1. Pump/pallet truck. This is a manual, handle-pushed/pulled wheeled device, whose body consists mainly of two long forks that can be raised and lowered by the pumping of the column handle, which contains a release lever that when pressed, lowers the forks to floor level. Onto the forks can be placed a pallet, onto which can be placed smaller, usually cartonized items. Steering is done through a small pair of wheels directly under the lowering/raising column. Because steering is done from behind when the truck is being pushed, there is a skill to be acquired by the operator. Moving the truck left when it is being pushed will cause the truck to go right. When the truck is being pulled, however, steering is at the front and normal directional steering then applies.
2. Forklift trucks. These vary widely by weight, size, and power. Some are designed primarily for indoor use, some for outdoor use. Even small forklift trucks can typically raise a ton or more to three or four metres. Larger trucks can lift several tons. Trucks can be electrically powered through chargeable batteries. Larger trucks are electrical or diesel. Indoor-use trucks are always electrical, however, since fumes would create a breathing hazard and fuel would create a further hazard. On most electrical trucks, fork motion is enabled by compressed air, which is carried in a tank that is usually secured on the rear of the vehicle. To enable them to lift and extend loads at height, forklifts are counterweighted, typically with concrete blocks, which exceed the weight of the maximum lift load so that the truck does not topple forward. Extension is mechanically limited so that overextension of the load when at height should not (ideally cannot) occur, which would lead to toppling even if the load was substantially less than the maximum weight. Containing counterweights, batteries, drive mechanisms, operator controls, operator seat and operator protecting bars, wheels, compressed air tanks, steel forks, a lifting mechanism comprising chains and frame, and in some cases fire extinguishers, the typical forklift is very heavy for its size. Drivers/operators have to be trained, formally assessed, and licensed. Third party companies usually provide these services on the company’s site, so that the training is specific to usage. Some companies require their forklift operators to undergo annual refreshment courses too. If new trucks of different specification are acquired, the drivers will require retraining.
Despite their high mass, forklift trucks can manoeuvre quite sharply and travel at greater than normal walking speed. They are also quiet, and for this reason are usually fitted with some form of hazard horn or flashing light. Operatives working where trucks are operating will likely receive safety training and PPE, such as steel toe-capped footwear. Facilities must also be designed or reconfigured to accommodate forklift operations. For example, aisle ends must feature curved barriers, safety lines and warnings may have to be painted onto the floor, safety signage may have to be fitted at cross points, recharging terminals and maintenance areas will have to be installed, and racking may also have to be barrier-protected at low level.
3. Conveyors or simply “belts”. These are linearly arranged sets of rollers, which can be covered with a high durability fabric or uncovered. If uncovered, the rollers will be free spinning on ballbearing axles. Their surfaces with typically be high sheen or low resistance. The uncovered belt is typically passive, using gravity to allow items (usually boxed) to roll across the very low friction spinning rollers set inside a slightly inclined frame. Most belts will feature a nudging mechanism to enable sorting or direction change. Where the belt is level (at the point of loading, for example), one or more rollers may be powered. When the item is correctly guided by the nudging mechanism or guide belt, it will proceed to a sloping, passive belt. Covered belts are better for irregular or unboxed objects. They are sprocket-driven under electrical power and trucked on free spinning carrier rollers. Belts have to be regularly retensioned to prevent wear on the rollers and slippage, so that efficient translation of rotation torque to linear motion is maintained.