Forklifts and pallet jacks are both material-handling equipment used in warehouses and distribution centers. However, each of these freight handling equipment serves different purposes and has distinct characteristics.
Here are the key differences between a forklift and a pallet jack below.
What is a pallet jack?
Pallet jacks are used in warehouses, facility centers, or retail stores.
But, when they are used to transport loads on pallets, they are referred to as pallet trucks.
Pallet jacks come in two main types:
- Manual pallet jacks: Also known as hand pallet trucks, you power manual pallet jacks with your manual labor. To work, the manual pallet jacks require a human operator who can manually operate these devices.
- Electric pallet jacks: You can power electric pallet jacks through an electric motor with a rechargeable battery.
Workers will often use pallet jacks to get the job started before heading over to the forklift to lift the pallets and load them into much higher areas.
What Is a Forklift?
Forklifts provide more advantages when it is used to lift and transport loads over longer distances.
Forklifts are used to lift, carry, and transport heavy loads within warehouses, construction sites, lumber yards, and dockyards.
You can choose from several types of forklifts designed for specific applications to meet your unique needs.
From warehouse forklifts, like reach trucks, side loaders, telehandlers, counterbalance forklifts, and rough-terrain machines, you can even find forklifts powered by combustion engines as well as ones that run on electricity.
When it comes to stacking and retrieving loads of heavy goods, forklifts are the number one choice. The reason is that they can extend vertically.
Pallet jacks vs. forklifts: the key differences
Pallet jacks and forklifts are two excellent choices for material-handling equipment.
However, each of these devices have their capacities and limitations.
Below, are the differences between these two freight handling equipment:
- Forklift: This device is much larger in scale compared to pallet jacks. They can lift heavy loads and tons of materials at once.
- Pallet jack: This device is a much smaller piece of warehouse freight handling device compared to a forklift. They are best for handling simpler and smaller loads. Their main goal is to move loads of the size of pallets throughout warehouses.
- Forklift: Forklifts are versatile machines designed to lift and move heavy loads typically in pallets or skids. They have forks that slide underneath a pallet before lifting it. Then, use the hand pump or power hydraulics to lift the pallets off the ground. And, they often can tilt the forks forward and backward.
- Pallet jack: Pallet jacks are simpler devices used primarily for moving palletized loads horizontally. They do not have the lifting capability of forklifts. Instead, they have forks that can be inserted into the openings of pallets, and the operator manually pumps a leveler to lift the load slightly off the ground for easier movement.
3. Lifting height
- Forklift: If you need to lift heavier loads and reach higher heights, you may need to use a forklift for that.
- Pallet jack: Pallet Jacks are used when you don't need to lift loads very high off the ground. For example, when you need to move pallets that are stored on the floor.
4. Lifting weight capacity
- Forklift: Forklifts are designed to handle heavy loads such as from a few hundred pounds to 40,000 pounds, depending on the type and model of the forklift. If you need to lift loads higher than 8 " higher, then you better choose a forklift to do the job. Forklifts can lift heavy products and store them high on racks or shelves.
- Pallet jack: Pallet jacks are typically used for lighter loads, The weight capacity of a standard pallet jack is around up to 5,500 lbs. With a pallet jack, if you need to lift loads only about 3 to 8 " off the ground.
- Forklift: Forklifts are maneuverable in tight spaces. They can turn in a smaller radius, making them suitable for navigating through narrow aisles.
- Pallet jack: Pallet jacks are generally compact and easier to maneuver than forklifts. They are well-suited for confined spaces and shorter distances.
6. Power source
- Forklift: Forklifts can be powered by various sources, including electric batteries, propane, diesel, or gasoline engines. Electric forklifts are common for indoor use due to their cleaner operation.
- Pallet Jack: Pallet jacks are often manually operated, requiring the operator to pump a handle to lift the load, which can be the biggest benefit of not needing to be recharged or fueled. However, there are also electric-powered pallet jacks that are more convenient for heavier loads.
- Forklift: Forklifts are generally more expensive than pallet jacks due to their increased capabilities and features.
- Pallet Jack: Pallet jacks are more cost-effective and are often used for lighter material handling tasks where the lifting capacity of a forklift is not necessary.
If you need to move a lot of pallets quickly, you might choose a forklift over a pallet jack.
Forklifts offer greater speed and better handling than pallet jacks, which means a greater number of pallets can be moved per hour.
The best choice for your business depends on the number and weight of the pallets that you move daily and your current storage arrangement.
Based on those factors, you can calculate which warehouse freight handling equipment is the most cost-effective for your needs.
In summary, while both forklifts and pallet jacks are used for material handling, forklifts are more versatile with the ability to lift heavy loads to different heights, whereas pallet jacks are primarily focused on horizontal movement of lighter loads. The choice between the two depends on the specific needs of the task at hand.