Industrial Trucks


Industrial trucks are trucks that are not licensed to travel on public roads—“commercial trucks” are licensed to travel on public roads. Industrial trucks are:

  • Used to move materials over variable (horizontal) paths with no restrictions on the area covered (i.e., unrestricted area)
  • Provide vertical movement if the truck has lifting capabilities
  • Used when there is insufficient (or intermittent) flow volume such that the use of a conveyor cannot be justified
  • Provide more flexibility in movement than conveyors and cranes

Industrial Trucks

  1. Hand Truck
    (a) Two-wheeled Hand Truck
    (b) Dolly
    (c) Floor Hand Truck
  2. Pallet Jack
    (a) Manual Pallet Jack
    (b) Powered Pallet Jack
  3. Walkie Stacker
    (a) Manual Walkie Stacker
    (b) Powered Walkie Stacker
  4. Pallet Truck
  5. Platform Truck
    (a) Walkie Platform Truck
    (b) Rider Platform Truck
  6. Counterbalanced Lift Truck
    (a) Sit-down Counterbalanced Lift Truck
    (b) Stand-up Counterbalanced Lift Truck
  7. Narrow-aisle Straddle Truck
  8. Narrow-aisle Reach Truck
  9. Turret Truck
    (a) Operator-down Turret Truck
    (b) Operator-up Turret Truck
  10. Order picker
  11. Sideloader
  12. Tractor-trailer
  13. Personnel and Burden Carrier
  14. Automatic Guided Vehicle (AGV)
    (a) Tow AGV
    (b) Unit Load AGV
    (c) Assembly AGV
    (d) Light Load AGV
    (e) Fork AGV



  1. Pallet/Non-Pallet:
    Does the truck have forks for handling pallets, or does the truck have a flat surface on which to place loads.
    • Non-Pallet
      (usually) other means required to load truck
  2. Manual/Powered:
    Does the truck have manual or powered vertical (lifting) and/or horizontal (travel) movement capabilities.
    • Manual
      walk ⇒ operator provides the force needed for lifting loads and/or pushing the vehicle
    • Powered
      on-board power source (e.g., batteries) used for lifting and/or travel
  3. Walk/Ride:
    For non-automated trucks, can the operator ride on the truck (in either a standing or sitting position) or is the operator required to walk with the truck during travel.
    • Ride
      powered ⇒ travel speed can be faster than a walking pace
    • Walk
      manual or powered travel possible ⇒ powered travel speed limited to a normal walking pace
  4. Stack/No Stack:
    Can the truck be used to lift loads for stacking purposes.
    • Stack
      can also be used as no stack ⇒ more expensive to add stacking capability
    • No Stack
      may lift a load a few inches to clear the floor for subsequent travel (e.g., pallet jack), but the loads cannot be stacked on top of each other or on shelves
  5. Narrow Aisle:
    Is the lift truck designed to have a small turning radius or does it not have to turn at all in an aisle when loading/unloading.
    • Narrow Aisle
      greater cost and (usually) standing operator ⇒ less aisle space required
    • Counterbalance and/or straddle
      used for load support
    • Small turning radius
      load support via straddle or reaching capabilities
    • No turning required
      even narrower aisle ⇒ only one-side loading (sideloaders) or the capability to rotate the load (turret truck)
  6. Automated:
    Is the truck automated so that it can transport loads without requiring an operator.
    • Non-Automated
      direct labor cost of operator is by far the largest cost to operate a non-automated truck
    • Semi-Automated
      operator used to control loading/unloading, but automated transport control (e.g., the S/R machine of a Man-on-board AS/RS)
    • Automated
      Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) ⇒ no direct labor cost, but higher equipment costs

1. Hand Truck

  • Non-Pallet + Walk + No Stack + Manual
  • Simplest type of industrial truck

(a) Two-wheeled Hand Truck
  • Load tilted during travel
  • Good for moving a load up or down stairways

(b) Dolly
  • Three or more wheeled hand truck with a flat platform in which, since it has no handles, the load is used for pushing

