Hand pallet trucks are simple devices that make it possible to transport one or more pallets without the use of a forklift or other heavy equipment. Sometimes known as a pallet jack or a pallet lifter, the hand pallet truck is relatively small in design, and makes it possible to slide a set of blades into to the open area of a pallet, gently lift it, and transport the pallet to a different location. While a traditional pallet truck makes use of cranks and levers to lift the pallet into position, modern versions utilize hydraulics that are powered by a small battery that is built into the design.
A basic hand pallet truck consists of a set of blades that can be aligned to slide under a pallet, lifting the pallet off the ground by several inches. A control panel at the opposite end of the device makes it possible to adjust the width between the two blades, accommodating pallets of different sizes. A base supports both the controls and the blades, and is mounted on a set of small wheels that make it easy to maneuver the truck. In most designs, the rear set of wheels will swivel, making it a simple task to negotiate corners. There are also designs in which both the front and back sets of wheels are capable of swiveling.
The history of the hand pallet truck is usually traced back to the first decades of the 20th century. In many manufacturing plants, the need to move raw materials and finished goods with greater efficiency was becoming increasingly important to meeting higher production levels. This early version of the pallet truck was helpful in transporting a small amount of goods from the warehouse to the production floor, but still did not offer the efficiency needed. With the invention of the hand pallet truck, a single employee could lift and move an entire pallet loaded with goods. The loaded pallet could be transported with ease, requiring less time or resources to move than carrying the materials by hand or even with the use of a hand truck.
One of the advantages of a hand pallet truck is that the device is relatively small. This makes it easy to use the truck in tight spaces where a forklift would never fit. The smaller size also makes it easier to ease through winding spaces that a forklift may or may not be able to negotiate. For this reason, it is not unusual for manufacturers to own at least a few of these trucks and have them available for use in various departments such as plant floors, shipping areas, and warehouses where finished goods are stored.