A pallet jack lifts and moves loads on pallets and skids. Also called a pallet truck and pump truck, it’s the most basic form of a forklift, used to transport loads of various sizes in industrial settings like warehouses and worksites.
There are two main types of pallet jacks: manual and electric. The main difference between them is the power source. While manual pallet trucks depend on manual labor, with the operator using a lever attached to a hydraulic pump, electric ones are powered by batteries.
This makes the electric pallet jack more efficient overall, since it has a higher and more consistent load-bearing capacity. However, per OSHA, an electric pump truck can only be used by certified operators.
In this guide, we’ll go over the parts of a pallet jack, their functions, and how to choose the right type for your project.
Parts of a Pallet Jack
The parts of a pallet jack work together to make loading, unloading, and other material handling needs easier. These next sections describe some of the main parts.
The handle of a pump truck is located near the front of the vehicle. It controls the wheels, allowing you to steer the vehicle left or right. On electric pallet jacks, you can also twist the controller on the handle to move the truck backwards or forwards.
On a manual pallet jack, the control lever allows you to lower, drive, and raise the forks. Here’s how to use each of these three positions:
- Lower: To lower the jack forks to their lowest position, you need to raise the control lever handle to its highest position.
- Drive: The control lever handle automatically goes to the center position, which is the drive position, when the handle is released. This is used to move the load from place to place.
- Raise: The control lever handle will raise or lift the jack forks when the handle is in the down position.
Electric pallet trucks typically have up and down buttons to move the forks.
Forks are the main body of a pallet jack. They rest on the load wheels and are supported at the base by the hydraulic pump and steer wheels. A standard jack comes with two forks for holding pallets.
The hydraulic pump is at the base of the handle. While the handle controls the height of the forks, the hydraulic pump supplies the lift that allows these actions to happen.
The steer wheels are located below the handle, control lever, and hydraulic pump. They’re controlled by the handle, allowing you to steer the vehicle as you drive it.
There are two steer wheels on a pallet truck. They can be made out of polyurethane tread with a nylon hub, ultra-poly tread with an aluminum hub, solid nylon, or solid steel.
Load wheels are located beneath the pallet forks. Also called load rollers, they help you ease loads onto the forks, making loading and unloading much easier. Depending on the pallet truck, there may be two to four load wheels.
Choosing the Right Pallet Jack for Your Job
Finding the right equipment for your next project depends on your specific needs. You’ll want to:
- Evaluate the space you have to work with
- Determine the capacity you need
- Pinpoint your budget
These points will help you narrow down what pallet jack best suits your job. Though hand pallet trucks and electric pallet trucks are the two main types, there are multiple equipment options within those categories.
Here are some types of pallet jacks that serve different job-specific needs:
- Weighing scale: These allow you to weigh the pallets as they’re loaded. They’re best for jobs in loading bays, distribution centers, or factories.
- Adjustable: Adjustable pallet trucks allow you to adjust the width of the forks, which can be very helpful in workspaces with pallets of different shapes and sizes.
- All-terrain: All-terrain pump trucks can be manual or electric. They’re built for material handling in outdoors settings or on uneven floors.
- Mini: These jacks are smaller and lightweight, making them more portable and easy to use. They’re best for small workspaces and loads.
- Stand-on: Some electric pallet jacks allow the operator to stand on them during operation. They’re best for jobs that involve long transports.
- Scissor lift: A hybrid of a scissor lift and pallet truck, these machines are quipped with more powerful hydraulic units. They not only transport loads but can also lift them, reducing the burden on you or your personnel.
- Pallet stacker: Similar to a lift truck, this type has a flat, horizontal structure that allows it to haul stacked loads.
Pallet Jack Safety Guidelines
Though its mechanism may seem simple, a pallet jack is still a piece of heavy duty equipment, and it’s important to take the right precautions while operating one. Here are some safety measures to follow:
- Wear protective equipment, including gloves and safety-toed shoes.
- Check for damage to the equipment before use, including parts of the frame, like bushings, bearings, and pushrods.
- Ensure the ground is free of bumps or other obstructions.
- Have a clear pathway and view, using a spotter if necessary.
- Do not exceed the load capacity.
- Get certified if operating an electric pallet jack.
If you own a pallet truck, keeping its replacement parts (or at least part numbers) handy is also a good idea, since pallet jack parts can wear out over time. Brands like Hu-Lift and Mighty Lift offer products like seal kits and load wheel kits to make tasks like part replacement, equipment repair, and wheel assembly easier.
If you’re ready to rent a pallet jack for your next job, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you’re in need of an electric or manual pallet jack, BigRentz has you covered. And if your project involves bigger loads, you can always rent a forklift instead.