A pallet truck is an essential piece of equipment in any warehousing/logistics operation, and keeping it working reliably is of the utmost importance. Pallet trucks are an ongoing investment, and if you continue to provide them with the right levels of care and maintenance, they will offer you a long and productive working life in return.
Electric pallet trucks are designed by their very nature to be simpler, more reliable, and easier to maintain than traditional manual pallet trucks. The primary reason is because they use electric motors to do the heavy lifting, rather than relying on a potentially complex system of hydraulics. There are several common problems you'll find with hydraulic manual pallet trucks, such as needing to monitor and top up the hydraulic fluid, leaks, and air bubbles throughout the system. These aren't issues you'll have to contend with when you invest in an electric pallet truck.
Electric pallet trucks do, however, have their own maintenance considerations you'll have to take into account in order to get the best from them. Here's your step by step guide for ongoing electric pallet truck maintenance.
Step 1. Proper operator training
Before you even begin thinking about the machine itself, you need to make sure that your operators understand how to properly work it. How does this relate to maintenance? By and large, the most common problems you're going to face with your electric pallet truck are going to be through user-error rather than wear and tear or design flaws. So the first step in your maintenance programme for your electric pallet truck has to be operator training.
The right procedures
Electric pallet trucks are designed to be as user-friendly as possible; however, in a busy warehouse and logistics environment, it's easy to make mistakes. Investing just a little time in ensuring all your operators know how to properly operate the equipment will save you money in the long run.
Here's what you need to consider.
- Walk-around check - before the pallet truck is used at the beginning of the shift, give advice on what operators should be looking for to ensure it's ready for use
- Battery safety - show operators how to check the battery charge level, and how to change batteries if necessary. It's good practice to do this automatically at the end of each shift
- Starting procedure - electric pallet trucks have a very simple starting procedure, however it's important to ensure operators understand exactly what they need to do
- Speed control - the throttle of an electric pallet truck may be new to operators used to working with manual pallet trucks, ensure they know how to speed up and slow down safely
- Manoeuvring - an electric pallet truck is about the same in terms of dimensions as a standard manual version, be sure operators clearly understand its dimensions to gauge necessary space
- Storage - encourage another overall check at the end of the shift, and once again show users how to remove and replace the battery for recharging
Showing operators how to properly operate the pallet truck will be the best preventative maintenance you can invest in. It will help prevent component wear, battery failure, and accident damage going forward.
Step 2. Understanding batteries
The main difference between an electric and manual pallet truck is, of course, that the latter uses hydraulics while the former uses electric motors. Those electric motors will be powered by a heavy-duty battery - understanding how to use the battery and to best care for it will be very important in keeping the machine working reliably.
Safe battery swapping
The majority of electric pallet trucks will offer you the opportunity to replace the batteries on a regular basis. This allows you to keep the pallet truck essentially running twenty-four hours a day, by having one battery charging while another is in the pallet truck. The process for swapping the battery has been designed to be as simple and straight-forward as possible.
It's important, however, to make sure that operators safely and gently remove the battery from the electric pallet truck and place it in the charging dock. Any damage is going to have the potential to either impact the battery's efficiency or prevent it from working altogether. The batteries are intended to be able to resist some degree of impact, however consistent damage will cause it to fail.
Protection from the elements
If the pallet truck is going to be used in an environment that is regularly cold or wet, it's important to consider how this is going to affect it. Batteries are generally less efficient in cold conditions, and needless to say, allowing any water into the electrics will result in an unreliable machine at best.
Consider investing in optional further weather protection sleeves for your electric pallet truck if you're going to be using it in cold warehouse environments, or outside. They simply attach around key areas of the pallet truck, to prevent any damage from the elements and keep things at a more optimal working temperature.
Step 3. Fork checks
The forks are going to see consistent use with your electric pallet truck, and as such they can be prone to damage. This can be for a number of reasons, whether it be through simple wear and tear or general operator error. It's important to keep a regular eye on them, however, as if even minor damage can have a negative impact on the unit's efficiency.
The forks may be subject to regular chipping from not being fully lowered before being sent under the pallet. This may also lead to the tips bending. Poor understanding weight distribution may lead to the forks buckling over time, if heavy pallets are not loaded into the correct position - or if the pallet truck is consistently overloaded. Any buckling may lead to the structural integrity of the forks being compromised.
How you monitor fork wear
The key is to make this a part of the daily check around the machine. Understand what you should look for, and what to do when you find it.
- Check for any areas of consistent paint chipping, this will show you where the most stress is being placed on the forks
- Crouch down and make sure that the length of the fork is not buckling, bulging, or bending in a way it shouldn't be to indicate structural damage
- Ensure the fork tips have not been bent either upright or sideways, as they will take the impact of any crashes/improper loading
If any damage is found, it needs to be noted and reported immediately. Paint chips are somewhat unavoidable in a hard-working piece of equipment, but if you notice any structural damage you should get it fixed immediately. Simply leaving the problem will mean it gets worse over time, and the longer it continues the more expensive and time-consuming it will be to fix.
Step 4. General maintenance
There are several things you can do as a part of a general ongoing maintenance programme on your electric pallet truck to keep it working reliably. Your electric pallet truck is a simple device, in as much as there are few moving parts - so these are very quick and easy things to do, but they can have a big impact.
- Regular lubrication - the pallet truck will need greasing around its wheels and axles around once a month, in order to keep it moving efficiently
- Protect the wheels - make sure the truck is used on smooth surfaces and that the path is always clear of debris. This prevents the wheels chipping or buckling.
- Proper storage - when not in use, the pallet truck needs to be kept in a secure, safe environment, away from the elements
- Regular cleaning - dust, dirt, and grime can cause damage to the truck over time, so it should be cleaned as thoroughly and as regularly as possible
Step 5. Daily checks
One of the best methods of preventative maintenance for any piece of working equipment, but particularly an electric pallet truck, is the thorough daily check. This should be done before the pallet truck is used at the start of the shift, and after it's put back at the end of the shift.
What to look for
The daily check should comprise of:
- All-round visual check to look for damage to the forks, wheels, control panels
- Electrics check, to ensure the pallet truck powers up properly and holds charge
- Moving the truck forward and back, and side to side, to check for noises/malfunctions
- Battery condition check to ensure that the battery going in is not damaged in any way
- Check the battery that is coming out of the truck and going into the charging dock for same
- Make a thorough report, ideally with pictures, of any damage found and notify immediately
This should become second nature over time and will help isolate any issues as and when they arise.
Get in touch
An electric pallet truck is a highly reliable and simple to operate piece of equipment. Understanding these key tips for their usage will ensure you get many years of dependable service.
For more information on pallet truck maintenance, or to browse a wide range of available pallet trucks, contact SHS Handling Solutions today.