Side Loader Forklifts

Side loader forklifts are ideal for loading long, awkward, or oversized items.

Side loader forklifts are ideal for loading long, awkward, or oversized items. (Courtesy: Atlet, Inc.)

All of you are familiar with standard forklifts. They are configured so that the forks are located in front. However, you may not be aware of the existence of side loading forklifts. These lifts are configured to lift loads on the side.

Although the market for such lifts is small, side loaders are commonly used in warehouses that store timber, glass, steel, aluminum, construction and aviation industry products, and windmill arms and moldings. In short, they are used to lift long, awkward or oversized items.

They first started to appear in the United States in the early 1950s as the result of a request from the United States Air Force. They were first introduced to Europe in the late 1950s.

The driver’s cabin of a side loading lift is similar to that of a standard forklift. It is placed high on the forward or aft portion allowing the driver an unobstructed view of the front and rear. The mast of the side loader, which performs the loading and unloading, is located on the driver’s right side. The load lies on a wooden or metal deck, which helps to reduce stress, distortion and damage to the items being transported. Its design makes it ideal for maneuvering in narrow aisles and can be used either indoors or outdoors.

This style of forklift offers a number of benefits including faster travel speed, safer operation because of better visibility, and more efficient use of available space.

Manufacturers of side loading forklifts offer a variety of customized accessories and attachments that permit the machine to be used in specific applications. They include beams, tilting arms, extenders and rollers that assist the lift to handle items that are of various forms, dimensions and weight.

Moreover, manufacturers offer two different styles of side loading lifts so that they can perform standard forklift duties. They include four-way and multi-directional machines.

The four-way side loading lifts feature three wheels, which help to assure better stability on uneven surfaces. Multi-directional side loading lifts have four wheels that can be steered separately so that the machine can move in any direction.

Multi-directional and four-way side loaders can handle 1-ton to 55-ton containers and you can find models that run on battery or propane or diesel gas.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Because of their design, the side loading forklifts have a number of advantages to standard lifts. They include:

· Side loading lifts can move up alongside racks or trucks for easier loading and unloading.
· Side Loading lifts can be used in narrow aisles and can drive through narrower doorways.
· Longer loads including timber, steel or pipes are more easily handled because the load is facing the direction the lift is moving
· A flat bed on the side loading lift permits the load to lie more stabile for safer movement.
· The driver of a side-loading lift has better visibility of the front and rear.
· New side loading lifts have the ability to steer each of four wheels independently so the machine can move in all four directions.

Disadvantages of the side-loading forklift include:

· Side loading forklifts are not as maneuverable as standard forklifts. However, the multi-directional side loading lifts do maneuver better than the four-way side loading forklifts.
· Side loading forklifts are more specialized than conventional forklifts, so there may be a need to purchase accessories or attachments to assist in handling other types of loads.

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