The Ultimate Guide To Forklifts and Material Handling Equipment

Forklifts and material handling equipment is as unique as the industries they serve. Warehouse forklifts, rider pallet jacks, order pickers, reach trucks – all serve a specific function for a certain application. We put together the following article to serve as an informational tool to learn about the different types of forklifts and material handling equipment that Sunbelt provides.

Indoor Tire Forklifts 

Indoor tire forklifts is probably what comes to mind when someone thinks of a forklift. Working on flat, smooth surfaces, these type of forklifts work best in distribution centers, warehouses, or manufacturing plants. These lift trucks use cushion tires that are smooth or have tread. While there are a variety of options of lift heights and different types of masts, a large majority utilize a triple stage mast around 185″ – 190″. This allows companies to reach a third level of pallet racking and reach above 15 feet tall. 

Sunbelt offers indoor tire forklifts with lift capacities from 3000# – 8000#. 

Outdoor Tire Forklifts

Pneumatic tire forklifts work best for outdoor surfaces and uneven terrain. They come in two options, as solid pneumatics and air-filled pneumatics. Solid pneumatics are solid rubber and are the most common, as they are extremely durable on any surface. Air-filled tires are similar to car tires and tend to have a softer ride on rough surfaces. These types of forklifts are typically used in applications such as lumberyards, supply stores, construction, shingles, or any other environment where the majority of forklift usage is outdoors. In comparison to indoor tire forklifts, these lift trucks sit higher off the ground and have a larger overall frame.

Sunbelt offers pneumatic tire forklifts, with lift capacities from 3000# – 22,000#.

Stand-Up Forklifts

Stand-up forklifts are electric forklifts where the operator is standing up instead of sitting down. These are indoor only forklifts that are widely used in distribution centers, cross-dock operations, and food-service operations. One of the major benefits to stand-up forklifts is the maneuverability. These lifts have a smaller footprint than a sit-down forklift, so they can operate in more narrow aisles. Powered by an industrial battery, there is virtually no noise in comparison to an LPG powered forklift, and also produce zero emissions. These lift trucks offer a dock to dock solution, as they can go in and out of semi-trucks and fulfill a variety of functions.

Sunbelt offers stand-up forklifts with lift capacities from 3000# – 4000#. 

Reach Trucks

Reach trucks are a type of forklift that use outriggers on the ground as an added base to have the forks extend out from the forklift. Used in narrow aisle applications, reach trucks are utilized by companies with narrow aisle and taller rack heights. Besides being used in more narrow aisles, a major benefit of a reach truck is the ability to have full capacity at maximum lift height. This allows companies to store their product at taller heights, rather than keeping the heavier pallets lower to the ground. Reach trucks come with either a single reach, or double reach, also known as deep-reach. This promotes cube utilization for maximum productivity. 

Sunbelt offers reach trucks with lift capacities from 3000# – 4500# and lift heights up to 330 inches.

Sit-Down Electric Forklifts

Sit-down electric forklifts offer a combination of benefits from a few different types of forklifts. These lift trucks come in both three-wheel and four-wheel options. Three-wheel forklifts have two front drive wheels and double steer wheel in the back center. This makes the three-wheel electric a great option for companies that have more narrow aisles and require a tight turning radius. Four-wheel electric lifts have largely the same physical footprint as an indoor tire forklift, but produce zero emissions because of the industrial battery. Four-wheel electrics also come in both cushion and pneumatic tires, so there are sit-down electric options for both indoor and outdoor usage. 

Sunbelt offers sit-down electric forklifts with lift capacities from 3000# – 10,000#.

Walkie Stackers

Walkie stackers come in two different forms; straddle stackers and counterbalance stackers. Straddle stackers have outriggers similar to reach trucks and are used for more narrow aisle applications. Counterbalance stackers have a counterweight comparable to a sit-down forklift, and are used in more general warehouse and manufacturing applications where space is not limited. Straddle stackers cannot load semi-trucks due to the outriggers, while counterbalance stackers have the ability to load trucks. Stackers have lower capacities than traditional forklifts and are a great addition to increase uptime, while priced below the cost of a traditional forklift. 

Sunbelt offers stackers with lift capacities from 1500#- 4000#.

Order Pickers

Order pickers are a specific type of aerial lift that provides the opportunity to “pick” specific products / parts / items from a rack. Instead of a forklift lifting up and picking up an entire pallet, order pickers are able to get certain items. Within the order picker family, you have order pickers that have forks that hold pallets. This allows the operators to pick boxes from different racks and place them on the pallet. There are also order pickers without forks that work in even more narrow aisles. These lifts have load decks and trays that allow operators to place smaller items on the trays for picking purposes. Order pickers have become an integral part of warehouses and facilities where space is limited and not a whole pallet of product is required. 

Sunbelt offers order pickers with lift capacities up to 2000# and lift heights up to 192″.

Narrow Aisle Forklifts

Narrow aisle forklifts are by definition, forklift that operate in narrow aisles. How narrow is determined by each company and their specific applications. Most narrow aisle forklifts can operate in aisles that are seven feet wide, and some can operate in even tighter aisles, as small as six feet wide. These types of forklifts typically have a mast that is able to articulate and turn independtly of the chassis of the forklift. This function allows operators to drive the forklift straight, while turning the mast a full ninety degrees left or right in order to lift to the desired height and pick the pallet. Because these lift trucks operate in such narrow aisles, they tend to have taller lift heights. This allows companies to maximize space and pallet utilization by going higher instead of having a larger facility. 

Sunbelt offers narrow aisle forklifts with lift capacities from 2200# – 5500# and lift heights above 40 feet. 

Electric Pallet Jacks

Electric pallet jacks are one of the most useful tools that a warehouse, manufacturer, distribution center can use. They come in a variety of options, capacities, models, all with a different purpose. General warehouses tend to have a surplus of manual pallet jacks. Obviously it is a larger investment, but an electric pallet jack is more efficient and a safer option for the operator. There are rider pallet jacks, where the operator will stand on a platform near the handle when traveling longer distances, typically used in a distribution center or food-service operation. The capacity and model of an electric pallet jack is largely determined by your application, but if you are moving pallets within a facility or onto tractor trailers, an electric pallet jack is an invaluable tool.

Sunbelt offers electric pallet jacks with lift capacities from 2500# – 8000# with walk behind, rider, and center control rider models.

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