10 Things You Need to Know about Pallet Forks

A worker is operating a John Deere Pallet Fork

posted on Friday, March 8, 2024 in News

When working in industrial, construction, and agricultural environments, you’ll undoubtedly come across tasks that require large-scale lifting. In some cases, good old-fashioned manpower can get the job done, but in others, you’ll need to bring in the heavy machinery for heavy lifting. Pallet forks are a classic piece of equipment utilized for these heavy loads, capable of supporting several hundred pounds and moving large quantities of goods or materials at once. Given their prevalence in industrial workspaces, it’s important to understand the characteristics and capabilities of pallet forks, which will keep you safe and help you determine the best applications for their use. 

Here are 10 things you need to know about pallet forks:

1. Pallet fork basics. Pallet forks are commonly used for lifting, transporting, or stacking pallets, packages, and boxes that are too heavy to handle simply using human labor. They’re also used to lift or carry several large, heavy objects at once. Like many other construction vehicles, their versatility makes them ideal for tasks in several types of workspaces including industrial, construction-based, or agricultural environments. Pallet forks are regularly used for the following: 

•    stacking pallets
•    moving logs
•    moving fencing
•    lifting bales of hay
•    clearing brush piles
•    hauling rocks and stones
•    stacking boxes or packages
•    lifting and transporting bales of hay
•    installing fencing and more

While completing the tasks listed above (and any others), there are some considerations for safety that any pallet fork operator should keep in mind. Some of these include:  

•    Maintaining a low carry/transport position for the forks, to ensure balance of the vehicle while working
•    Make sure that forks are fully attached and connected prior to using
•    Fully engage the forks to lift and transport; avoid carrying loads at the ends of the forks
•    Refrain from using pallet forks for lifting or transporting rocks, tree logs, or other loose, heavily weighted material
•    Do not used forks that are bent or otherwise damaged

2. When to use pallet forks. Industrial environments require multiple tasks that necessitate the movement and adjustment of large items. In general, these types of environments are expansive, covering several dozen square feet. They also tend to include shelving and storage racks that extend several feet into the air, well beyond average human reach. In other cases, large items and pallets may be stacked and arranged in a way that will ultimately necessitate readjustment or reorganization, even at lower heights. In either case, this can make storing and retrieving items complicated and potentially dangerous for workers. That’s where pallet forks come in. When it’s time to move items that are excessively heavy or out of typical reach, you can use them, generally attached to a forklift or tractor, for assistance to complete these tasks. They are made for heavy lifting and transport to make work safer and more efficient. You should always be sure to follow site and equipment rules and regulations for safest use. 

3. Using your forks. Pallet forks are typically removable heavy-duty attachments that can be connected to a frame. The frame is then attached to a mobile industrial vehicle such as forklift, tractor, skid steer, wheel loader or another type of construction vehicle before being used for task work. In the case of clamp-on pallet forks, they connect directly to the vehicle. In most cases, operating these machines requires OSHA mandated and regulated training to ensure user competency and safety. To learn more about regulations and trainings, we encourage you to visit the OSHA website for reference. 
4. Pallet fork sizing. Pallet forks are available in several sizing configurations, allowing you the flexibility to make your selections based on your specific job uses. The following are regular options you can find:

•    Standard Duty Forks – Frame width measures between 42 and 53.3 in.; frame height measures 39 in.; overall length measures between 49.3 and 55.3 in. with frame; overall weight measures between 397 and 407 lb. with frame; fork thickness measures 1.4 inches.
•    Heavy Duty Forks – Frame width measures at 48 in.; frame height measures 38.5 in.; overall length measures at 55.7 in. with frame; overall weight of 602 lb. with frame; fork thickness measures 1.78 inches. 
•    Severe Duty Forks – Frame width measures between 60 and 68 in.; frame height measures 37 in.; overall length between 60 and 72 in. with frame; overall weight measures between 790 and 854 lb.; fork thickness measures 2 inches.

