Op’s Most “Go To” piece of Equipment

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Welcome back to Warehouse and Operations as a Career! We had an email question about Hand Trucks, a listener was wondering if there was a training course offered by anyone for its use? I gather there’s a position she’d like to apply for that had listed its use in the Job Description. She stated with 2 years of warehouse experience she had not had an opportunity to use one, seen them, but was a bit anxious about using it. I found this to be a great question! I’m Marty and let’s talk about the Hand Truck and its use today, we’ll start out at my go to internet knows everything site Wikipedia: Upon a search on Hand Truck Wikipedia states:
A hand truck, also known as a dolly, two wheeler, stack truck, trolley, trundler, box cart, trolley truck, sack barrow, sack truck, or bag barrow, is an L-shaped box-moving handcart with handles at one end, wheels at the base, with a small ledge to set objects on, flat against the floor when the hand-truck is upright. The objects to be moved are tilted forward, the ledge is inserted underneath them, and the objects allowed to tilt back and rest on the ledge. The truck and object are then tilted backward until the weight is balanced over the large wheels, making otherwise bulky and heavy objects easier to move. It is a first-class lever.
Sack trucks were originally used in the 18th century to move large sacks of spices on docks by young boys, from the age of 11, who were unable to lift the large sacks by hand. By using this method they were able to work as well as grown men in moving items around. Later, such trucks were amended for use in many different industries, such as brewing, where hops were moved in sacks. And Wikipedia goes on to describe materials used and a few different types of units. And there’s a lot of other examples and thoughts about hand trucks available on the internet and hundreds of different images, some are really innovative and interesting, check them out.
Well I guess that’s a pretty good, all be it short explanation of probably the most versatile tool used in our industry. Hand trucks or two wheelers are used in almost every industry, I think it’s kind of like a ladder, there’s always a use for one even in our day to day lives. You’ll find them in Office environments, mail rooms, retail stores, and even in professional buildings. It’s the perfect tool to move a box or an item from point A to point B.
When moving a couple of file boxes from one cubicle to another I’d probably agree, as long as one applies some common sense and is careful, there’s not any special training required and the task can be accomplished by pretty much anyone. But, when you’ll be moving 1500 cases throughout 20 different stops, working with it in a loaded trailer, coming down a trailer ramp and navigating through doorways and around the many obstacles encountered by todays delivery drivers and driver helpers a bit of training, practice and experience sure can make the task a bit easier and much Safer to accomplish.
I know some drivers that own and carry as many as 5 and 6 dollies or hand trucks with them each day. At large stops it’s so efficient to load up several and run one after the other into the account or have a helper loading up one while you’re running one. The typical set up would be like 3 regular hand trucks and 2 breakdowns. And I’d hope all of them would be equipped with hand breaks.
Although breaks aren’t really important when just moving a few boxes around the office, I think they should be mandatory when rolling 300# down a trailer ramp to a sidewalk or a curb. Even as an add on piece of equipment the investment is worth it.
Ramps can be dangerous, think about it for a second. We’re behind 250#, have it balanced going down a ramp with pneumatic or rubber composite tires on our two wheeler with about 3 inches on either side of our ramp guides or ledges with gravity pulling us at a pretty good clip and one of those wheels touches the ramps side. It’s going to stop, immediately come to a stop, and our load, hand truck and us as well will continue in motion until we hit the ground, wall or building. I’ve seen broken legs, broken hips and head injury’s result in such a spill. Brakes can keep that speed regulated a bit & exercising caution and some common sense will go a long ways to preventing such an accident.
As for training courses available I’d refer to experience. And there’s a lot of You Tube Videos by users and manufacturers both. We’ll be moving weight with it, it’s important we position the first case securely and evenly on the blade, or ledge of the hand truck, the piece that’s on the ground when the dolly is standing up. As we stack other cases on top of the first one make sure we’re stacking them heaviest and sturdiest to lightest and crushable being on top. Never stack over our sight line or the handle or height of our hand truck, and be careful not to overload our equipment. Every truck comes with its weight limit, remember that’s the structural limit of the unit, not necessarily a weight we as individuals can handle. When breaking over the load or pulling the load towards us or off the ground learn to find that angle or point where the weight is on the truck’s wheels and not on our shoulders or backs & comfortably moves when pushed or pulled. Its best to always stay behind the load, another words pushing it forward, for obvious reasons, not just ergonomics, you don’t want to get ran over by the load if on uneven ground. Remember the weight, its heavier than it feels, if we’re doing it correctly, and the load is wider than the wheels or axle possibly. Watch for door jams, doors and walls when navigating hallways and corners, oh and thresholds or floor drains, both of those can yank the load from your hands if you’re not careful, I’ve lost loads to both before.
Experience is the best teacher, use caution, go slow, be careful and stay focused and you’ll learn you can get into and out of some pretty tight places with your loads, once you master it, it just becomes an extension of your arms. It’s really an amazingly efficient piece of equipment.
As I mentioned there’s all kinds of hand trucks, the breakdown we mentioned earlier can transform from a regular upright dolly to a cart type unit that you can load much more product on and push through hallways and elevators. There’s units made to move barrels and drums around safely with & today we even have stair climbers with electric climber wheels and battery packs built in.
And so many accessories, from brake units to pouches for holding small splits or individual or loose items and paper work. Wheels and tires are probably the most important and customizable, I’ve seen some pretty tricked out delivery dollies, and some serious paint jobs too! I think one of the most useful accessories is the curb ramps, their light weight, can be tossed around easily, they come in both aluminum and plastic and are really inexpensive for the efficiencies they can bring. It’s much easier to pull the load up a ramp than try to pull the dead weight of the load up a curb.
Hand trucks can be made of fiberglass, aluminum or steel to super lightweight yet strong magnesium frames and of course from cheap to inexpensive to very expensive. As with any work tool you typically get what you pay for and when it comes to our work equipment I personally feel the best is better, at least spend enough to be dependable, long lasting and Safe.
A couple of other tools us as warehousemen may need some experience with or training in their use could be manual Dock Plates, how to pull the release chains and properly walk them down securing the trailer lip properly. And wheel chocks or trailer chocks, a very important item to have in place before entering a trailer to load or unload. Many newer facilities may utilize hydraulic dock plates and trailer locks, either way it’s important we understand their usage & operation, always ask questions if you do not understand them or have not been shown how they work.
I hope we helped you today, if you’d like more information on any of today’s topics please shoot us an email – host@warehouseandoperationsasacareer.com and we’d be happy to answer them individually or send over some reference materials. We’d appreciate a follow on our Twitter feed @whseandops, we talk and share quite a bit on Shifts and Leadership there. Remember the work we do can be repetitious to some degree and we can get comfortable with it. Please be cautious, follow the Safety rules, practice safe lifting techniques and always respect your powered equipment, Lets all leave each shift as we started it, healthy and happy! Until next week please treat Safety as Priority #1!

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