Hard-working walkies

Class 3 walkies are battery-powered alternatives to hand trucks and manual pallet jacks.


Class 3 walkies are battery-powered alternatives to hand trucks and manual pallet jacks. These motorized hand trucks are found in virtually every manufacturing and distribution operation performing loading, unloading, order picking, stacking, staging, and internal transportation duties (Fig. 1). They account for 24% of all industrial vehicles sold.

The motorized vehicles allow the operator to deliver or store the load much faster than using manual equipment. At the same time, operator fatigue is reduced and the possibility of injury associated with manually moving heavy materials is virtually eliminated.

On the down side, the vehicles typically have lower travel and lift speeds, which may limit their productivity in demanding operations or those covering greater distances. Capacity is limited to about 8000 lb (4000 lb for higher lifts); however, specially designed and constructed versions can go much higher. Gradeability is also a concern for some equipment.

There are a wide range of designs and functions available. Most types are low lift, but equipment reaching 16 ft or so are available. Most vehicles are walkies, but numerous rider versions are on the market.

General features

Motorized hand trucks are operated by an end control handle mounted at the end of a tiller steer arm. The steer handle (or head) regulates lift and lower functions, speed, direction, steering, braking, and several safety features. Some rider versions have a center control handle located on the riding platform between the battery and forks.

Nearly all Class 3 vehicles use transistor-type controls. These devices provide smooth acceleration, infinite travel speeds, easy maneuverability, and high energy efficiency.

Drive tires are constructed from polyurethane or rubber, with the latter offering better traction. Load wheels under the forks (and load) are small diameter and usually made from hard polyurethane, which provides better wear than rubber.

Walkies operate with 12 or 24-V batteries, with the latter used on riders and more demanding applications. The advent of the maintenance-free or sealed-cell battery has been a major boost to truck performance. The batteries easily serve an 8-hr shift.

Matching the technology of the vehicle with operator capabilities and needs maximizes safety and performance. Consequently, ergonomic and safety features are an important part of every vehicle.

The trucks include contoured handles that make it easier for the operator to steer and control the trucks over longer periods of time. The control handle is designed for minimal wrist exertion. Riders have safety bars and padding. The vehicles have a low profile to improve visibility, and shorter head length to increase maneuverability. Improved braking systems and autoreverse features protect the operator.

Ultimately, however, an educated, attentive, and conscientious operator is the best safety feature the vehicle can have.

A variety of options can be added to the basic truck package. Possibilities include battery discharge indicators, built-in battery chargers, battery roller conveyors, side shifters, cold storage or corrosion protection, hour meters, audible alarms, lift interrupts, and stability casters. Various fork widths and lengths are available. Stacker trucks can employ a variety of handling attachments.


Generally speaking, Class 3 equipment is divided into low-lift and high-lift stacker versions. Low-lift models handle floor level pallets or skids. High-lift equipment has stacking capability and is offered in straddle, reach, and counterbalanced versions.

Low lift

Low-lift walkies (Fig.2), often called pallet trucks, are the dominant player in the Class 3 category with nearly half of the unit sales. Forks are inserted between the top and bottom boards of pallets to raise the load a few inches off the ground for transport. These products are not used for stacking.

The truck features a speed control device (thumb or twist handle) to match the pace of a walking worker. They are capable of moving about 4 mph when empty, and about half that loaded. Maximum capacity is 8000 lb.

Low-lift riders (Fig. 3) generate about 30% of the market and use the same lifting mechanism and perform the same handling tasks as the walkie. Obviously, this type is used when longer travel distances or quicker handling is required.

The operator stands on a rear platform, or in a compartment between the batteries and forks. Most riders can also be operated in a walkie mode.

Tow tractors (tuggers) are available in walkie or rider versions and pull up to three carts of picked material in train fashion. A coupler engages the towing arm of the cart to move the train.

Tuggers are an effective approach for moving high volumes of material along varied paths in the plant. They are capable of moving a 12,000-lb rolling load about 5 mph.

High lift

High-lift walkies take 2000-4000 lb up to about 16 ft using a multistage mast. This walkie is the best choice when the frequency of use does not justify the higher expense associated with a Class 1 electric rider lift truck or Class 2 narrow aisle vehicle.