(c) Floor Hand Truck
  • Four or more wheeled hand truck with handles for pushing or hitches for pulling
  • Sometimes referred to as a “cart” or “(manual) platform truck”

2. Pallet Jack

  • Pallet + Walk + No Stack
  • Front wheels are mounted inside the end of the forks and extend to the floor as the pallet is only lifted enough to clear the floor for subsequent travel
  • Pallet restrictions: reversible pallets cannot be used, double-faced nonreversible pallets cannot have deckboards where the front wheels extend to the floor, and enables only two-way entry into a four-way notched-stringer pallet because the forks cannot be inserted into the notches

(a) Manual Pallet Jack
  • Pallet + Walk + No Stack + Manual
  • Manual lifting and/or travel

(b) Powered Pallet Jack
  • Pallet + Walk + No Stack + Powered
  • Powered lifting and/or travel
  • Powered pallet jack is sometimes referred to as a “(walkie) pallet truck”

3. Walkie Stacker

  • Pallet + Walk + Stack
  • Similar to a counterbalanced lift truck except the operator cannot ride on the truck

(a) Manual Walkie Stacker
  • Pallet + Walk + Stack + Manual
  • Manual lifting and/or travel (and straddle load support)

(b) Powered Walkie Stacker
  • Pallet + Walk + Stack + Powered
  • Powered lifting and/or travel (and either counterbalance or straddle load support)

4. Pallet Truck

  • Pallet + Ride + No Stack
  • Same pallet restrictions as a pallet jack
  • Control handle typically tilts to allow operator to walk during loading/unloading
  • Powered pallet jack is sometimes referred to as a “(walkie) pallet truck”

5. Platform Truck

  • Non-Pallet + Powered + No Stack
  • Platform used to provide support for nonpalletized loads
  • Used for skid handling; platform can lift skid several inches to allow it to clear the floor
  • Greater lifting capacity compared to fork trucks because the platform provides a greater lifting surface to support a load

(a) Walkie Platform Truck
  • Non-Pallet + Powered + No Stack + Walk
  • Floor hand truck is sometimes referred to as a “(manual) platform truck”

(b) Rider Platform Truck
  • Non-Pallet + Powered + No Stack + Ride
  • Operator can ride on truck

6. Counterbalanced (CB) Lift Truck

  • Pallet + Ride + Stack
  • Sometimes referred to as a “fork truck” (but other attachments besides forks can be used)
  • Weight of vehicle (and operator) behind the front wheels of truck counterbalances weight of the load (and weight of vehicle beyond front wheels); front wheels act as fulcrum or pivot point
  • Rated capacity reduced for load centers greater than 24 in. and lift heights greater than 13 ft.
  • Workhorses of material handling because of their flexibility: indoor/outdoor operation over a variety of different surfaces; variety of load capacities available; and variety of attachments available—fork attachments can replace the forks (e.g., carton clamps) or enhance the capabilities of the forks (e.g., blades for slipsheets)

(a) Sit-down Counterbalanced Lift Truck
  • Operator sits down
  • 12–13 ft. minimum aisle width requirement

(b) Stand-up Counterbalanced Lift Truck
  • Operator stands up, giving vehicle narrow-aisle capability
  • 9–11 ft. minimum aisle width requirement
  • Faster loading/unloading time compared to NA straddle and reach trucks

7. Narrow-aisle (NA) Straddle Truck

  • Similar to stand-up CB lift truck, except outrigger arms straddle a load and are used to support the load instead of the counterbalance of the truck
  • 7–8 ft. minimum aisle width requirement
  • Less expensive than stand-up CB lift truck and NA reach truck
  • Since the load is straddled during stacking, clearance between loads must be provided for the outrigger arms
  • Arm clearance typically provided through the use of load-on-beam rack storage or single-wing pallets for load-on-floor storage

