How to choose between a reachstacker and a dedicated container handler

Will a reachstacker or dedicated container handler (lift truck) work best in your operation?  It can be tricky to decide, as both offer various benefits.  In many cases, for example, reachstackers enable increased container storage, but increased storage density can affect the accessibility or ‘selectivity’ of containers, which could then result in extra handling and reduced throughput of containers, when compared to the use of lift trucks.

Therefore, the key to making the right decision is to identify the specific application requirements and consider which equipment can best meet the demands of the operation.  This is where an experienced supplier such as Hyster and its distribution partners can help. It may also be worth noting that the trend in Europe is more focused on reachstackers.

In many locations, particularly in the recent economic climate, available space can be a limiting factor.  In this case, mobile handling equipment that enables the highest density may be required.  Increased density is achieved by stacking higher and/or deeper.

Lift trucks, for example, may stack 4 high (Hyster machines can stack up to 5 high standard and 6 high (SPED), same as the Reach Stacker, however general requirement  is 4 high) but only 1 row deep, but the terminal will be laid out for maximum handling speed of containers with a good traffic flow.

Alternatively, to increase the amount of containers per square meter (to add to the benefit of a reachstacker) reachstackers can stack up to 4 high in the 3rd row and 5 in the 1st and now Hyster has even announced 6 high (8’6” only) reachstackers due to demand.  Normal practice for good circulation and to speed up the handling is to have 2 rows in a ‘pyramid’ shape, 4 high 2nd row and 3 high 1st.  Here, the selectivity of containers should be considered.

Selectivity refers to the number of containers that are on top or in front of a particular container, which have to be moved in order to access the container in question, and must then be restacked. The aim is to limit “dead picks”.

This ‘selectivity’ has a major affect on the speed of the container handling operation, with regard to the handling time required to transfer a specific container.

In a port environment, for example, changes to loading or unloading times can be a regular occurrence and despite the use of sophisticated logistical systems to coordinate the task, some restacking of containers seems to be unavoidable.

The speed of the restacking depends on the level of selectivity offered by the handling equipment and, in this instance, the lift truck (dedicated container handler) would be the better choice, as it offers greater selectivity.
Capacity & Loadcentre

For lift trucks, manufacturers’ model designations usually refer to a nominal capacity rating at a 1.2m loadcentre (distance from mast to centre of load).  However, for container handling, this is greater due the additional reach and rotation required and should be around 1.6m.  Therefore, check what the load capacity will be ‘under spreader’ at 1.6m loadcentre.

Reachstackers are available with various lift capacities with most manufacturers specifying capacities in the 2nd container row at around 3.85m loadcentre (taken from front axle).

In practice however, this leaves only as little as 0.14m clearance between machine and container which would slow the operation.  So a practical loadcentre for 2nd row stacking is more appropriate at 4.25m which can reduce lift capacity, but it is an important factor that should not be overlooked.

So, a reachstacker with 25t @ 3.85 in the 2nd row will give about 22t lift in the 2nd row @ 4.25 loadcentre.  30t @ 3.85m would be 27t @ 4.25m and 35t @ 3.85m would be 32t @ 4.25m. This capacity restriction may well disrupt an intended double row container stacking operation or increase the amount of digging/dead picks.  Therefore, selecting reachstackers with sufficient 2nd and even 3rd row lifting capacity is vitally important. Hyster for example has reachstacker models that offer 46t in the first row with up to 30t in the third.

Both lift trucks and reachstackers commonly operate in 15m wide aisles, stacking a mix of 20’ and 40’ loaded containers – in this application there is sufficient clearance for the lift truck as well as for lorries to pass in front, without any vehicle being required to drive underneath a lifted container. However, where additional capacity is required to stack heavier containers or higher in the second row, the standard reachstacker may not offer sufficient lifting capacity.  In this case, a larger machine will be needed that may be up to 9m in length (as opposed to 8m), increasing the aisle width requirement. In conclusion, the challenge for a terminal operator is to establish what is a workable mix of the two key variables (storage and selectivity), and let this determine the choice of handling equipment.  Investment in reachstackers may increase the terminal’s storage, while lift trucks may well be faster.  Working with an experienced supplier like Hyster will help with the decision making process.
 Download specification sheet Hyster Dedicated Container Handlers

 Download specification sheet Hyster Reach Stackers
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us by mail or by telephone:

+31 24 378 11 11
Below you will find the navigation links from our website to find all necessary information about the Hyster reach stackers, container handlers and forklifts:

New reach stackers

Used reach stackers

Dedicated container handlers (for laden container handling)

Empty container handlers

Heavy duty forklifts:

>Lifting capacity from 8 to 16 tons: H8-16XM
>Lifting capacity from 16 to 18 tons: H16-18XM(S)
>Lifting capacity from 25 to 32 tons: H25-32XM(S)
>Lifting capacity from 36 to 48 tons: H36-48XM(S)