Un/Loading Equipment

The equipment required to load and unload vehicles varies from human labour to sophisticated and heavy-duty machines. Loading and unloading needs to be done efficiently and is time-critical.

Human Labour

The most common way to un/load vehicles is to do it by hand. This can sometimes be referred to as “handballing”. In recent times handballing has declined in favour of mechanised lifting equipment. This is especially true of industrialised regions and particularly where labour costs are higher and where health and safety regulations are tighter.

This type of un/loading can be inefficient if it is not organised well, even if it is being performed by one person.

Humans will move items individually whereas lifting equipment will often move batches of goods on tertiary packaging containers such as pallets. Handballing increases the possibility of damage to goods as more of them are exposed to individual movement and subsequent hazards.

Those who perform handballing can be prone to injuries, especially back injuries. This can be mitigated using specific handling techniques. Handballing can lead to stock shrinkage through misappropriation.

Handballing can be advantageous in smaller organisations or when handling small loads as the driver may double as the un/loader therefore reducing labour hours. It is also efficient to use labour in regions where labour costs compare favourably to the cost of employing lifting machinery.

Pallet Truck

There are many versions of pallet truck. Some are ride-on vehicles with a powerful engines. Others may be hand pallet trucks that have no engine at all. Some are modestly powered in order to give the manual operator some assistance. The lifting mechanism is typically powered using hydraulic oil.

Pallet trucks are designed with two long forks protruding at the front. These forks are slid under a bulk load that is held on a pallet (wheeled or non-wheeled pallet). The load is then lifted a few inches/centimetres until it clears the floor. The pallet truck will be wheeled with the load to another location and then gently set down. Goods can only be un/loaded from a vehicle when the floor on which the pallet truck stands is at the same level as the floor of the vehicle.

Some pallet trucks have very long forks to enable two or more loads to be picked up at the same time.

Pallet trucks can come with various adaptations so that specialist loads can be handled.

Fork Lift Truck

A fork lift truck does the same job as a pallet truck but can also lift the load much higher. It can be used to place loads onto racking and can un/load a vehicle from ground level. There is an even greater variety of fork lift trucks than pallet trucks and many adaptations for specialist requirements.

Slip Sheets

One of the adaptations that can be fitted to a fork lift truck is a device that handles loads held on slip sheets.


A crane may be used to un/load vehicles, especially where goods are very large and are an odd shape. The are more likely to be used with ships and trains than with trucks or flying vehicles. Some cranes are mobile but others – especially those used to move containers – are fixed in one position,