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A Tugger Selection Checklist

By Maureen Paraventi

Electric tuggers are extraordinarily versatile. They can be used to move small objects or ones that weigh 100 tons. They can travel over different types of surfaces and tow objects that are bulky or very large. One worker can operate a tugger safely and efficiently, without risking ergonomic injury or even experiencing physical exertion. Tuggers have a push-pull capability that forklifts – designed for lifting and lowering loads – lack, so they make useful additions to the equipment lineup of companies.

There are many models of battery-powered, pedestrian-operated tuggers available today. That abundance is good news for material management professionals, because it means that there are options to fit virtually any industry or application. The right tugger can save you time and be cost-effective. Keeping the following considerations in mind will be helpful when choosing a tugger that is appropriate for your application and budget:

The industries for which tuggers are a good fit – Tuggers are found in many warehouses and distribution centers, as well as in the manufacturing, construction, food, oil and gas, aviation, paper and pharmaceutical industries. This is by no means a comprehensive list.

The weight and nature of what will be moved – You don’t need a heavy-duty model if a light-duty one will let you achieve the desired level of productivity. Will your employees regularly be moving 1,000-lb. loads at a time, or ones that weigh 2,6000 lbs., 44,000 lbs. or more? Consulting with manufacturer’s representative (and working with a manufacturer known for producing high-quality products) will help you narrow down the choices and determine the optimal solution or solutions.

The surfaces and inclines over which the tugger will travel – Concrete, tile, laminate and other kinds of floors are no problem for these vehicles. However, because it takes greater force to move a load over certain surfaces, flooring can affect the maximum load capacity of the tugger, as can slopes along the tugger’s route.

Indoor or outdoor use – Make sure that the tugger you choose will be suitable for rainy weather, dust-laden air or tough terrain, if those conditions are likely. As with the item above, maximum load capacity may have to be adjusted for a tugger that operates outside of a conventional factory setting.

Battery longevity and charging time – Floor surfaces and slopes come into play here, as well, along with how often the tugger will be used and the weight of the loads it will tow. Tugger batteries can last for up to three years, depending on usage and charging practices. Charging batteries fully – with no interruptions – will extend their useful lives. So will charging batteries before they fall below the 30 percent level. You may decide upon a maintenance-free battery, a high-power battery or a standard battery.

How will the batteries be charged? – Both the wall-mounted charger and the on-board charger that come with your tugger will get the job done, but one is likely to give you a better performance. Ask your manufacturer’s representative for specifics.

Is the environment classified as hazardous? – The National Electric Code (NEC) assigns a Class I, Division 1 designation to facilities or areas in which flammable, combustible, or explosive elements are present or may be present during normal operations. When selecting an electric tugger that will be used in a Class I, Division 1 environment, you should also keep in mind the applicable group. For instance, if there are certain levels of flammable gases, vapors and liquids in your facility – like gasoline, methane, ammonia or acetone – you will need a tugger certified for Class 1, Division 1, Group D areas. If there are high temperatures in a tugger area, the temperature classification rating must also be kept in mind.

Wheel type – The ideal wheel will depend upon the load weights, floor surfaces and inclines. Materials include steel, polyurethane and polypropylene.

Maintenance requirements – Tuggers should be serviced according to a schedule based on usage.

Safety features – Although tuggers are generally safe, manufacturers have developed innovative ways to make them even safer. These include the addition of emergency stop buttons, warning horns, flashing safety lights and anti-crush buttons that cut the power if a worker comes into contact with the tugger.

Maintenance requirements – Tuggers should be serviced according to a schedule based on usage. Those used frequently – for at least 8 hours every day – should be serviced by a technician four times a year. Light and medium usage tuggers do best with two and three maintenance visits a year, respectively.

The tugger manufacturer is your best source of information. A reputable company will be willing to provide you with the information you need to choose the best tuggers for your needs.

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