Distribution systems have become more complex over the last few decades, with warehouses becoming denser, aisles narrower, and racking systems higher.  Innovations in forklift technology have followed in an attempt to meet increased demand for more warehouse density and higher stack heights. Here’s a look at the different aisle widths and the lift truck styles needed to accommodate them.

Wide Aisle (WA)

Counterbalance forklifts are the most common lift trucks used in warehouses and stores. They are for use in wide aisles, 11 ‘ to 13 ‘ or larger. They offer straightforward operation and have dual forks at the front of the truck that lift and transport the loads. The counterbalance lift truck (sit down or stand up) uses a 90 degree right angle turn and the operator drives up to the product or racking. This type of system is popular due to the ability to operate at the dock, in and out of trucks and in storage areas. These forklifts typically include a triple stage mast for loading and unloading trucks. A quad or four stage mast can be used to allow up to four high pallet stacking.

Counterbalance forklifts are for single deep racking, and three to four high pallet stacking.

Narrow Aisle (NA)

Narrow Aisle trucks trucks operate in aisles of 8 ‘ to 10 ‘ wide. Single deep reach trucks and double deep reach trucks operate in these widths. Industrial reach forklift trucks are renowned for their extended lift height (four to seven high pallet stacking), making them ideal in any warehousing situation with high rise storage pallet racking.

Very Narrow Aisle (VNA)

Very Narrow Aisle trucks operate in aisles less than 6 ‘ to 7 ‘ wide. There is often some type of guidance system (guide rail, wire guidance, or optical guidance) that is used to help the truck travel safely within the narrow aisles. VNA vehicles consist of man-up order selectors used to manually handle less-than-pallet-load quantities and turret trucks used to handle unit loads. 

Other VNA designs include a counterbalanced sit-down lift truck where the mast swings to 90 degrees, and a Bendi style, where the mast has been mounted to the steer axle located on the front of the truck.

The biggest difference between VNA trucks and all other lift trucks is that VNA trucks turn only the load while narrow aisle and wide aisle trucks must turn the entire vehicle. The man-up VNA trucks also allow efficient operation at greater heights than the man-down versions.

Other Aisle Widths

There are other trucks that are in between these classifications. These trucks are designed to function in aisles that bridge the gaps between wide and narrow aisle or narrow aisle and very narrow aisle. Side loaders, stand up straddle lifts, walkies, stacker’s, and stand-ups are some of these types of lift trucks.

Always consult your forklift documentation when making determinations about aisle widths. Many lift truck manufacturers have calculations designed for their vehicles. 

Next Level engineers specialize in material handling logistics & can help you determine the best storage layout for product flow. Connect with us to discuss your storage needs.

Photo Credit: By Maxke85 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Click on image to view source.