Pallet jacks, also known as pallet trucks, are some of the most useful pieces of material handling equipment. They are used in warehouses, on loading docks to move incoming freight from trucks to the receiving department, and in retail stores to bring stock from storage areas in the rear of the building to the aisles and shelves where customers shop.
Pallet trucks come in many different styles. Standard models are made to enter and lift standard pallets 27 inches in width. 21-inch wide models are available for narrower pallets and even 18-inch wide models are available for moving freight in narrow aisles. Pallet trucks can be powered by manual effort or by electric battery power.
Pallet jacks can be equipped with scales to weigh loads as they are lifted. Standard pallet jacks typically lift pallets up to heights of 8 inches; some special pallet lifter models can lift pallets up to 35 inches. Pallet jacks are even available that can move pallets from side to side, as well as forward and backwards.
Among all of the different variables for pallet jacks, you can choose models with a standard load capacity or models specially modified to lift heavy loads. Typically, for a model to qualify as a heavy-duty pallet jack, it will have components that have been strengthened for that purpose. For example, the forks may be modified and reinforced; heavier connecting hardware will be used; a pump mechanism capable of lifting heavier loads will be substituted for the standard pump mechanism; and the wheels will be strengthened and made of materials that enable them to stand up to heavy loads.
In this article, we will discuss the best pallet jack wheels to choose for heavy loads.
Two Types of Pallet Jack Wheels
The typical, standard pallet jack has two types of wheels. The wheels under the tips of the forks are called load wheels, or load rollers. They must be small enough in diameter – for example, 3 inches or less – so that they can enter the openings under a loaded pallet. They usually don’t need to swivel, because the motion of the pallet jack’s fork is forward and backward only.
There are usually two wheels located near the bottom of the handle. These are called steer wheels, because when you steer the pallet jack, you do so by swinging the handle in an arc, thus changing the path of the connected steer wheels. These wheels do not need to enter the opening underneath a pallet, so they are usually much larger in diameter than the load wheels. 7 or 8 inches are typical diameters for steer wheels. The larger diameter also makes them easier to maneuver.
The wheels are composed of a hub and a tread, and rotate around bearings. Hubs can be made of different types of plastic, cast-iron, aluminum, steel and other materials. Common thread materials are polyurethane or nylon; steel treads are sometimes used.
Below, we will look at how heavy loads can affect the choice of hub and tread materials for pallet jack wheels.
Standard Loads versus Heavy Loads
What defines a heavy load? The answer is relative and depends upon standard usage in each type of industry. However, one way we can begin to define load ranges is to look at some of the standard models of pallet jacks available. Many of the standard pallet jacks that Douglas Equipment carries are rated for 5,500 pounds. For example, we are distributors for Wasco Industrial Products, Inc., one of the leading manufacturers of pallet jacks; they make numerous models whose load capacity is 5,500 pounds.
Two typical models in this load capacity range are Wasco’s Standard Deluxe Pallet Truck and their CPII Series Pallet Truck. Each is rated for 5,500 pounds. They are both available with mold on polyurethane load wheels and steering wheels; the CPII Series Pallet Truck also is available with wheels made of nylon.
Wheels for Heavier Loads
Wasco also makes a version of the CPII Series Pallet Truck that is rated for a 6,600 pound load capacity called the CPII Heavy Duty. It’s interesting to note that the only wheel option is mold on polyurethane wheels – the nylon wheels offered with the CPII Series Pallet Truck are not available with the CPII Heavy Duty. The combination of the dense polyurethane treads and the steel hubs makes these wheels a better choice for the higher load capacity than the nylon wheels.
Pallet jacks are also available that can lift loads weighing as much as 10,000 or 11,000 pounds. For these greater weights, steel wheels are usually the choice manufacturers make for their heavy duty pallet jacks. These wheels may not roll as smoothly as mold on polyurethane wheels, they may not be as quiet, and they may mark floors – but they can withstand the heavier loads. They can also resist damage from debris that may be covering concrete floors. Steel wheels are durable and sturdy, and are probably the best choice for pallet jacks that must lift the heaviest loads.
For these heavy duty pallet jacks with load capacities of 10,000 pounds or greater, the load wheels may also be doubled. Rather than having a single load wheel under the tip of each fork, two wheels are used. By using a pair of wheels, the forks of the pallet jack are able to withstand much more weight.