Sack trolleys – an old technology that works

Sack trolleys are a material handling solution that dates from the 18th Century that is still in widespread use today.

There are many industries where workers are required to manually handle goods. While sacks can be lifted by hand, a worker soon gets exhausted after carrying a few. To make the task more efficient, trolleys were invented so that workers could move heavy objects.

The 18th Century

In the 18th Century, children as young as 11 worked in the docks. They were unable to lift the heavy spice sacks that grown men lifted, so enterprising engineers came up with the L-shaped sack trolley that the children could use to move sacks.

Like many great inventions, the sack trolley was a simple solution to a problem. The ledge is inserted beneath a sack, then the trolley is tilted back and balanced over large wheel so that it can be pushed.

Soon other trades began to use sack trolleys. The brewing trade found them useful for moving hops. Flour and potato sacks could be moved with sack trolleys at food merchants. Sack trucks were a common site on railway station platforms for moving luggage during the days of steam trains.

Modern sack trolleys

The modern sack trolley is not much different from the 18th-Century models. Instead of being constructed from wood, sack trolleys used at work are fabricated from tubular steel which makes the trolleys lightweight, yet very strong. Some sack trucks are made from aluminium. These are fine for occasional use in the garden, but tubular steel trucks will tend to last longer under heavy daily use.

There have been some innovations in sack trolley technology. Some sack trolleys have stair climber wheels to make them easy to move up and down stairs. For uneven ground, outsize wheels make trolleys more stable.

Wheels are no longer made from solid iron, with rubber and pneumatic wheels now common.

Sack trolleys have been adapted for different shaped loads. Curved back sack trolleys are used to carry cylindrical objects, while inclined sack trolleys with four wheels are useful for carrying high object such as furniture.

Folding sack trolleys are portable and adjustable sack trolleys can handle different size loads.

Health and safety

There are many instances when using sack trolleys can save strain injuries. A sack trolley protects the back and allows heavy loads to be moved without strain. When workers carry heavy items, there is always a risk of strain injury. Whenever possible, it should be compulsory for workers to use manual handling equipment like sack trolleys to reduce the risk of injury.

The future

Many warehouses are being automated with robots moving goods around. Some have predicted that robots will mean the end of manual handling and the demise of the sack truck. Robots are expensive, and this makes them unsuitable for small-to-medium businesses. Forklift trucks and other mechanical handling equipment are used, but many businesses still have need manual handling, which is why the sack trolley is here to stay.

Posted by Mark
12th July 2018

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