Manual Pallet Jack
The simplest and cheapest type of pallet jack you can buy is the manual pallet jack. This pallet jack is a simple steel machine with a hydraulic pump that is operated by pumping the handle up and down. Although small, these pallet jacks have capacities up around 5500lbs. The most common type of manual pallet jack is the low lift pallet jack. It used for moving palletized loads over short distances. You don’t get any electrical drive assist with this machine so you shouldn’t plan on walking a load across a large warehouse with it.
Manual pallet jacks are very convenient because they are light and small. They fit easily in the back of a box van or van trailer. They are also great machines for use in tight spaces where lift height is not important such as grocery store aisles and small back room warehouses.
Electric Walk Behind
The electric walk behind pallet jack, or walkie pallet jack, is the battery powered version of the manual pallet jack. It’s still a small machine but is probably twice the size of a manual pallet jack. Lifting capacity for the electric pallet jack is usually 4500 lbs and is sometimes 6000 lbs. The advantage of an electric walkie pallet jack is the electrical assist for lifting and driving. The operator presses a button to lift and lower loads and the machine has a drive wheel that helps convey the load. The operator does not need to pull the load and machine nor does the operator have to manually pump the handle to lift the load.
The electric pallet jack is powered by an on-board battery pack or industrial battery. The battery will lose charge as it’s used and will need to be recharged on a regular basis. The walkie pallet jack has more moving parts such as lift pumps and drive motors and so it will require more maintenance than a manual pallet jack.
Electric pallet jacks are great for use on loading docks and staging areas. Like the manual pallet jack, the electric walkie is not the best choice for moving a load over long distances since the operator is still obligated to walk.
Rider Pallet Jack
The rider pallet jack is a beefed up version of the electric walk behind that has an added riding platform. Instead of walking behind the pallet jack, the operator can step up onto a platform on the pallet jack and ride with it. This feature makes the rider pallet jack a much better choice for moving loads over longer distances. The rider pallet jack is also battery powered and has an on-board industrial battery.
The main disadvantages to a rider pallet jack are an awkward stance and operator exposure to hazards. A rider pallet jack weighs a few thousand pounds, not including any loads, and can easily break bones or do damage to surrounding structures. Rider pallet jacks are very popular and are used every day, but they can be hazardous machines because of how the operator is positioned and exposed on the end of the machine.
The center rider pallet jack has a similar concept to the rider pallet jack with the added benefit of being safer and more ergonomically designed. The center rider pallet jack allows the operator to fully face forwards or backwards, rather than sideways on a regular rider pallet jack, and is also protected by the machine chassis on two sides.
The center rider pallet jack is an even better machine over long and mostly straight distances. This machine can be a little harder to turn than a rider pallet jack so it is better to use it in applications where the operator stays in a straight line most of the time.
Counterbalanced Walkie Stacker
This is where the pallet jack leaves the ground and evolves into a high lifting machine. All of the other machines covered so far have low lift heights of no more than about 8 inches. The walkie stacker can lift loads much higher to over 100 inches. The counterbalanced stacker is an electrically powered machine with heavy chassis and lifting mast. The machine keeps itself from tipping over by using the counterweight of the industrial battery, machine componentry, and steel.
Walkie stacker machines are less expensive and smaller than ride-on counterbalanced forklifts. In places like small storerooms and machine shops, the walkie stacker is a great option for lifting pallets onto racking or moving machines and dies around shops.
Walkie Straddle Stacker
The walkie straddle stacker is a very similar machine to the counterbalanced stacker except that the straddle stacker uses outrigger arms to keep the machine from tipping over when lifting a load. The stradlle stacker has smaller footprint than the counterbalanced stacker and has similar capacity and lifting capabilities. Straddle stacker machines can also be configured with a reaching carriage that allows for use in narrow aisles.