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What are Pallet Jacks?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Often used in manufacturing plants, warehouses, and some large storage facilities to quickly and easily move pallets of goods, pallet jacks provide a simple and easy method of moving heavy objects from one location to another. Simple to operate and effective with pallets designed to support large amounts of weight, pallet jacks usually are constructed with blades that slide under the pallet and are gently lifted with the use of a hydraulic motor.

There are two different types of pallet jacks in common usage today. The most simplistic is the manual pallet jack. Ideal for use in warehouses where pallets are stored mainly at ground level, the manual jack resembles a dolly that features forks on the front end. The operator walks behind the manual jack, controlling the direction of the jack with a simple steering mechanism. The forks are slid underneath a pallet, and the operator uses a lever to gently active the lifting mechanism on the device. The manual jacks are then used to walk the elevated pallet over to a new location on the warehouse or plant floor.

For storage situations where pallets are recessed in tall pallet racks or stacked in layers of two or more, powered pallet jacks are a better solution. These types of jacks contain make use of a small platform for the operator to stand on. A motor provides extra power for lifting pallets out of a pallet rack and stabilizing the load so that the pallet can be transported to another location. A throttle allows the operator to move the jack back and forth, as well as control the angle of the loaded pallet on the forks or blades.

Powered pallet jacks also are often constructed with a seating area for the operator. When this configuration is used, the device is usually referred to as a pallet truck. Pallet trucks are very similar to forklifts, and provide much of the same type of maneuverability. Unlike forklifts, the pallet trucks tend to be built for use in an indoor facility, rather than being constructed for both indoor and outdoor use.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including About Mechanics, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By Buster29 — On Nov 17, 2014

@RuggerCat68- We also used pallet jacks where I worked, but the company asked up to used electric pallet jacks instead of manual ones. Sometimes the load on the pallets was nearly a ton, and the company didn't want us trying to stop the momentum of a large load without some mechanical assistance. I could have used a manual hydraulic pallet jack to move a lot of my own loads, but there were some completed units that could have easily gotten out of control without a powered braking system and an electric motor.

Someone asked me to run a motorized pallet jack one time, but I lost the first load I tried to lift. It was an expensive lesson, so the supervisor decided to get someone to train me before I tried anything like that again.

By Ruggercat68 — On Nov 16, 2014

When I worked for an electric motor manufacturer, my manual pallet jack was a lifesaver. I built communtator brackets, the part of a motor containing the power cord and carbon brushes that turned the magnetic armature. I had to stack my finished parts in a metal cage stacked on top of a wooden pallet. The cage would weigh several hundred pounds after I finished my shift.

The pallet had to be moved to another station on the other side of the factory for testing, so I used a hydraulic pallet jack to transport it safely. The great thing about a pallet jack is that you never feel out of control with the load. I could steer that pallet into the smallest space available and not wreck into any other pallet filled with parts.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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