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.

Manual pallet jacks can be tiring to an operator and if they cause injuries, this can lead to broken sleep and fatigue.

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 has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

Posted in Advice, Heavy Vehicle