REDwire The anatomy of hydraulic pallet trucks

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Fundamental features such as fork length, frame width, capacity load and pallet control steering are important points to consider when shopping for a pallet jack.

A hydraulic pallet truck, or also commonly known as a pallet jack, is a staple piece of industrial equipment used to lift and move pallets used in material handling applications.

The structure of a hydraulic pallet truck needs to have resilient construction in order to withstand the demanding, heavy duty loads pallets can carry.

Fundamental features such as capacity loads, fork length, frame width and pallet steering (i.e. raising, holding and lowering functionality) are important considerations when choosing a pallet jack.

Let’s dissect and discuss the composition of a hydraulic pallet truck from head to toe so you know what to look for when choosing this essential piece of material handling equipment.

From the top: the handle

The looped hydraulic pallet jack handle is used to help raise, hold and lower pallet loads, featuring a spring-loaded feature ergonomically designed with the operator’s ease of control and comfort in mind.

Near at the top of the handle contains a throttle, which steers the direction of the pallet. As the throttle moves the hydraulic pallet truck either forward, in a neutral position or in reverse, the operator swerves the handle to his or her chosen direction.

The most common way to slow down or stop the hydraulic pallet truck is for the operator to make the throttle go forward then reverse, as a way to trigger the off switch. In emergency situations, typically there is also a “kill” switch, hand brake or pedal used to automatically shut off power.

Smack dab in the middle: the forks

Forks are the proverbial arms that hold pallets secure. These two vertical arms of steel run parallel to the hydraulic pallet truck wheels and stabilize pallet loads as the hydraulic pallet truck lifts and lowers.

The industrial standard for hydraulic pallet truck fork lengths are generally between 36” to 48” while fork widths are in the range of 6’’ to 7’’. Fork heights can be as low as 3’0’’ and as high as 8’0” or even higher.

Fork construction is reinforced with materials such as polyurethane to ensure sturdiness. Forks also are bonded with double entry, plastic rollers to allow for seamless entry and exit of pallets, especially for maneuvering heavier loads.

On foot: the wheels

Two larger wheels are installed at the back of the hydraulic pallet jack, while two smaller wheels are at the end of forks.

Wheels are generally made with heavy-duty nylon materials to allow for seamless mounting and demounting of pallets. Steel steering wheels also offer a higher level of performance and increased motion.

Need help to examine the right pallet truck for your material handling needs?

For nearly 30 years, Advance Shipping Supplies Inc. has been a preferred supplier in delivering high quality, environmentally-friendly packaging solutions to Fortune 500 companies to small and medium sized-businesses and everyone in between, always providing customer service excellence.

From protective packaging, industrial stretch wrap applications, to material handling equipment such as hydraulic pallet jacks, we promise to deliver your businesses’ distribution and logistics needs.

Come see why we’re the experts in the packaging and shipping supplies industry. Situated in Mississauga, we also guarantee next day delivery for in-stock items.

Check out our inventory now at or contact us directly so that we can help you run an efficient warehouse today.


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