Pallet Jack vs. Forklift: What You Need to Know
How Does a Forklift Differ from a Pallet Jack?
Forklifts are larger in scale and have more lifting, loading, and moving capabilities than pallet jacks. Because of their ability to extend vertically, they’re used to stack and retrieve loads of heavy goods. As the workhorse of material handling, forklifts perform a variety of indoor and outdoor functions, which include:
- Lifting and moving inventory and materials
- Loading items onto trucks for transporting them and unloading trucks when shipments are received
- Lifting workers to carry out overhead tasks
- Loading and unloading ships, trains and railroad cars
- Specialty jobs, such as wet or dry sweeping of warehouse and dock floors
Forklifts are much bigger than pallet jacks, which allows them to lift heavier loads and move more materials at one time. Their ability to reach high shelves for placing or retrieving goods means more efficient use of warehouse space. Forklifts are also good at moving heavy pallet loads through narrow aisles and around tight corners.
The three basic sources for powering forklifts are electric, diesel and gas. Because they’re quiet and don’t emit noxious exhaust fumes, electric forklifts are used indoors to transport goods throughout a warehouse, distribution center or similar facility. Diesel forklifts are used outdoors for transporting heavy loads over both level and rough terrain. Gas-powered forklifts can be used both indoors (provided there is adequate ventilation) and outdoors. They cost less to buy, but fuel and maintenance costs usually offset any savings over the long term. Forklifts have two or three axles, depending on the make, model and intended uses.
Forklifts are the best choice for lifting large, heavy loads to spots high overhead. They’re also good when lifting loads of different sizes. If your company handles materials outdoors, a forklift’s sturdy wheels and power capabilities make it safer and easier to work on rough terrain. In warehouses where heavy products are stored on high racks or shelves, a forklift may be the only material handling equipment you need.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Forklifts
A forklift is a great option for those who require maximum height and load capacity. It can be easy to maneuver, and operators typically won’t have to worry about fatigue if they use a lift for an extended period of time.
Comparatively, a new forklift usually costs anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000. Ongoing maintenance is also required to keep a lift running at peak levels.
If you are considering a forklift, consider why you need a lift in the first place before you purchase one. Those who know how a forklift is used in a warehouse or other industrial work environments can determine if a lift is the best option.
What Is a Pallet Jack Used for?
When compared to forklifts, pallet jacks are much smaller and simpler material handling machines. They’re designed for moving pallet-sized loads through a warehouse. Pallet jacks can carry a maximum weight of 3,500 kg (7,717 lbs.), and come in both hand pumped or powered models. The main difference between the two is the ease of using a powered jack and the cost of the equipment.
To operate a pallet jack, a worker stands either on the ground directly behind the lift or on its forks or footings. The worker slides the forks underneath the pallet before lifting, then pumps the handle to raise the forks and pallets off the ground. The final step is to transport the load to where it needs to be. Forklifts can move and lift loads to high areas, while pallet jacks are designed to raise the forks just far enough above the ground to move loads.
Pallet Jack Advantages and Disadvantages
An advantage of pallet jacks is that they don’t need to be fueled or recharged. They can also be stored in smaller spaces. Pallet jacks can’t, however, handle the heavier loads or carry out the same types of jobs as forklifts. For those who need more power than a pallet jack offers and have the storage space, forklifts are well worth the additional cost.
Pallet jack uses vary. A pallet jack can be used to move pallet loads that are too heavy to lift or carry by hand. It can also work well in a small space or when moving lighter weight materials. Other conditions or situations for using pallet jacks include lifting a load just far enough above the surface to be able to move it when working indoors on smooth concrete floors. They’re not suitable for working on rough terrain or when a load needs to be raised to reach an overhead shelf or rack.
Furthermore, pallet jacks are affordable and require very little maintenance, which makes them a great tool for carrying out everyday tasks. They’re easy to maneuver, can speed up daily tasks, and improve the overall efficiency of a warehouse. They’re not, however, as versatile as forklifts and their uses are limited.
