Everything You Need to Know About Pallet Jacks

In the industrial sector, there are a wide range of material handling equipment to suit a myriad of needs. A pallet jack, also called a pallet truck, is one of the most basic types of forklift, consisting of a wheeled trolley, handle, hydraulic pump, linkages, load wheels, and forks. For those who are unfamiliar, forklifts are powered industrial trucks used to lift and move materials over short distances.    

Pallet Jacks v. Forklifts

Though a pallet jack is a subtype of forklift, many individuals do not know the difference between the two. First, it is worth noting that most forklift designs rely on the counterbalance principle, meaning that they utilize a heavy counterweight at the rear to balance the load on the forks. Pallet jacks, on the other hand, do not work this way, and instead, the weight is entirely supported on wheels at both ends.

With the exception of hand-controlled stackers, a majority of forklifts are equipped with operator compartments where the operator can either sit or stand. However, with pallet jacks, operators generally control the jacks while standing behind them on the ground. Keep in mind that some variations, such as ride-on pallet jacks, allow operators to stand on the pallet truck itself.

Another important distinction is that all forklifts are powered, whereas not all pallet jacks are. In fact, all forklifts are powered by either internal combustion engines or batteries and electric motors. Please note that there are hand pallet jacks that are powered manually and motorized pallet jacks as well. In general, these are powered by a battery and electric motor.

As forklifts are designed to lift loads for stacking or loading into pallet racking, they feature high-lift vertical masts. These masts offer lift heights ranging from 10 to 27 feet. In contrast, pallet jacks do not have these same capabilities. Instead of stacking, pallet jacks lift loads just high enough off the ground, usually around 6 to 7 inches, so that operators can move them across the floor.

History of Pallet Jacks

Invented by George G. Raymond of the Raymond Corporation, the pallet jack and customary pallet design used today was patented in November of 1939. The standard width of a pallet jack is measured from each fork’s outer edge, with most pallet jacks being around 20 to 27 inches wide. For the fork itself, the width is typically around 6.25 inches wide. In terms of fork length, both manual and electric pallet jacks are 48 inches.

How Much Weight Can They Handle?

Beyond such parameters, a manual pallet jack has a lifting capacity that maxes out around 5,500 pounds, with some models having a 10,000 pound capacity. Meanwhile, electric pallet jacks start at 4,500 pounds but can go up to 8,000 pounds. As a result of such capabilities, pallet jacks help reduce worker strain and fatigue. This means that workers do not need to transport loads by hand all day.

Some of the tasks that pallet jacks help operators accomplish include the following:

Specific Uses of Pallet Jacks

  • Listing and moving loads over short distances
  • Moving pallets within semi-trucks
  • Handing basic inventory duties


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