What is a Hand Truck?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Imagine your job is to move six heavy filing boxes from the office to a storage room. Carrying one box at a time might be manageable, but time consuming. Lifting all six boxes at once would save time, but not your back. The solution would be a moving aid known as a hand truck. By stacking all six boxes on a hand truck, you can safely move them to the storage room all at once.


A hand truck consists of a tubular frame, handles, wheels and a short platform extending from the bottom. The two wheels of a hand truck are placed at the junction between the platform and the vertical frame, essentially at the corner of an L. The handles may extend from the top rear of the frame, or one handle may curve from the back. The front of the frame may be squared off for boxes or curved for drums and barrels. Sometimes, a hand truck also has straps for securing loose freight during transport.

Professional material handlers prefer to use a hand truck when moving stackable items such as boxes, crates or packages. Heavier items are usually stacked on the bottom of the hand truck, with lighter objects saved for the top. Hand truck users must be careful not to stack it so high that their vision is blocked or the load becomes unstable. Generally, it is safe to load a hand truck to the level of its handles or the top of the frame. The load is then shifted onto the wheels with a backward lifting motion. The user can maneuver the cargo by steering it left, right or forward.

Some hand truck models can convert to four-wheeled hand carts with a few quick adjustments. The handles can telescope out, while the frame becomes the bed for the cart. A second set of wheels completes the transformation from vertical hand truck to horizontal hand cart. This feature is especially useful when the cargo is simply too large or unstable for a standard hand truck.

Many people find a hand truck to be an indispensable aid while moving in or out of a home. For this reason, many truck rental companies supply a hand truck or two for their customers.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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