Straddle stackers (Fig. 4) are used in narrow aisle applications. Outriggers straddle the load, which reduces the length of the truck and eliminates the need to counterbalance the load weight. Some stackers do not have outriggers.

Reach trucks (Fig. 5) require a slightly larger aisle than straddle types, but offer greater flexibility in load sizes handled. A scissor mechanism (pantograph) extends the forks beyond the outriggers to access and load, eliminate the straddles, and place material one pallet deep.

Counterbalanced trucks (Fig. 6) are similar to Class 1 riders in that they use the frame design and counterweighting to offset the force of the load held in front of the mast. These vehicles stack two high, and service all types of storage racks except double deep, which require a double-deep reach truck. -- Ron Holzhauer, Managing Editor, 847-390-2668, r.holzhauer@cahners.com

Plant Engineering magazine would like to thank Barrett Industrial Trucks, Nissan Forklift, and Yale Materials Handling for their special contributions to the development of this article.

The cover photo of a walkie stacker was provided by Crown Equipment.

Key concepts

Class 3 walkie trucks perform loading, unloading, order picking, stacking, staging, and internal transportation duties.

Walkie equipment is divided into low-lift and high-lift stacker versions.

Ergonomic and safety features are key ingredients in every vehicle.

Selection considerations

- Application (light, medium, or heavy duty)

- Operation (continuous or intermittent)

- Purchase price

- Operating costs

- Maintenance and repair

- Aisle characteristics

- Travel distances

- Load size

- Product mix

- Product configuration

- Storage or stacking requirements

- Available options

More info

Three previously published articles provide additional information on the cover subject:

- "What's Available in Industrial Vehicles" (PE, January 1997, p 53, File 4545)

- "Comparing Motorized Hand Trucks" (PE, 6/5/95 p 62, File 4545)

- "Selection Guide for Walkie Hand Trucks" (PE, 12/11/95, p 77, File 4545).

Copies of these articles may be purchased by calling 847-390-2692.

The complete text of all Plant Engineering articles is available on our web site at www. plantengineering.com.

Walkie truck manufacturers

The following companies provided input for this article by responding to a written request from Plant Engineering magazine. For more information about their walkie truck product lines, circle the indicated reader service numbers on the post card in this issue, or check out their web sites.

Company Web site address &READERSERVICE>Circle&/READERSERVICE>


Barrett Industrial Trucks -- &READERSERVICE>222&/READERSERVICE>


Clark Material Handling www.clarkmhc.com &READERSERVICE>224&/READERSERVICE>

Crown Equipment www.crown.com &READERSERVICE>225&/READERSERVICE>

Dockstocker www.dockstocker.com &READERSERVICE>226&/READERSERVICE>

Elwell-Parker www.elwellparker.com &READERSERVICE>227&/READERSERVICE>

Hyster www.hysterusa.com &READERSERVICE>228&/READERSERVICE>


Kalmar AC www.kalmarac.com &READERSERVICE>230&/READERSERVICE>



Multiton MIC www.multiton.com &READERSERVICE>233&/READERSERVICE>

Nissan Forklift www.nissanforklift.com &READERSERVICE>234&/READERSERVICE>

Raymond www.raymondcorp.com &READERSERVICE>235&/READERSERVICE>

Toyota Industrial Equipment* www.toyotaforklift.com&READERSERVICE> 236&/READERSERVICE>

Yale Materials Handling www.yale.com &READERSERVICE>237&/READERSERVICE>

*Low lift equipment only

The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Doubling down on digital manufacturing; Data driving predictive maintenance; Electric motors and generators; Rewarding operational improvement
2017 Lubrication Guide; Software tools; Microgrids and energy strategies; Use robots effectively
Prescriptive maintenance; Hannover Messe 2017 recap; Reduce welding errors
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Mobility as the means to offshore innovation; Preventing another Deepwater Horizon; ROVs as subsea robots; SCADA and the radio spectrum
Research team developing Tesla coil designs; Implementing wireless process sensing
Commissioning electrical systems; Designing emergency and standby generator systems; Paralleling switchgear generator systems
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
Featured articles highlight technologies that enable the Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies to get data more easily to the user.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me