What’s the Deal with Straddles Anyways?

February 8, 2017
Posted by: Justin Engel

The internal combustion counterbalance forklift is one of the most commonly used pieces of equipment in the material handling industry and is what most people picture when they think about a lift truck.  Yet, in more confined narrow aisle applications, standard forklifts are too cumbersome and bulky to move goods and materials in a safe and efficient manner.


In these constrictive work environments, narrow aisle alternatives to traditional forklifts are favored for their compact and maneuverable designs.  The improved maneuverability of these models – most notably straddle stackers and reach trucks – is often achieved by replacing the ponderous counterweights used in most forklifts with a set of stabilizing outriggers.


These outriggers, widely known as straddle legs, extend from the front of the machine to prevent it from tipping forward while lifting a load.  This, in turn, substantially reduces the amount of clearance required to operate these units, making them an ideal fit for narrow aisle applications.


Manufacturers have taken full advantage of the straddled design since its introduction in the early 1950’s, leading to its widespread use and popularity throughout the material handling industry.  Since then, countless models have incorporated the straddled design, with each new model addressing a new area of need, work environment or application.  With such a large number of possible variations, determining what type of stacker is best suited for your needs can be a difficult process unless you are familiar with what’s available on the market.  Taking that into consideration, we’ve created a list of the basic types of straddle lifts to help guide you through the selection process:


The Manual and Semi-Electric Straddle Stacker

The most straightforward option available in terms of straddled lifts, manual and semi-electric straddle stackers serve as an ideal entry point for first time buyers.  With either manual (hand or foot operated) or power assisted lift functions, these models are generally used in low-volume applications for their low-cost and ease of upkeep.  Among the most common uses of the manual or semi-electric straddle stacker is in smaller retail operations, where they avoid ergonomically unsound hand-bombing and/or save hundreds to thousands of dollars in tailgate fees whenever trailers are loaded/unloaded without the aid of a drop-down tailgate.


The Walk Behind or Ride On Straddle Stacker

The next step up in terms of complexity, cost and productivity are electric straddle stackers, which feature fully electric lift and push-pull functions, thereby reducing the possibility of repetitive strain injuries caused by strenuous pushing and pulling.  With optional fold-down platforms and greater lifting capacities, these powered units offer a big upgrade in terms of productivity, particularly in applications that involve high volumes or longer distances between loads.  Possible applications include warehousing and retail environments which require vertical stacking of products and/or materials.


The Forkover Straddle Stacker

Although the straddle stacker was originally developed in an effort to increase storage density in warehousing applications, the straddle leg itself has since fallen victim to same concern it initially address.  With an increasing need to maximize available storage space, the development of the forkover straddle stacker and its interlocking fork and straddle setup eliminated the need for additional spacing in between loads to accommodate the side-mounted straddles.  When used in conjunction with bottomless skids or bins, the forkover straddle stacker allows for side-by-side stacking, and, as a result, provides an additional 6 inches (or more) of storage space per pallet and a 15% (or more) increase in horizontal storage density.


The Counterbalanced Stacker

In contrast to the straddle stackers profiled above, the counterbalanced stacker forgoes stabilizing straddle legs in favor of a heavy counterweight.  This design eliminates the need for wider shelving and uniform pallet sizes, but also eliminates the need for a crossbar setup beneath the shelving to accommodate the straddles while picking up loads. Similar to the forkover design, the counterbalanced stacker is widely used in warehousing applications where loads are stacked side-by-side to increase storage density.


As you can see, countless iterations of the straddle stacker exist, with models specifically suited to most applications.  If you’re still confused about what type best suits your needs, or would like information on Stärke comprehensive line of straddle stackers and reach trucks, contact your local Stärke dealership.


Justin Engel

Justin Engel is the marketing specialist at Stärke Material Handling Group. In addition to content development, he also handles graphic and website design, SEO, PR and strategic planning.

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