When it comes to beverage delivery, safety is a top concern. However, drivers also are interested in delivering more product in less time, says Kari Michalski, channel manager for Magline Inc., Standish, Mich. As operators work to juggle these two goals, many others are being thrown into the rotation.

For instance, bulk loads, larger package sizes and the delivery environment each represent an additional “ball” being thrown to the juggler — or in this case, the operator. Luckily, with so many balls in the air, carts and hand trucks have adapted accordingly to offer solutions that enable operators to meet multiple needs without “dropping the ball.”

Ease of use

The first solution comes in the form of ergonomics, which increasingly is gaining influence in the industry, Michalski says. The most significant ergonomics issue is strain, which often impacts drivers’ backs, wrists and shoulders, she notes. In fact, a March 2014 presentation on hand trucks and ergonomics by Magline reported that the potential direct medical cost associated with an injury to the wrist can reach $6,500; an elbow injury can reach $9,800; a shoulder injury can reach $11,500; and a back injury that doesn’t require surgery can reach $8,700, while a back injury that does require surgery can reach $58,000. However, by selecting the appropriate cart or hand truck, drivers can reduce the amount of stress on their bodies.

One simple option is to equip the handles of carts and hand trucks with bigger, softer grips without finger grooves, as opposed to hard
plastic grips with grooves, to improve comfort, Michalski says.

“If a driver is provided with the right hand truck for his [or her] height with a good, ergonomically designed handle, that’s going to help,” she says.

She also notes that Magline is in the process of developing something specifically designed to take stress off of the shoulders and arms of delivery personnel, although details are not yet available.

Suppliers also have designed carts and hand trucks particularly for heavy items, such as a high quantity of beverage cases or a single vending machine. Ultra Lift Corp., for instance, specializes in the manufacture of ergonomically designed, powered hand trucks designed to transport vending machines, coolers and fountain equipment.

“Ultra Lift operators use a combination of motorized lifting plus instantly adjustable leverage and balance to reduce operator effort and improve operator safety in all types of equipment moves,” explains George Dabb, president of the San Jose, Calif.-based company. This includes moving items over curbs or rough terrain, on and off trucks, and up and down stairs, among other scenarios, he notes. In the process, the hand trucks also help operators avoid damaging the equipment or buildings while in transit, he adds.

Ultra Lift powered hand trucks are part of a significant expansion of powered hand trucks within the beverage industry, Dabb says.

In this powered accessory realm, Magline offers a powered stair-climbing hand truck that is especially ideal for bar delivery, Michalski notes. Bar delivery usually consists of multiple trips of moving kegs up and down stairs, which puts a lot of stress on the operator’s knees, she explains. As a result, the powered stair climber helps to reduce injuries and extend the quality and working life of a driver, she adds.

For drivers of trucks with lift gates, the Magliner CooLift delivery system can take a great amount of pressure off of operators while enabling them to deliver more product approximately 46 percent faster compared with a regular hand truck, according to the company. It does so by offering hydraulic lifting of product on plastic pallets with the capacity to deliver five hand trucks’ worth of product in one trip, Michalski explains. Unpowered six-wheel cart delivery also offers similar benefits, she notes.

“The CooLift delivery system is being widely used, especially in soft drinks,” Michalski says. “I think that delivery is going to continue to move in that type of direction, whether it’s with the CooLift, which is a powered unit, or with the six-wheel carts, which [use] kind of the same approach, only not powered, and don’t use plastic pallets. I think moving more product in one trip is going to be the constant direction, because obviously that’s going to be more efficient.”

Evolving with the times

Although it’s important to develop equipment according to the operator’s need for safety and ergonomics, the design of carts and hand trucks also adapts according to industry trends.

For example, hand trucks with wing extensions were developed as a result of larger package sizes, such as 30-pack cases, which started appearing in recent years, Michalski notes.

“The constant package size [and] shape changes definitely are always driving need for different solutions and new accessories, and that’s not going to go away,” she says. “Also, as product mix changes over time, if customers start going toward more bottles than cans, that’s all of a sudden a huge weight change for a delivery.” Therefore, added weight could result in increased usage of carts, which can carry more product in terms of quantity and weight.

Magline also developed special hand trucks with trays to accommodate 5-gallon water jugs, Michalski notes.

Another design factor results from drivers delivering both kegs and cases of beverages on the same route.

“Overall, we still see some dedicated keg routes, but more and more they’re mixing routes and trying to deliver kegs at the same time as they deliver packages,” Michalski notes. “That poses a few challenges. As consumers change, and then as the manufacturers change, the delivery people are right in the middle of that. So, that drives a lot of requests for new designs, special designs.”

For instance, Magline offers a keg hook that holds the keg against the frame of the hand truck so that it can’t fall forward, she says. It also offers an accessory for carts that uses a formed shape to keep the keg in place while in transport, she adds.

Furthermore, the company’s Gemini convertible hand trucks offer flexibility for operators visiting multiple channels. Michalski points out that hand trucks are ideal for smaller deliveries, and carts are better for larger quantities and weights; however, a convertible hand truck enables the operator to choose depending on the delivery. This option is very widely used in beverage delivery, she notes.

“What’s nice about those is you can put them on a truck in a hand truck carrier, so it’s not in your way in the vehicle, but then it also turns into a cart,” Michalski explains. “So you have a higher capacity, you can carry a lot more product at once, and it’s very portable as well.”

In addition to the product itself, the delivery environment also plays a role in the design of carts and hand trucks, Michalski says. For instance, if drivers move carts or hand trucks full of product down a ramp, a brake truck would be ideal in order to slow it down without using brute strength, she explains.

 Carts and hand trucks also can conform to tighter retail environments. Last year, Magline released a new narrow-aisle hand truck, which is particularly useful in congested cities that typically have smaller retail establishments with narrower aisles, Michalski says.