Electric lift trucks provide many benefits in todays ever-changing business environment including cleaner and quieter operation, exceptional maneuverability, lower cost of operation and, most of all, versatility. Whether the job requires a lift truck for truck loading and unloading, narrow aisle (NA) or very narrow aisle (VNA) storage, order picking, palletless handling, cold storage, hazardous materials handling, long load handling or bulk storage, there is an electric lift truck that can meet that need.


A relatively new development for North American lift trucks is AC-powered operation. Depending on the model, AC-powered lift trucks can do more work per battery charge, reduce maintenance costs and deliver improved reliability when compared to DC-powered trucks of the same type.


Increasing Capacity

NA applications (using storage aisles eight to nine feet wide as compared to 12 feet for traditional forklifts) can help increase storage capacity in the same warehouse footprint. Reach trucks are specifically designed for pallet handling in narrow aisles. They use a pantograph, scissor-type mechanism to place or pick a pallet load in or from a rack storage slot. Reach trucks are available with a variety of lift heights, capacities and features. Some models can lift loads as high as 421 inches.


Using double-deep storage racks reduces the number of storage aisles required and can significantly increase the storage capacity of the warehouse by eliminating two out of every five aisles. Lift trucks designed for reaching double-deep storage slots are essentially reach trucks with extended pantograph mechanisms.


VNA storage also offers great storage density, with the benefit of having storage aisles as narrow as 51/2 feet and storage heights above 40 feet. Two of the most common types of electric lift trucks designed to work in VNA applications include swing-reach trucks and order-pickers. Swing-reach trucks are dual purpose vehicles that can be used for both case picking and pallet handling. They can work both sides of the aisle by rotating the forks on the mast 180°. Since no right angle stacking turns are required, an aisle can be as narrow as 51/2 feet. With the addition of a wire guidance system, VNA trucks can be steered automatically while traveling in the aisle, allowing operators to concentrate on the next pick or pallet slots. An extended load handler offers swing-reach truck users the capability to place, pick and move a greater variety of load sizes.


Order-pickers are designed to be used in NA and VNA storage aisles. They allow operators to rise with the load to pick directly from the racks. Order-pickers are available in a variety of heights and come with numerous performance options from the lightest to the heaviest duty cycle requirements. Special attachments for order-pickers include platforms or carts for steel or furniture applications.


Handling Palletless Loads

For palletless load handling, in addition to specially equipped order-pickers, several other types of electric forklifts are available depending on the load and application. A four-directional reach truck can be ideal for transporting long, palletless loads such as lumber, rolled stock and other long bulky loads in narrow aisles. These trucks travel forward, backward and side to side and can increase retail or storage space by up to 40% when compared to traditional sit-down counterbalanced lift trucks.


In very narrow aisles, a sideloader truck is recommended for transporting long, bulky materials. Sideloaders also offer multidirectional travel, with heavy-duty capacities and stacking capabilities from 2,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds and up to 30 feet high for some models. They are versatile, suited to rack storage, feeding machine tools and long load order picking. When NA or VNA operation is not necessary, electric counterbalanced trucks can be used to handle palletless loads. Most counterbalanced trucks can accept a wide variety of attachments such as carton clamps, push/pull and drum handlers.


Counterbalanced trucks are available in both stand-up and sit-down configurations. Sit-down counterbalanced trucks are perfect for tractor-trailer loading and unloading, cross-docking and long runs through the warehouse. Stand-up trucks are better suited for application where the operator needs to get on and off the lift truck repeatedly, when placing loads in storage racks and when right angle stacking maneuvers are required.


Stand-up counterbalanced trucks deliver exceptional speed and maneuverability and can help increase storage space by as much as 10% by reducing the aisle widths required between storage racks. These rugged 3,000-pound to 5,000-pound capacity trucks excel in crowded dock areas and perform right angle stacking moves in less than total area.


Moving Pallets

For truck loading and unloading, the right combination of electric counterbalanced trucks and electric pallet trucks can work to improve dock productivity. Electric pallet trucks offer maneuverability, durability and low operating costs in a variety of demanding transport and low-level order picking applications. Electric pallet trucks can maneuver in and out of confined work cell areas to drop off and pick up supplies, transport loads to dock areas and unload shipments. Both pedestrian and rider models are available depending on which best suits the application. Tow tractor configurations are even available from some manufacturers.


Special Applications

Refrigerated warehouses, blast freezers and other cold storage applications require robust control systems. Most electric lift trucks are available with cold storage conditioning packages so that these versatile trucks can be used in both cold storage and ambient temperature environments. Some trucks are also available with options such as cabs and heated control handles and floor mats to help keep operators more comfortable in cold environments and maintain productivity.


For handling hazardous materials such as chemicals, petroleum, aerosols, pharmaceuticals and other combustibles, certified Type EE electric lift trucks are used. Type EE trucks are tested and certified by Underwriters Laboratories to be sure they are reasonably free from foreseeable risk of fire and electric shock. These trucks have their electric motors and other electrical components completely enclosed.

To determine the appropriate electric lift truck requirements for an application, contact a local electric lift truck dealership.


Staff can help you clarify business implications of various material-handling issues and help design solutions that meet the needs of your specific application in each location. Regardless of the business or the application, if it involves indoor warehouse storage, there is an electric lift truck that can get the job done.


Jennifer Sopko is a marketing specialist with The Raymond Corporation. Please visit www.raymondcorp.com.