Tow Tractors | What are the Different Types?

What are Tow Tractors?

Tow tractors are warehouse machines that handle various materials. They are usually used for transporting raw materials in warehouses and pallets of other goods. Other than using tow tractors for work in warehouses, they can also be used in locations such as airports for moving cargo and baggage as well as to pull out the aircraft when it is preparing to depart.

Tow tractors have the ability to tow a lot of trailers at the same time, making them able to form a train. They look similar to pallet trucks. The only difference is that tow tractors do not have forks that are mounted at the front.

General features of tow tractors include regenerative braking, an axle weldment rubber suspension system, and a control handle with multiple functions. These features greatly enhance worker productivity and efficiency.

What are the Different Types?

This type of warehouse machine is classified according to their method of propulsion. There are two types of tow tractors: the electric motor engine and the internal combustion engine. In this section, the different types will be discussed. The various tow tractor manufacturers will be shared on the separate articles of these types.

Electric Tow Tractors

electric tow tractor

Electric tow tractors are powered by a DC traction motor that acquires electricity from batteries that are rechargeable. These tractors usually have a top speed that is below 20 mph, and their tow capacity ranges from 175 lbs to 2000 lbs. However, there are some models of electric tow tractors that have as high as 85000 lbs as their tow capacity. When compared to internal combustion models of tow tractors, electric models cost around 70% less when in operation. Thus, there are more preferred than the other type. These tractors are designed for indoor use since they do not emit exhaust fumes. Electric tow tractors have subtypes and they have been categorized according to the driving position of the operator: walkie, walkie rider, and sit-down rider.

Stand-in tow tractors are designed especially for order picking and horizontal transport in warehouses. These electric tow tractors have smooth acceleration that contributes to the increased productivity of workers as well as lean processes in applications.

Internal Combustion Tow Tractor

internal combustion tow tractor

The other type is the internal combustion warehouse tow tractor. It is powered by engines such as diesel, gasoline, or LP-gas (propane). These tractors usually have the operator sitting down, as opposed to the electric tow tractors that have various subtypes. Internal combustion tow tractors are designed for outdoor use and are larger and more powerful than electric tow tractors.

Some manufacturers of internal combustion tow tractors make machines that have a towing capacity that ranges from 1 ton to 5 tons. There are small tractors that have a friction clutch and a sliding gear mechanism, while larger tow tractors make use of light highway truck transmissions.

What are the Applications of Tow Tractors?

Tow tractors are ideal for applications such as manufacturing processes as well as horizontal transport over distances, may it be short or long ones.

There are manufacturers of tow tractors that specialize the machines for baggage handling, baggage sorting, and for carrying cargo for air crafts. Additionally, tow tractors can also be used in applications for general manufacturing and general warehouse functions.


Kulwiec, Raymond A. Materials Handling Handbook. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.: 1985.