Do you have a warehouse as part of your business? How do you feel about the current way it is used and run? Do you think you are getting maximum use out of the space and are you able to find and retrieve pallets quickly and easily?
If you have asked yourself these questions and find yourself doubting the efficiency of your warehouse as a result, it might be time to consider hiring or buying a reach truck.
Particularly if the aisles in your warehouse are relatively small and close together, reach trucks can be your answer to quicker storage and retrieval operations, therefore allowing you to spend much more time on activities which add value, growth and progression to your business.
What are reach trucks?
Reach trucks are a type of forklift used specifically to reach items in a space with narrow aisles and often with high shelves. The most common places you will find them are in warehouses, where shelves are stacked high above our heads yet there isn’t much room to move around between racks.
Unlike a counterbalance truck, another type of forklift, these trucks can reach points that are usually impossible for other types of truck to get to.
Reach forklifts might look like balance would be a challenge for them, with their relatively small bodies yet the ability for the forks to stretch high into the sky, but actually this is not the case. The way they are designed, with their two outer legs to distribute the load and a small set of wheels at the rear, really helps with their balancing capabilities.
As the wheels are fixed on right below where the operator stands, the vehicle has a very tight turn radius, enabling it to move easily into smaller spaces where other trucks may not be able to go, yet still successfully reach high up places.
Essentially reach trucks are designed for people to use in warehouses due to their ideal combination of a maximum height on the lift and full freedom in terms of manoeuvrability.
How are reach trucks designed?
Reach trucks have a far more compact body than the usual counter-balance forklift you might see, even though the former’s wheel base length is usually the same as the latter’s. This is for the purpose already mentioned of being able to fit into tiny spaces.
Interestingly, the space for the operator actually varies depending on world geography. In North America, the operator stands up to use the truck, while in Europe the driver sits down sideways.
The reach truck has two outer legs in order to spread the load weight, and they may have one or two wheels per leg depending on the specific design.
How do reach trucks operate?
When ready to lift and transport a load, the operator will move the load backwards within the wheelbase. This is so as little of the load is sticking out as is possible, hence why reach trucks can operate in small spaces without knocking anything off the shelves.
Cleverly designed, the reach truck makes use of a scissor mechanism known as a pantograph, which means the forks and loads can extend forwards. So the operator will use this feature to reach in to shelving and racking.
The reach truck works by turning at a right angle so they can get up against the racking before reaching in to grab the needed pallet.
What are reach trucks used for?
Reach trucks are used predominantly in warehouses of all shapes and sizes. Most warehouses with narrow aisles would not have the space to fit and use any other type of forklift successfully, hence the need to invent the reach truck.
They really can squeeze themselves into tiny spaces. Their design allows them to operate in aisles less than around 2.5 metres wide, for instance.
With their design focus on stability and manoeuvrability, reach fork trucks can easily lift up to 2,500kg at any one time.
Even if they have a common use, this does not mean reach trucks can’t be used in other circumstances.
They can be operated outside, for example, except for when it’s raining. Unfortunately, because the machine is battery or electric powered, they cannot get wet.
Reach trucks could be used for the same sort of job as you might use a counter-balance forklift. The vehicle could also be fitted with extra attachments for specific lifting jobs.
Why are reach trucks useful?
1. They can reach into far places
As the name suggests, these trucks can reach their fork carriage way beyond the stabilising legs, therefore allowing them to reach much further into the shelving or racking.
2. They work successfully in tight spaces
Most warehouses are packed to the brim so that the space paid for is used efficiently and value for money is maintained. The only time this can become problematic is when needing to retrieve a pallet stored high up or deep in the racking.
This is why reach trucks were invented. They can retrieve these tucked away items with their ability to operate in extremely tight environments while often being able to lift over nine metres because of their stabilising legs.
3. Counterbalance weights aren’t necessary
Contrary to what you might believe, these forklifts do not need any counterbalance weights because their stabilising legs are designed with such precision.
How can they make your warehouse more efficient?
While there are other situations where you may find a reach truck useful, their design really does fit perfectly for situations where you have a high density of storage and need to both place and retrieve goods quickly. Aka a warehouse.
Some might say how on earth does the operator see what they are doing if they are trying to reach a pallet nine metres above them in the centre of a rack?
It’s a problem easily fixed. Reach trucks can be fitted with cameras attached to the fork carriage. These cameras transmit signals to a screen which the operator can see, therefore assisting them in picking up the right item.
So all in all, reach trucks are a fantastic way of enabling you to use maximum space in your warehouse while still being able to store away and then find whatever you need quickly.
The benefits of reach trucks
You might now be thinking about the situations in which you might make use of a reach truck, but what about the specific benefits of having your own?
1. They solve a problem
The most obvious benefit of a reach truck, but still worth mentioning, is their ability to stretch up to nine metres to retrieve items. Their reach capability is better than any other forklift.
2. They are cheap
Thinking from a business perspective, reach trucks work extremely efficiently. They do not need a lot of fuel to run. They are also designed to operate with high efficiency and low maintenance costs.
This means after your initial investment in the vehicle, there will only be a minimal cost associated with running your reach truck.
3. They are easy to operate
Similarly to their electric truck cousins, reach trucks are very easy to operate and to run.
They are designed with a side-seated operator position which gives the operator more visibility of the fork tips when carrying out their job.
4. They are quiet
Keen not to buy a forklift which creates even more noise disruption in your warehouse? CAT reach trucks include mast technology, meaning they are really quiet to use and shouldn’t result in any noise complaints, no matter where your warehouse is located.
5. They allow for more storage
A wider benefit of deciding to hire a reach truck is your newfound ability to increase your rack storage in your warehouse.
Even if you are putting some money into your new truck, you will make that back by being able to get even better value for your money in your warehouse.
Do you need a licence to drive a reach truck?
Like any other forklift, you do not need a driving licence to operate a reach truck. However, any driver must have the right training and certification to operate one safely.
Anyone wanting to operate a reach truck should seek an accredited course from recognised institutions like RTITB, AITT, ALLMI and ITSAAR.
Users will need to choose the right certification for their forklift since each one operates and works differently.
It is unlikely with a reach truck, but in the eventuality you were going to drive it on a public road, even for a very short stretch, further training would be needed.
Any employer must take the responsibility of organising this certification and training before any of their employees start operating a reach truck, or any other forklift for that matter.
Choosing the right reach truck from Hiremech
Maybe you’re at the point in your decision-making process where you definitely want to have a reach truck to use in your warehouse, but now must decide which one to go for.
CAT reach trucks are known as the industry leader for their incredible range of innovative features. This includes, in particular, the steering travel compensation, which essentially adjusts steering sensitivity automatically. It works in relation to speed of travel so that sharp turns and accidents in the truck are avoided.
If you feel confident that you have now chosen your reach truck, but also have a need for other types of forklifts, then make sure you consider all of your options.
Gas forklifts, electric forklifts, diesel forklifts, pallet trucks, and flexi trucks all serve different uses and solve a range of problems you might be facing.
Get in touch, we’d be happy to talk to you about reach trucks, or any of your other forklift needs.