Driving tests

How can you unload or load a truck without a forklift?

A forklift is usually the best way to unload palletised freight from a truck, but if you don’t have a forklift, what can you use?

Manual pallet jack

Cheap, durable, but a bit dangerous if you’re on a slope. A good manual pallet jack can lift 1000-2000kg. You simply slide the forks into the pallet, pump the handle and it lifts the pallet a few centimetres off the deck. Now walk carefully and steer the pallet. If it starts to run away from you, drop the forks.

Electric (powered pallet jack)

Like a manual pallet jack but with a motor. They’ll deal with minor gradients easily and they don’t fatigue the operator like a manual pallet jack can.

Walkie stacker

A larger electric pallet jack, often ride-on and often with the ability to lift to the height of a truck deck. As there’s very little counterbalance, these machines usually have limitations as to what they can lift to height, otherwise they tip forwards or sideways. You’ll need to do a walkie stacker course to learn how to use it.

Truck loader crane

Truck loader cranes can have fork attachments, or slings can be used. You’ll need to do a truck loader crane course to learn how to use it.

Using a sling to unload a pallet with a crane

By hand

Time consuming, but if you can break the freight down and form a human chain, it can be done relatively quickly. The issues are injuries and fatigue.

Front-end loader

If you have access to a front end loader with a forks attachment, these can unload a truck if there’s access from the side (e.g. with a curtainsider). You’ll need a wheels endorsement if you want to drive one on the road, plus some competency training.


A telehandler with a forks attachment is a versatile machine. You’ll need a wheels endorsement if you want to drive one on the road, plus the relevant unit standards.

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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