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Reach Trucks

Reach Trucks – The Solution For Fast Paced Operations In Tight Places

Reach forklift

If you have, or are considering converting to, a high density warehouse operation, the reach truck is the materials handling vehicle that will become a "must have" for efficient operation.

Reach trucks are a variant of the standard sit-down forklift that are specifically designed to operate in narrow aisle warehousing areas. Their unique design allows them to stack and pick loads in an aisle space about 25% less than a standard lift truck. That kind of space savings allows a warehousing operation the ability to add additional racks significantly increasing the productivity of the facility.

Reach trucks are compact units in which the driver either sits sideways and steers the truck by looking left or right or stands. At the "front" of the unit are two stabilizing legs equipped with "load wheels" extending out and under the forks. These legs provide a solid platform that allows the truck to safely lift loads to exceptional heights. When the mast is raised it can then be "rolled down" the stabilizing legs "reaching" into the racks. This is the characteristic that gives the truck its value as well as its name.

If you need a materials handling solution for narrow aisle storage space, you should give serious consideration to these compact warehouse workers.

Increasing Material Handling Productivity

Generally speaking, reach trucks are ideal vehicles for use in general warehousing, retail, grocery wholesale, or any business that requires fast turnover between the dock and the sales floor.

Manufacturers have designed several models of reach trucks to meet different customer requirements. However, reach trucks can be generally classified into two groups based on the position of the operator. Most reach lifts will be described as "sit-down" (and sit-down in this case means sitting down sideways) or "stand-up."

Which type you use really depends on how the operator typically spends his or her day. If your operator spends most of the shift on the truck, then the sit-down model makes sense. If however your operator is required to frequently dismount, the low step stand-up version of the reach truck is a better fit.

In the sit-down version, the driver's seat faces the stacks. This is a space saving design that lets the truck work in narrow aisles. However, because the driver faces away from the forks he has move his head left or right in order to steer. The same holds true when operating the forks. When the forks are at a right angle to the stacks, the driver will be facing the aisle. The ergonomic design of the seat and controls become important to reduce neck and shoulder strain.

The stand-up model has the advantage of better visibility and less strain on the shoulders. In addition, many manufacturers are now providing optional controls that allow the operator to drive the truck while facing backwards and trailing the forks.

While different models have different features, here are a few characteristics that are common among all reach trucks:

  • As a rule, reach trucks allow operators to be more productive. Thanks to the tight maneuverability of the truck, operators are able to move more pallets per hour than if equipped with a standard forklift. More productivity equals lower cost of overall ownership.
  • Reach trucks have fewer parts than a standard forklift meaning less maintenance and less downtime.
  • Reach forklifts are indoor, flat surface vehicles only. They have very low under-carriage clearance and cannot negotiate rough surfaces without damaging the battery or electric motor. They are equipped with polyurethane or cushion tires both of which wear quickly on uneven surfaces.
  • Reach trucks are generally powered by electric motors which means you will need appropriate space and power outlets for recharging and battery replacement.
  • All forklifts lose some of their "rated capacity" the higher a load is lifted. However, the stabilizing legs on a reach truck significantly reduce that loss of capacity compared to a standard lift truck.
  • The big advantage of course is the reach trucks maneuverability and power. All reach trucks can turn on a dime and some can lift a ton or more of material as high as three stories.
  • The ability to raise the forks to the desired height and then roll down the stabilizer legs and "reach" into shelving minimizes the opportunity of damaging goods with the forks on the way up or on the way down. Standard trucks require space to "back away" from the racks to achieve the same result.
  • On some models double stacking is possible. Longer forks and a scissor like extender allow the truck to "reach deeper" into the rack and place (or retrieve) two pallets stacked end to end. This practice significantly increases productivity.

Here are the critical specs on some of the industry's most popular reach trucks.

BrandTypeFuelCapacityMaximum Height
CrownSit-downElectric3,000 lbs.202"
RaymondStand UpElectric4,500 lbs.444"
HysterSit-downElectric3,500 lbs.281"
ToyotaStand UpElectric3,500 lbs.366"
YaleStand UpElectric3,000 lbs.230"

Reach Truck Safety Concerns

Safety is always an issue regardless of the type of material handling equipment used.

With reach trucks, driver visibility is the big concern particularly for the sit-down driver. When picking or stacking a load the driver has to look through the mast to see the fork tips. In some cases the mast will have a hydraulic piston running up the center of the mast obstructing a clear view.

In addition, reach trucks can raise loads 30' to 40' into the air. Determining how the fork tips line up with the rack at that altitude can be difficult. Obviously a mistake at that height can have disastrous results.

Manufacturers have responded to the issue by offering laser spotters that give a visual reference for the location of the fork in relationship to the rack and fork mounted cameras that can provide a real time image of the rack on an LED monitor mounted in the operator's cab.

Protecting operators from the stresses their bodies absorb as part of the job is a concern regardless of the type of forklift in question. World class ergonomic design of operator cabs has significantly improved the work environment for drivers.

Cost of Acquisition

Manufacturers and dealers of reach trucks do not publish prices for new equipment. To give you an idea of the market, we have included a short list of USED reach trucks currently being advertised:

  • 2008 CAT with 3,000 lbs. capacity for $23,900
  • 2008 Crown with 3,000 lbs. capacity for $6,900
  • 2001 Mitsubishi with 3,000 lbs. capacity for $14,900
  • 2005 Raymond with 3,000 lbs. capacity for $4,900
  • 2005 CAT with 3,500 lbs. capacity for $9,500

As you can see there is a wide variance in pricing on used equipment. Part of the difference can be attributed to optional equipment included but the biggest factor is the number of hours the machine has been in use. Hours is the equivalent of mileage on an automobile and can be used as an indicator of how much wear parts have already undergone.

If you are ready to explore reach trucks further we can help with our Forklift Pricing Tool.

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