Tractor instead of fork lift - newbie

RaleighRuckus

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May 12, 2022
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Greetings, I am researching purchasing a less than 40hp tractor with front loader and forks to move pallets of products we manufacture. The pallets are 48" x 48" x 92" tall and weigh #650s total and we ship and receive w 53' trucks w 48" floor height. I have been looking at forklifts but a friend recommended looking at tractors, specifically Kubotas, instead. I love the idea of the versatility. I am curious if anyone on here has similar needs or uses such a set up? I realize I will need a 525 loader or greater. Suggestions on counter weight options?
Thank you.
Mike
 

WoodKutter

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Equipment
L4600
Apr 15, 2022
10
13
3
Vermont
Does your shipping and receiving take place in a warehouse, or are you loading and unloading outside? Are these open sided trailers?
If your loading and unloading flatbed trailers outside, and have or need a tractor anyway it could be made to work. For nothing but loading and unloading, nothing beats the speed and efficiency of the appropriate fork lift truck.
 
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RaleighRuckus

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May 12, 2022
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Does your shipping and receiving take place in a warehouse, or are you loading and unloading outside? Are these open sided trailers?
If your loading and unloading flatbed trailers outside, and have or need a tractor anyway it could be made to work. For nothing but loading and unloading, nothing beats the speed and efficiency of the appropriate fork lift truck.
Loading and unloading from a dry (standard) trailer outside through rear door. We don't have a loading dock and there is gravel to travel over. I agree a lift is great in a warehouse or flat paved areas. I probably should have included those details. Thank you WoodKutter.
 

rc51stierhoff

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Equipment
B2650, MX6000
Sep 13, 2021
442
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63
Ohio
I am not sure if you are working with a box trailer or a flatbed, but a tractor with forks will be helpless in a box 📦 trailer if the pallets are two wide. Regarding a flatbed from the side a tractor is fine. If you don’t need a PTO I look at a wheeled loader if on pavement /concrete and tracked it off the pavement/concrete. Only benefit of tractor is the PTO or pull something and need visibility or the 3pt. IMO.
 
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RaleighRuckus

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I am not sure if you are working with a box trailer or a flatbed, but a tractor with forks will be helpless in a box 📦 trailer if the pallets are two wide. Regarding a flatbed from the side a tractor is fine. If you don’t need a PTO I look at a wheeled loader if on pavement /concrete and tracked it off the pavement/concrete. Only benefit of tractor is the PTO or pull something and need visibility or the 3pt. IMO.
The tractor will not be used in the box truck. Just loading and unloading at the rear doors. Pallet truck inside box truck to get pallets in position. Thank you rc51stierhoff.
 
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rc51stierhoff

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Equipment
B2650, MX6000
Sep 13, 2021
442
280
63
Ohio
I love both my tractors. I would not trade them for 10 relatives. The are like a Swiss Army knife or a good multi tool. I’d consider how high you want to lift and visibility. My B doesn’t lift ver much but has great visibility to grab a pallet on the ground. The MX will lift a lot but tires cover the tines to grab a pallet on the ground. I’d recommend if you go for a tractor to check the visibility with forks on before you decide. Loading or unloading an entir trailer would be a pain if the visibility is poor from the tines to the pallet. Just my thought.
 
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58Ford

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BX23s + LP cutter
Jan 1, 2022
91
57
18
SW Washington
I went through this is my last business. The answer for me was a forklift and you can get them with wheels that will work on/over gravel.
 
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Dieseldonato

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B7510 hydro, yanmar ym146, cub cadet 1450, 582,782
Mar 15, 2022
305
154
43
Pa
You may want to look at "off road" forklifts. Or a forklift with pneumatic tires. We run them around here everyday, not so hot in the grass, but gravel and stones are no issues. They arnt nearly as versatile as a tractor, but you should be able to find them pretty easily, and they will out maneuver and lift much more then a similar sized tractor with a loader.
Having said that, I think something in the lx or l series would have the lift capacity. No need to look for the high hp option as the loader is pretty easy on the engine. Ballast the rear tires. I managed an extr 330lbs between the 2 rear tires on my B. A larger tractor had larger tires and can hold more ballast. If needed a weight box can be constructed or bought for the 3 point of the tractor. But I think with the sized tractor I mentioned just having the tires filled would be sufficient.
 
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gmgmgm

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Equipment
B2150
Jan 22, 2020
2
4
3
United Kingdom
How many movements a week? If it's more than one/two, go for the forklift. A small tractor won't lift very high (8ft max), is very wobbly when lifting heavy pallets, and has much worse visibility. If the pallet contents are fragile or valuable, go with the forklift. You'd also need a counterweight on the back for practical use.

Forklifts are brilliant for moving pallets all day long, have good visibility (less chance of spearing the product or the truck) and are designed to work efficiently in a small space.
 
