Pallet jacks, often called pump trucks, are essential hardware for any logistical operation. Many businesses, including warehouses, supermarkets, builders merchants, and garden centers take advantage of this low-tech solution. Small size, coupled with maneuverability, ensures that pallet jacks are the preferred way to shift heavy loads in restricted and confined spaces. Ease of use, low price, and durability ensure that pallet jacks are the first choice for enhancing any logistical operation.
What are Pallet Jacks?
Pallet jacks consist of a pair of flat, wheeled prongs designed to slide beneath standard sized pallets. The operative pumps the handle, and hydraulics lift the load off the floor, smoothly and effortlessly. The operator uses the handle to guide the pallet, and the pivot mount ensures that the pallet jack can turn on the spot. After transporting the load to its new destination, the operator eases it into position, engages the release lever and slowly lowers it to the ground.
The Advantages of Pallet Jacks – Why Buy One?
- Trucks are extremely maneuverable and can operate in spaces that are too tight for a forklift, sidelift or motorized pallet truck.
- Pump trucks are easy to operate and require little formal training or a special license.
- Pallet jacks are relatively cheap, compared to motorized pallet trucks and forklifts, so are a perfect solution for small to medium businesses.
- Pallet trucks are durable and require very little maintenance other than greasing and regular safety checks.
- Pump trucks are a lot safer to use in enclosed spaces than lifts. They are much less likely to be the cause of serious accidents and mishaps.
- Most members of staff can operate a pallet jack, ensuring that no valuable time is wasted whilst staff wait for the overworked forklift driver to help them move a single pallet.
The Disadvantages of Pallet Jacks
- Pump trucks cannot operate on uneven ground or steep gradients, so floors must be smooth and level.
- Pallet jacks are only able to carry one pallet at a time and do not have the sheer lifting power of a forklift.
- The pump truck operator must be fit and physically strong, because overcoming the initial inertia requires effort.
- Pallet jacks only drop pallets onto the floor and cannot handle raised shelving or racking.
- Pallet trucks can tip, if loaded incorrectly, and are prone to jack-knifing, although thorough training easily rectifies these problems.
Ultimately, the disadvantages are far outweighed by the low cost, simplicity and utility, and even the most hi-tec of businesses employ this useful and uncomplaining workhorse.
Finding the Best Pallet Jack for the Task
For such a simple piece of equipment, pallet jacks come in a wide selection of styles, models and types. The price of pump trucks varies and, whilst budget is always a major concern, durability and safety are far more important than cost. For example, if your pallet jacks are going to see heavy use, it is better to buy a good quality model that will last for many years, rather than a cheaper option that will need replacing frequently. As with most tools, buy the best that you can afford, especially when you risk compromising the safety of your staff.
You should also calculate the load capacity that you are likely to need and make sure that you buy a pump truck that can handle it. In addition, you should add a reasonable safety margin, because it is inevitable that the pallet truck will end up lifting more than intended. This risks causing irreparable damage to the pallet jack and serious injury to the operator.
Jacks are available in a number of advanced options and styles. Some models contain built in scales or larger wheels for rough terrain. Pump trucks can be purchased in stainless steel or chrome finishes, perfect for corrosive environments or where frequent sterilization is necessary. You also need to ensure that you have the correct size for the job – most have 27” prongs, but narrower pallets require 21” prongs.
Conclusions – Pallet Jacks into the 21st Century
Pallet jacks are regarded as an essential component of most logistical processes, allowing staff to move heavy loads safely, quickly and efficiently. They cannot handle the sheer loads of a forklift or sidelift, but this is more than offset by the ease of use. As long as you choose the right capacity, and the operators receive proper training, pallet jacks will give many years of uncomplaining service.
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