Proper Ways to Use a Material Handling Dolly

Proper Ways to Use a Material Handling DollyThe humble dolly is one of the most useful – and most used pieces of material handling equipment. In its simplest form, it consists of nothing more than a platform resting on four wheels. Yet, it can transport an amazing variety of loads, from a stack of small boxes, to an item as large as a piano or as long as a sofa.

At Douglas Equipment, we specialize in supplying material handling equipment and casters to a broad array of customers. One of the things we have learned is that, while most people know what a dolly is, and may have even used one on a regular basis, they are often unaware of the tremendous range in sizes and styles of dollies, or the different configurations available.

Our goal in this article is to explain what a dolly is and it isn’t; when a dolly is exactly the right tool for the job; and how to properly it.

So What is a Dolly, Exactly?

Many people informally use the term “dolly” to refer to any piece of equipment that has wheels, and is used to move a load. In the material handling industry, we like to use specific terms to distinguish between the thousands of different pieces of lifting equipment. Using the right name helps to identify the right choice, among all the different possible pieces of equipment.

Def. Dolly – a dolly is a hand truck consisting of a platform on four wheels, with no handles. ‘Hand truck’, is the general term for equipment with wheels, used to move a load by hand.) You place a load on the dolly, and then push against the load to move it.

Here are some other pieces of equipment, used for similar purposes, but not the same as a dolly.

  • Cart (or Platform Truck) – This is a platform resting on four wheels, but it differs from a dolly because it has handles. You push against the handles to move the load – not against the load itself.
  • Two-Wheeled Hand Truck – Mentioned in the example above, this has two wheels, a tall handle, and a nose plate. To move a load, you slide the plate under the load (or stack the load on the plate), lean the handle back to lift the load from the floor, and then wheel it away.
  • Pallet Truck (or Pallet Jack) – This is designed to work with loads stacked on pallets. It has two forks resting on wheels, and a long handle. Slide the forks under the pallet, raise them off the floor, and wheel the pallet to its destination.

When we use the term ‘dolly’, we’re referring to a platform on four wheels, with no handles. Other configurations are possible. Some piano dollies, for example, have three wheels. Other dollies have a ‘platform’ consisting of an open frame.

When is a Dolly the Right Tool for the Job?

The type of load you must move will help you decide if a dolly is the best choice. There are two distinguishing features about loads that could help make them compatible with dollies.

Can You Lift the Load Onto the Dolly? – In most cases, you must lift the load onto the dolly. This differs from two-wheeled hand trucks, where you can slide the nose plate under the load, and avoid lifting it by hand; or the pallet truck, where the forks do all the lifting.

If you can lift the load and position it on the dolly, then a dolly might be a good choice.

Can You Push Against the Load to Move the Dolly? – Dollies don’t have handles, so to make the dolly move, you push against the load itself. This differs from the cart, where you can push against the handles to set the cart in motion. If your load is fragile, and can’t withstand someone pushing against it, then you might want to consider another option material lifting option. However, if the load is not fragile, then a dolly might work well for transporting your load.

How to Use a Dolly

Now that we know what a dolly is, we know that we can lift the load, and that we can push against the load to move the dolly, let’s look at proper ways to use dollies to move loads.

  • Platform Dolly – If your load needs to be supported from underneath, then use a dolly with a solid platform. This is a good choice if you must move a stack of small boxes, bags of concrete or fertilizer, or anything small, loose or floppy.
  • Open Frame Dolly – For loads that can support themselves, such as large or bulky items, consider using an open frame dolly. It’s made from four boards bolted together. (Bolts are recessed, so they won’t mar the load.) Open frame dollies are lighter than platform dollies, and are easier to pick up and carry.
  • Protect the Load – Dollies can be made from wood, plastic or metal, and are available with carpeting or rubber pads to protect the load from scratches or dents.
  • Consider Using a Tow Handle – Dollies are available with optional tow handles and eye hooks. You can use the handle to pull the dolly along, without having to bend over.

Call Douglas Equipment for the Best Choices in Material Handling Dollies!

If you call the experts in our customer service department at 800-451-0030, or 305-888-3700 in the Miami area, we would be happy to discuss the many types of dollies that we can provide. You can also reach out to us online. We hope to hear from you soon!