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RaleighRuckus

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May 12, 2022
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3
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I love both my tractors. I would not trade them for 10 relatives. The are like a Swiss Army knife or a good multi tool. I’d consider how high you want to lift and visibility. My B doesn’t lift ver much but has great visibility to grab a pallet on the ground. The MX will lift a lot but tires cover the tines to grab a pallet on the ground. I’d recommend if you go for a tractor to check the visibility with forks on before you decide. Loading or unloading an entir trailer would be a pain if the visibility is poor from the tines to the pallet. Just my thought.
Looking at the L2501. We don't load or offload more than 2-3 pallets at a time. Thank you.
 
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RaleighRuckus

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May 12, 2022
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You may want to look at "off road" forklifts. Or a forklift with pneumatic tires. We run them around here everyday, not so hot in the grass, but gravel and stones are no issues. They arnt nearly as versatile as a tractor, but you should be able to find them pretty easily, and they will out maneuver and lift much more then a similar sized tractor with a loader.
Having said that, I think something in the lx or l series would have the lift capacity. No need to look for the high hp option as the loader is pretty easy on the engine. Ballast the rear tires. I managed an extr 330lbs between the 2 rear tires on my B. A larger tractor had larger tires and can hold more ballast. If needed a weight box can be constructed or bought for the 3 point of the tractor. But I think with the sized tractor I mentioned just having the tires filled would be sufficient.
Great information. Thank you. I am looking at the L series.
 

RaleighRuckus

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May 12, 2022
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3
27612
How many movements a week? If it's more than one/two, go for the forklift. A small tractor won't lift very high (8ft max), is very wobbly when lifting heavy pallets, and has much worse visibility. If the pallet contents are fragile or valuable, go with the forklift. You'd also need a counterweight on the back for practical use.

Forklifts are brilliant for moving pallets all day long, have good visibility (less chance of spearing the product or the truck) and are designed to work efficiently in a small space.
All great points. At this location we would be moving 1-2 pallets per week. Looking at L series. Pallets need to be lifted 4' to go into trailer. Thank you gmgmgm!
 
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WoodKutter

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Equipment
L4600
Apr 15, 2022
10
13
3
Vermont
For a couple pallets a week, if you have other uses for the tractor, I change my advice. A proper size and balanced tractor should sure do it for you.
 
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NCL4701

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L4701, WC68 chipper, grapple, BB1572 box scrape, Howes 500, 16kW IMD gen
Apr 27, 2020
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Central Piedmont, NC
Only thing I would add is if you’re doing a good bit of pallet moving (or may increase usage with business growth) and you decide to go with a tractor rather than a forklift, consider getting a loader with self level. If Kubota (or whatever other manufacturers you may be considering) don’t offer self leveling in the relatively small size machine your looking at, maybe consider an aftermarket loader such as a Quicke C series: https://quicke.org/products/frontloaders/c09s/. Self leveling isn’t all that important, IMO, for bucket and grapple work, but it can make quite a difference for fork work where the boom height/curl coordination is more routinely a precision function.

I don’t do a lot of fork work so I went with a stock non-self leveling. If I was planning to use as a forklift routinely, particularly if my employees would be using it as such, I’d certainly consider it strongly.
 
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RaleighRuckus

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May 12, 2022
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Only thing I would add is if you’re doing a good bit of pallet moving (or may increase usage with business growth) and you decide to go with a tractor rather than a forklift, consider getting a loader with self level. If Kubota (or whatever other manufacturers you may be considering) don’t offer self leveling in the relatively small size machine your looking at, maybe consider an aftermarket loader such as a Quicke C series: https://quicke.org/products/frontloaders/c09s/. Self leveling isn’t all that important, IMO, for bucket and grapple work, but it can make quite a difference for fork work where the boom height/curl coordination is more routinely a precision function.

I don’t do a lot of fork work so I went with a stock non-self leveling. If I was planning to use as a forklift routinely, particularly if my employees would be using it as such, I’d certainly consider it strongly.
Great information! I have never heard of a self leveling capability on a tractor. Thank you for your insight.
 

RMS

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LX2610HSDC, RCR1260, PFL1242, LX2963, RB1684, WC-68 Chipper,Flail Mower
Sep 26, 2021
64
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18
Buckfield Maine
The lx series has the self leveller available as an option.
 
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jyoutz

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MX6000 HST open station, FEL, 6’ cutter, forks, 8’ rear blade, 7’ cultivator
Jan 14, 2019
1,047
522
113
Edgewood, New Mexico
If you’re moving pallets up 5-6’ high, go for a larger more stable tractor and ballast the rear wheels and have weight on the 3ph. I know a smaller tractor will lift the pallets your are describing, but a larger, heavier tractor will be more stable. A Kubota MX series or other brand equivalent ( or larger) will give your more stability and less pucker factor.
 
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