Of course, your pallet fork decision depends on the type of work you’ll be doing and more specifically, the overall size and weight of objects that need handling. You can decide on the pallet fork sizing you need by assessing the weight of the vehicle plus the weight of the forks against the weight of the objects you’ll be handling. You’ll also want to consider the vehicular load center and ensure that the pallet forks are long and wide enough to handle the objects you’ll need to lift or transport. Load capacities for pallet forks can range from 2,500 lb. to 10,000 lb. Always check equipment manuals or consult with a dealer specialist for additional help and support prior to using equipment if you’re unsure about operational specifics for the pallet forks you’re using. 

5. Straightening your forks. Straightening your pallet forks can be somewhat challenging and potentially dangerous. Even so, it often becomes necessary after intensive use. There are a few different methods that can be used to straighten pallet forks like welding to reconstitute their original shape, heating and bending to reform them, or using hydraulic force to flatten them. But, before getting carried away with a DIY effort, keep in mind that doing so is prohibited per OSHA regulations and without prior expressed consent of the equipment manufacturer. In short, consult with your local Tri County Equipment dealer to arrange fork repairs and avoid unnecessary or unwanted circumstances. 

6. Adjusting your forks. As it pertains to traditional pallet forks, adjustment tends to be a relatively simple action to perform. Find the switch in the cab that manipulates the forks on the horizontal axis to bring them closer together or separate them as your work requires. For vertical adjustment, there’s usually a separate control but it’s equally as easy to manipulate. As for clamp-on forks, it’ll take a little more work on your part, but adjustment is still a fairly simple process. You’ll need to manually screw or unscrew them, moving them closer together or farther apart as your specific tasks necessitate. If your forks are bent and need to be adjusted to their original shape, remember it’s best to consult with a specialist at your nearest Tri County Equipment branch to arrange for those repairs.
7. Maintaining your forks. Pallet fork maintenance usually requires keeping a close eye on them for anything that appears to be outside the ordinary and noting physical or operational abnormalities. Pay close attention to the shape of your forks. If you notice cracks, bends, weak weld points, fasteners that are worn, weak, or missing or anything else beyond the manufactured condition, it’s good to arrange for repairs or replacement. Also keep in mind that the forks should never be used in ways that are not recommended as this can cause damage to the equipment and products you’re handling or cause injury for operators and bystanders. Lastly, do not try to make fork repairs on your own. If you notice damage, consult the owner’s manual, or reach out to your local Tri County Equipment dealer for support with adjustments or repairs. 
8. Clamp-on forks. Clamp-on pallet forks present an alternative option to the traditional pallet fork configuration that requires connecting the forks to the frame and the frame to the vehicle. Instead, the forks are individually clamped to a straight-edge skid steer or tractor bucket, then secured with large screws. The benefit is that you can decide the distance between the forks, arranging them to be as close together or far apart as the buck ends will allow. If you realize you need further fork stabilization and support, you can add a horizontal crossbar that connects them at their bases (along the edge of bucket) as well as with chain binders that vertically hook at the opening of the clamp base and the top of the skid steer bucket. Like traditional forks, clamp-on options are typically rated to support several hundred pounds and work efficiently if used as recommended by the manufacturer. You should note that it’s wise to assess the condition of your vehicle to determine its level of fitness for supporting clamp-on forks. Additionally, be aware of the sizing parameters of the materials you’ll handle and use discretion or consult the equipment manual to determine best practices before using.

9. Where to purchase clamp-on forks. With a quality selection of pallet forks to meet the needs of your industrial and construction site, John Deere has you covered.  Varying fork configurations ensure you will have the equipment you need to meet standards for specific tasks. After determining the intensity of your work, choose from standard, heavy, and severe fork options for the trusted optimal experience John Deere equipment is known to produce in task performance. Whether you’re transporting, lifting, or sorting, John Deere pallet forks are the go-to options to get your job completed. Visit Tri County Equipment to learn more about clamp-on forks and make your next equipment purchase.

10. Pallet fork attachments. With a variety of attachment options available, Tri County Equipment is here to help you get what you need to produce quality work results. If you’re looking for a pallet fork to finish tasks on your job site, our selection of pallet forks is available for purchase or rental with new and used options available. Whether you need pallet forks for tractor vehicles or skid steer pallet forks, you can depend on us to provide the equipment for easy, effective, and efficient work. For more information, contact your local Tri County Equipment branch to speak with an equipment specialist today. 

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