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From tructractor to forklift

The lift truck, also known as the forklift, is likely one of the most important, yet, often disregarded industrial advancements. This machine is extremely practical for moving goods over short distances. The forklift has greatly evolved since the early days of chains and winches. Innovations in technology and the need for increased efficiency during WWII as well as the arrival of the shipping pallet greatly influenced the development of the forklift.

The first forklifts

In the late 1800s, chains and winches were used in order to handle heavy items. From these hoists, wooden platform trucks appeared at the turn of the 20th century. It was not long until these wooden trucks had built-in electric trailers and traction batteries.

The first electric lift truck is considered to be a crane with a power lifting mechanism that was designed to aid in the war effort of WWI.

The CLARK Equipment Company is credited with pioneering the first “fork lift truck” in 1917. These fork lift trucks, known as “Tructractors”, looked more like a tractor with a platform that was loaded and unloaded manually. During the 1920s, these “Tructractors” evolved into machines with hydraulic power to lift vertically. These early lift trucks could raise wooden crates a few inches off the ground and required the use of chains and muscle power. Even with limited lifting capacity, this machinery made freight moving more efficient.

In 1923, the first electric truck with a vertical mast and raising forks was launched by Yale. The lifting mechanism worked with a ratchet and pinion system.

Influence of the shipping pallet

It was not until the development of standardized shipping pallets in the late 1930s that the new forklifts surged in popularity. The arrival of the wood pallet enabled loads to be stacked uniformly which lead to further improvements of the forklift.

World War II

Yet another cause for the innovation of the forklift was World War II. More efficient methods of moving wood shipping pallets were needed to support the war effort and, as well, to compensate for the lack of manpower. The use of wooden pallets and the forklift were essential in getting supplies to the frontlines.

Increased Efficiency

Post war saw many companies seeking to be more efficient. By the 1950s, it was clear that storage methods needed to change and many warehouses were expanded vertically. More powerful and manoeuvrable forklifts were needed to enable wood pallets and crates to be stacked higher and in closer proximity. New forklifts could work in tighter spaces and lift loaded pallets 50 feet above the ground.

Throughout the 1960s, the forklift continued to evolve with the arrival of new technology. By the late 1960’s, forklifts were equipped with sophisticated electronic controls.

Safety Concerns

The ability to lift wooden pallets caused legitimate safety concerns for the operators. Operator cages were introduced in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Forklift safety remains a key engineering issue. Balancing technology is constantly applied in order to prevent tipping.

Forklifts are a far cry from the “Tructractors” of the 1920s. Today’s forklifts are ergonomically and technologically designed to increase productivity, efficiency and handling of shipping pallets throughout the world. L.C.N. inc. is a wood pallet manufacturer that uses knowledge and expertise acquired from more than 50 years of manufacturing several million wood pallets and wooden crates. Contact L.C.N. inc. for your shipping pallet and wood crate needs.

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L.C.N inc.
1180, Route 243, C.P. 210
Saint-Félix-de-Kingsey (Québec)

Telephone: 819 848-2521
fax: 819 848-2424
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