A Guide to MHE Lift Trucks
Counterbalance Forklift Trucks
Counterbalance forklift trucks are the most common type of forklift truck, and the type most people are familiar with, The forks protrude from the front of the machine so the truck can be driven up to the exact location of the load or racking. This means that no reach facility is required, and lends itself to straightforward operation. Counterbalance machines are available as electric, gas or diesel powered. Many have sideshifts, a mast tilt facility, and often driver cabs.
As the name suggests, counterbalance trucks operate a counterbalance weight design, with a weight at the rear of the truck off-setting the load to be lifted at the front. Electric counterbalance machines are able to operate with a smaller counterweight as the battery serves as ballast as well as a source of power.
3 Wheel Counterbalance Forklift Trucks
3 wheel counterbalance forklifts differ with the inclusion of a single drive wheel in the centre of the rear of the machine which ensures maximum manoeuvrability. 3 wheel counterbalance machines are perfect for use in applications where space is limited due to their tight turning circles and excellent manoeuvrability. They are also ideally suited to applications that require inside and outside use and racking loading.
The combination of counterbalance under-clearance and tight manoeuvrability ensures maximum productivity. Although available in Diesel and LPG, 3 wheel trucks are almost exclusively electric in design.
Hand Pallet Trucks / Pump Trucks
Hand pallet trucks are non-powered tools designed for the moving of palletised loads; typically up to 3,500kg in weight. They are simple in their operation with the operator sliding the forks into the pallet, ‘pumping’ the handle to raise the forks off the ground and moving the load via the handle. The front wheels are mounted inside the end of the forks, and as the hydraulic jack is raised, the forks are separated vertically from the front wheels, forcing the load upward until it clears the floor. The pallet is only lifted enough to clear the floor for subsequent travel.
There are a wide variety of hand pallet trucks available, including Standard pallet compliant, Euro pallet compliant, Low profile, Foldable, All terrain, Wide forkspread, Narrow forkspread, Stainless steel construction, Long forked and Short forked.
Powered Pallet Trucks
Powered pallet trucks operate on a very similar principle as hand pallet trucks. The operator slides the forks into the pallet to allow for load bearing. On a powered pallet truck, however, the lifting of the load, and truck movement is powered by the electric motor within the machine. Powered pallet trucks operate best on flat and smooth surfaces.
Typically, there is a ‘paddle’ control to select forward or reverse direction, and button control to raise or lower the forks.
As with all electric powered trucks, the batteries contained within need to be charged. Often, with a powered pallet truck, the truck has an integral charger meaning that it can be plugged straight into the mains without the need for a stand-alone charger.
Stacker trucks are primarily used for stacking pallets at a range of heights, but they're very versatile machines, and perfect for moving pallets around a warehouse. Stackers come in pedestrian, stand-on, stand-in and sit-on models, and have been designed with ergonomics and usability as the focus.
Double stackers, which can carry two pallets at once, and stackers with telescopic forks for deeper racking are also available.
They are an economical alternative to a forklift truck and - because of their smaller size and weight - can be used in smaller spaces. Ideal for warehousing and light manufacturing applications.
Order pickers are flexible and manoeuvrable and are used to assist and lift up their drivers for easier picking at low, medium and high levels. When not used for picking, these trucks can also be used for the transport or stacking of pallets.
They can also accommodate tasks such as horizontal transport or moving pallets into and out of stock, and are available with a variety of picking heights, load capacities, chassis options and masts.
Reach trucks are designed predominantly for warehouse operation. They offer maximum lift height with excellent manoeuvrability.
The name refers to the ability of the fork carriage to ‘reach’ out beyond the stabilising legs and therefore ‘reach’ into racking. The combination of this reach capability and the stabilising legs means reach trucks can lift to great heights (in excess of 10 metres) while still operating in very tight working environments. The stabilising legs and batteries within a reach truck negate the need for any counterbalance weight within the truck construct.
Some reach truck manufacturers design their trucks with a tilting cab mechanism to make for a more comfortable viewing position for the operator. For other manufacturers, a very open overhead guard means this is not required. For further visibility, reach trucks can be fitted with cameras on the fork carriage that transmit a signal down to an LCD screen in the cab to aid navigation. These systems can be either wired or wireless, however, in our experience, wired systems are more reliable as they are not susceptible to interference from outside sources such as broadband routers.
While excellent for use indoors, reach trucks are not ideally suited to work outside. Their low undercarriage clearance can cause problems on uneven working surfaces, and their electric power systems can be prone to contact trouble if regularly shaken due to undulating working surfaces.
Sideloaders operate by picking up their load from the side, from the perspective of the operator. They are very good at handling wide (or long) loads that would otherwise be unstable using a conventional counterbalance machine. Sideloaders are excellent for handling lengthy materials such as timber, piping and sheets. This strength is also a weakness, however, as they offer limited flexibility for handling more conventional loads.
Teletrucks are relatively specialist machines. They have an extending mast operating on a boom, rather than a standard straight mast that is found on counterbalance or reach trucks. The main benefit of teletrucks is the excellent access they offer, with most machines offering the ability to access both sides of a delivery waggon from one side only; this can lead to strong efficiencies. The drawbacks to teletrucks are the cost (they are significantly more expensive than counterbalance machines) and some reliability issues due to the increased complexity of their design and structure.
Articulated trucks are available in Stand on Centre Control, and Sit Down Centre Control (which is the most popular). May have an internal combustion engine but the electric variety is most common. Unlike Standard Counterbalance and Reach Forklifts, these forklifts are steered via the front swivel articulation of the forklift. This allows them to work in a much narrower aisle than a standard counterbalance fork truck, enabling a dramatic reduction of working aisle widths in the warehouse which can increase the amount of storage space available by up to 50%. These articulated trucks will stack pallets in aisles as narrow as 1.6 metres and lift to a height of 12.5 metres. Large wheels allow them to work efficiently in an outdoor environment. This allows you to operate just one truck for your business instead of having to use different types of machines in different areas. The result is no double handling and a smaller fleet of trucks which will save you time and money.