Q&A: The Basics of Dollies and Hand Trucks

Q&A: The Basics of Dollies and Hand Trucks

Answering Your Questions about Dollies and Hand Trucks

Dollies and hand trucks are so common in our industry that we tend to think of them as pretty simple and straightforward. We know how to use them, and we know we can rely on them. They’re as synonymous with our day-to-day proceedings as chalk and erasers are to a school teacher.

Most Americans—especially younger Americans—aren’t using dollies and hand trucks every day like we are. They may have picked up a U-Haul hand truck rental while moving out of their apartment, but that hardly constitutes “hand truck experience,” you know?

So let’s remedy this for those of you who are just getting started in this industry, shall we? Let’s explain what dollies and hand trucks are and how they work, and answer some of the most common questions people ask about them.

Consider this a sort of absolute beginner’s guide to dollies and hand trucks. We’re going to approach this subject as if you’ve never even seen a hand truck. That way we’re hopefully covering all the bases and answering questions before they even pop up. Let’s get started!

What is a Hand Truck?

Dollies and hand trucks are simple in design and useful for a wide variety of tasksSimply put, a hand truck is a device that allows you to move one or more heavy objects around that couldn’t or shouldn’t be carried in your bare hands. Some objects are too heavy to move around, while others might be too cumbersome; for instance, you might be able to carry three boxes stacked on top of each other, but you’ll be wobbly and might drop one. This is a lot easier to do with a hand truck.

Meanwhile, a dolly is a simple cart on four wheels that essentially works the same way. You can load up lots of objects on a dolly (or big, heavy objects) and move them around by pushing them on wheels, rather than exhaustively lifting and carrying them. They’re basically large, flat shopping carts without the cage-like walls.

What is a Hand Truck Used For?

As we just explained, dollies and hand trucks are used for moving around large or cumbersome objects. For a party rental company, this might include:

What Does a Hand Truck Look Like?

Here are a few of the hand trucks for sale at Tent and Table. Take a look at these items to get an idea of what they look like. As you can see, hand trucks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and suit a wide variety of purposes.

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How Does a Hand Truck Work?

Without diving into a full blown physics class, a hand truck is a basic class one lever. Explained in layman terms, you’ve got heavy stuff on one side (called “resistance”), and a force being applied to lift or move that heavy stuff on the other side (called “effort”). In the middle there’s a “fulcrum”—a point where the weight is counteracted and mitigated. 

Hand trucks are class 1 levers. Dollies and other four wheeled carts are not levers. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

For a hand truck, the wheels serve as the fulcrum. They take the brunt of the weight and distribute it so you can more easily move it around. So, with a hand truck, you’re able to move a large amount of weight (resistance) without much physical strain (effort). 

How Much Weight can a Hand Truck Hold?

That really depends on the hand truck. Some dollies and hand trucks can move a few hundred pounds, while others can move thousands of pounds. As a general rule, most of the dollies and hand trucks you can buy on Tent and Table can handle at least 600 lbs, though some can handle as much as 1,000 lbs or more. You’ll want to consult the hand truck’s specifications for more information.

How Do I Use a Hand Truck?

Using a hand truck is easy! Simply tilt your load (the objects you want to carry with the hand truck) slightly forward, slide the hand truck’s ledge underneath that object, then carefully tilt the handcart and the load backward while holding the handcart firmly.

We recommend using ratchet straps, ropes, or bungee cables to secure your load to your hand truck safely, especially when you’re moving items that aren’t stable (they bounce around or sway while moving). 

With especially large, heavy, and/or cumbersome objects, we recommend having a second person with you to help you keep the hand truck’s balance and keep the load secure. Also, avoid sharp, rapid motions with your hand truck. Lifting it or dropping it too quickly, taking hard turns, etc. can result in injury to yourself and damage to your cargo, so do try and be careful.

Should You Pull or Push Dollies and Hand Trucks?

Hand trucks and dollies/utility carts should always be pushed. NEVER pull a hand truck behind you. Serious injuries and/or damage to your equipment can occur, so please don’t attempt it! If you’re rolling items down a ramp off of a truck, go slow and have people alongside the hand truck (NOT in front of it) help guide you down.

Who Invented the Hand Truck?

The invention of the hand truck likely dates as far back as the invention of the wheel. Wheeled vehicles including Carts pulled by humans date as far back as 4500 BCE. It’s not a stretch to assume some form of hand truck existed back then as well.

Hand trucks called “sack trucks” were used in marine shipping in the 1700’s. Their popularity in shipyards saw their use spread into other industries over time. And today, hand trucks are a staple tool not just in our industry, but in most industries in general.

Where Can I Rent a Hand Truck?

Most places that rent moving trucks will carry dollies and hand trucks as well. Some hardware stores in your area will probably rent them out as well. Though if you’re planning on seeking out steady work in party and event rentals, you should really just buy one (or even a few, depending on the size of your company).

Where Can I Buy a Hand Truck?

Tent and Table has a large selection of heavy duty hand trucks for sale. We’ve put together lists of the best dollies and hand trucks for inflatables, and the best hand trucks for party tents too. And don’t forget to take a look at our huge selection of specialized dollies, hand trucks, and carts designed for transporting folding tables and chairs, too!

Have any questions about dollies and hand trucks? Leave a comment for us below or call our expert sales team at 1-716-832-8368. We’d love to help you find the perfect dollies and hand carts for your needs!

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