum load capacities of 19,000 pounds. Meanwhile, larger pallet jacks can often handle up to 10,000 pounds.
  • Size: Because pallet trucks are smaller and more portable than forklifts, they can more easily navigate compact spaces and narrow warehouse aisles. This feature makes pallet jacks ideal for smaller work areas where space restrictions are a concern.
  • Cost: Pallet trucks tend to be less expensive than forklifts.

Types of Pallet Trucks

There are two main types of pallet jacks:

1. Manual

Manual pallet jacks are the most standard type. They are hand-operated, consisting of a control lever and handle to lift and lower the forks. Manual pallet trucks are suitable for light to medium loads.

2. Electric

Electric pallet jacks are essentially manual pallet trucks equipped with an electric motor. This electric motor controls the hydraulic pump, allowing the operator to move the truck forward and backward with the twistable throttle on the handle. Lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries can power electric pallet trucks.

The addition of an electric motor provides more ease of use, leading to less operator strain and higher efficiency. Like manual walkies, however, the operator must still walk alongside the electric pallet jack. Additionally, electric models are more expensive and warrant more extensive operator training than their hand-powered counterparts.

Industry regulatory bodies require electric pallet truck operators to complete formal training and certification. While manual pallet jack operators don’t need special certification, they should still receive comprehensive training to ensure safe, proper use.

Uses of Pallet Trucks

Pallet jacks can streamline the transportation of many products throughout stores and warehouses, such as building materials, automotive parts, electronics, appliances, foods and beverages. You can load items in various containers, including boxes, bags, drums and crates.

Pallet trucks can accelerate a variety of warehouse processes, including:

  • Shipping and receiving: When product shipments arrive at warehouses, pallet trucks can help you quickly unload, move and place these items in their correct storage locations. Pallet jacks also expedite the process of loading pallets onto outbound delivery vehicles.
  • Storage and retrieval: Walkies allow for efficient storage and retrieval through organized pallet racking. They can seamlessly navigate condensed spaces like narrow aisles. This makes it easier for warehouse crews to store and retrieve pallets from various locations and heights.
  • Order picking: Order picking can be a tedious, labour-intensive warehousing task. Pallet jacks assist this process by letting operators transport multiple pallets at a time, cutting down the necessary number of trips.

Benefits of Pallet Trucks

Pallet jacks are ideal for nearly any circumstance that requires you to lift and move heavy loads from one location to another. They make this task far easier and more efficient, reducing the need for manual lifting and moving. Here are some advantages of incorporating pallet jacks into your warehousing operations:

1. Increased Productivity

Time is money in any warehouse, making productivity a non-negotiable. Using a pallet jack is significantly faster and easier than attempting to lift and carry heavy loads manually.

Pallet jacks enable the efficient movement of several pallets at once. They cover more ground in less time and decrease the trips needed to transport products. Walkies make it simpler than ever to maneuver, load and unload pallets, limiting downtime and maximizing overall productivity.

2. Enhanced Safety

Warehousing is a physically demanding industry. Repetitive strain injuries are common in warehouse settings due to tasks like:

  • Bending down
  • Lifting, carrying and placing heavy boxes
  • Reaching up to grab items on tall shelves

Workers can also experience fatigue from these repetitive, labour-intensive tasks. Pallet jacks help minimize injuries and burnout from manual lifting and carrying. As such, they can help foster a safer, more comfortable work environment for warehouse personnel. They also reduce the risk of dropping heavy loads and damaging products, helping preserve the quality of your inventory.

3. Versatility and Flexibility

Pallet jacks come in various configurations and sizes, accommodating different pallet sizes and weights. They’re compact and navigable, letting you manoeuvre cramped workspaces where standard-sized forklifts can’t reach. You can use them in many small and large work sites, from warehouses to retail settings.

Find the Right Pallet Trucks for Your Operations at YIT

Pallet trucks are assets in industrial settings like warehouses, distribution centres, retail stores and supermarkets. After browsing our comprehensive pallet jack guide, you might be considering investing in a pallet truck for your own warehouse workflow. At YIT, we have an extensive selection of pallet trucks available for purchase and rent, including hand-operated and electric models.

Browse our pallet truck inventory to find the ideal solutions for your material handling needs. Contact our team if you have questions about finding the right products.

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