8. Narrow-aisle (NA) Reach Truck

  • Similar to both stand-up CB lift truck and NA straddle truck
  • 8–10 ft. minimum aisle width requirement
  • Load rests on the outrigger arms during transport, but a pantograph (scissors) mechanism is used for reaching, thereby eliminating the need to straddle the load during stacking
  • Reaching capability enables the use of shorter outrigger arms (arms > ½ load depth) as compared to NA straddle truck (arms = load depth)
  • Counterbalance of the truck used to support the load when it extends beyond the outrigger arms
  • Although the NA reach truck requires slightly wider aisles than a NA straddle truck since its outrigger arms do not enter a rack during storage, it does not require arm clearance between loads (arm clearance is still required when the truck must enter a storage lane when block stacking or drive-in or -through racks are used)
  • Extended reaching mechanisms are available to enable deep-reach storage

9. Turret Truck

  • Greater stacking height compared to other narrow-aisle trucks (40 ft. vs. 25 ft.), but greater investment cost
  • Forks rotate to allow for side loading and, since truck itself does not rotate during stacking, the body of the truck can be longer to increase its counterbalance capability and to allow the operator to sit
  • Can function like a sideloader for transporting greater-than-pallet-size load

(a) Operator-down Turret Truck
  • Operator not lifted with the load
  • 5–6 ft. minimum aisle width requirement
  • Termed a swingmast truck when, instead of just the forks, the entire mast rotates (thus can store on only one side of a aisle while in aisle)

(b) Operator-up Turret Truck
  • Operator lifted with the load to allow precise stacking and picking
  • Also termed a “hybrid storage/retrieval vehicle”
  • 5–7 ft. minimum aisle width requirement

10. Order Picker

  • Similar to NA straddle truck, except operator lifted with the load to allow for less-than-unit-load picking
  • Typically has forks to allow the truck to be used for pallet stacking and to support a pallet during less-than-pallet-load picking
  • “Belly switch” used for operator safety during picking

11. Sideloader

  • Forks mounted perpendicular to direction of travel to allow for side loading and straddle load support
  • 5–6 ft. minimum aisle width requirement
  • Can be used to handle greater-than-pallet-size loads (e.g., bar stock)

12. Tractor-trailer

  • Non-load-carrying tractor used to pull a train of trailers (i.e., dollies or floor hand trucks)
  • Advantage: Enables a single operator to transport multiple floor hand trucks in a single move
  • Disadvantage: Requires wide aisles or open spaces to operate
  • Tractor sometimes termed a “tugger”
  • Manual version of a tow AGV
  • Typically used at airports for baggage handling

13. Personnel and Burden Carrier

  • Non-load-carrying vehicle used to transport personnel within a facility (e.g., golf cart, bicycle, etc.)

14. Automatic guided vehicle (AGV)

  • AGVs do not require an operator
  • Good for high labor cost, hazardous, or environmentally sensitive conditions (e.g., clean-room)
  • Also termed “automated guided vehicle”
  • AGVs good for low-to-medium volume medium-to-long distance random material flow operations (e.g., transport between work cells in a flexible manufacturing system (FMS) environment)
  • Two means of guidance can be used for AGV systems:
    • Fixed path: Physical guidepath (e.g., wire, tape, paint) on the floor used for guidance
    • Free-ranging: No physical guidepath, thus easier to change vehicle path (in software), but absolute position estimates (from, e.g., lasers) are needed to correct dead-reckoning error

(a) Tow AGV
  • Used to pull a train of trailers
  • Automated version of a tractor trailer
  • Trailers usually loaded manually (early type of AGV, not much used today)

(b) Unit Load AGV
  • Have decks that can be loaded manually or automatically
  • Deck can include conveyor or lift/lower mechanism for automatic loading
  • Typically 4 by 4 feet and can carry 1–2,000 lb. loads
  • Typically less than 10 vehicles in AGV system

(c) Assembly AGV
  • Used as assembly platforms (e.g., car chassis, engines, appliances)
  • Greatest development activity during the 1980s (alternative to AEMs)
  • Typically 50–100 vehicles in AGV system

(d) Light load AGV
  • Used for small loads (
  • Typically used in electronics assembly and office environments (as mail and snack carriers)

(e) Fork AGV
  • Counterbalanced, narrow-aisle straddle, and sideloading versions available
  • Typically have sensors on forks (e.g., infrared sensors) for pallet interfacing