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A Brief History of Forklifts


Before forklifts, manually powered hoists were typically used to lift loads. These hoists were mainly composed of chains and winches. The first platform trucks were essentially hoists that were mounted to a platform with wheels. The first forklift type vehicle was introduced by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906 for moving luggage at their train station in Altoona, PA. World War I also utilized various lift trucks mainly because of the labor shortage the war had caused.


One of the manufacturers you probably are familiar with today, Clark, started using powered lift tractors to transport material in their factories, and soon after Towmotor Company and Yale Manufacturing joined the mix. Hydraulic power forklifts and electric power forklifts started being developed through the 1920s.


Pallets were not standard sizes until the 1930s, but when this occurred forklifts became much more popular. As warehouse storage became more efficient, the demand for forklifts that could reach higher heights in less space increased. In the 1950s Lansing Bagnall, a British company, developed one of the first narrow aisle electric reach trucks. Narrow aisle forklifts are able to maneuver and operate in aisle widths that are considerably smaller than what a traditional forklift can operate in. Smaller aisle widths significantly increases storage density, so your facility can fit more inventory in the same amount of space.


The development of safety options became necessary as lift heights and capacities increased. In the 1960s, additional safety features such as overhead guards were added to forklifts to help protect the operator. By the 1990s, forklift emission standards started to be put into place to make emissions from lifts safer for the environment. Today’s modern propane forklifts can be operated indoors because they have very low emission output.


Today, there are a huge selection of different types of forklifts on the market. This may be confusing and overwhelming for new buyers. We would like to put your mind at ease, and we have a dedicated sales team to help do so. We have many different types of high quality used forklifts in stock, and the know-how to find the perfect fit for you. Feel free to give us a call today, we would be more than happy to provide solutions to your material handling problems.

Dock Plates, Dock Boards, & Dock Levelers


One problem to overcome with loading docks is bridging the gap between the open end of the truck bed and the warehouse floor. This causes a problem because not all warehouse floors are the same height from the outside pavement, and the truck beds are not always the same height either. The truck can only back up so close to the dock, leaving a gap, which also has a height differential. Dock boards, dock levelers, and dock plates are all devices that can be used to bridge this gap.


Dock levelers are typically permanent devices that are secured to the dock door, whereas dock plates and boards are considered portable and are not secured to the door. A dock leveler consists of a metal plate that is raised from a stored position and then lowered onto the back of the truck. Some dock levelers are manual, using a pull chain to raise and lower, but are most commonly hydraulic with an electric pump driving a piston to lift the plate.


Dock levelers are more expensive than dock plates and dock boards, and are suitable for motorized lift equipment like forklifts. They have a limited range of angles, so they must be used on standard dock and truck heights. The larger the height differential between the loading dock and the truck bed, the longer the dock board needs to be. Forklifts can only handle a 7-8 inch height differential over a 6 foot long leveler.


Dock plates and dock boards are very similar in appearance, but dock boards have a much higher weight capacity and side rails. The side rails is typically what gives away that it is a dock board, and also means that it is safe to use with motorized lift equipment. Dock plates have a much lower weight capacity and no side rails, so they can only be used with carts, dollies, and manual operations.


Dock plates are most often made of aluminum, whereas dock boards are made out of steel, and they both feature a diamond patter surface. This helps prevents wheel slips and human error while walking up or down an incline. Both dock plates and dock boards are portable, but dock plates are significantly lighter and easier to do so. Dock levelers are installed into the actual dock for more permanent operations.


Still need some help choosing the right dock equipment? American Surplus’s dedicated team of sales people will gladly work with you to determine which piece of dock equipment is most appropriate for your application. We provide material handling solutions to our customers, and have been doing so for over 20 years.