It often helps to consider how and where you will use a pallet jack. If you need to lift large loads in outdoor settings, you may want to consider a forklift in lieu of a pallet jack. Or, if you are handling small loads indoors, a pallet jack may be the right choice.
The Easiest and Best Way to Get Forklift and Pallet Jack Training
Choosing the right machine for the job can improve workplace safety and productivity, and can also help reduce the time needed to complete tasks, improve productivity and lower the overall cost of operations. Regardless of the type of lift you use in your business, OSHA requires all operators, including pallet jack operators, to be properly trained and certified before your workers can use them.
The reason behind OSHA’s requirement is that forklift and pallet jack training teaches the proper way to operate the equipment, which will help reduce accidents and improve overall workplace safety. Accidents or injuries involving workers who haven’t been properly trained and certified can result in severe penalties and fines being imposed by OSHA.
ForkliftCertification.com offers OSHA compliant forklift and pallet jack training that can teach your workers everything they need to know about safely operating pallet jacks and forklifts. Our training will also teach them the difference of forklifts vs. pallet jacks, along with how to:
- Conduct inspections
- Perform basic maintenance
- Recognize and avoid potential hazards
- Prevent accidents and injuries while operating the equipment
Various OSHA studies indicate operator error is the number one cause behind most forklift accidents. The best way to ensure the safety of your workers while they’re on the job is through OSHA compliant forklift and pallet jack training. FLC’s online training covers everything required. Here are some of what our training programs include:
- Operating forklifts, pallet jacks and order picking equipment
- Driving forklifts on rough terrain
- Written guides for conducting forklift and pallet jack training and evaluation
- All quizzes and tests
- Downloadable and printable proof of training
- Courses are available in both English and Spanish versions
- Lifetime free renewal training
Our complete Training Kit costs just $299 and covers everything your workers need to know about operating forklifts and pallet jacks in one easy-to-use program. Our online training is 100% OSHA-compliant and takes only about an hour to complete. Your workers can take the training using a smartphone or other digital device any time that’s convenient and anywhere there’s an internet connection, so there’s no need for them to spend time away from work traveling to and from an offsite training facility.
In less than an afternoon, your workers can complete forklift and pallet jack training and receive their certifications, so why wait – enroll them today!
Still need more information? Below are some questions we’re frequently asked, along with our responses.
Is a pallet jack a forklift?
According to OSHA, pallet jacks, which are also known as pallet trucks, pump trucks or scooters, are the most basic type of forklift, and as such, pallet jack workers need to be properly trained and certified to use them.
Do pallet jacks have brakes?
Although there are pallet jacks equipped with brakes, most basic models, known as hand pumps, usually don’t. The forks are raised by the operator manually pumping the hydraulic system. When it’s time to place the load, there’s normally a small lever on the steering tiller to release the hydraulic fluid and lower the forks. There are, however, electrically powered pallet jacks that can only be slowed or stopped by reversing the throttle, while others have a “dead man’s switch” that stops the lift.
Can a pallet jack lift be used to lift a car?
A pallet jack can be used to lift a car. To do so, a pallet jack operator must proceed cautiously to avoid damaging the jack or the car or putting others in danger. Pallet jacks are generally not used to lift cars in garages and other automotive facilities. For those who want to lift a car using a pallet jack, they should take appropriate safety measures to avoid putting themselves or others at risk.
Do you need a license to operate a pallet jack?
Yes. OSHA’s requirement for training and certifying lift equipment operators extends to persons who work with pallet jacks.
What is the life expectancy of a forklift?
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for, and forklifts are no exception. The average forklift has a useful lifespan of 10,000 hours, and is operated 2,000 hours per year, which implies a lifespan of five years. Other factors determining a forklift’s life include the types of loads it typically carries and how well it’s maintained. Electrically powered forklifts normally outlast those with internal combustion engines.
Sign Up for Forklift and Pallet Jack Safety Training
Have other questions about training requirements for your forklift and pallet jack operators? Give us a call at (888) 278-8896 or click here to reach one of our OSHA experts online. If you’re ready to enroll your workers in an FLC training class, sign them up today! Thanks for visiting ForkliftCertification.com and considering us for all your forklift operator training and certification needs!