From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Tuggers and Pushers

Dan MacLeod, CPE, MA, MPH

Pull1 Pull2
Excessive force to pull cart

Principles affected

Related pages

Material handling


Some carts are sufficiently heavy and/or handled so frequently that good wheels and handles may not be sufficient. Powered tuggers or pushers may be needed.

Ideas and Options

Tow motors

Tow motor

Tow motors have long been used to handle heavy carts and are in widespread use. This unit is riding style and can move faster than normal walking speed.

Heavy “walkie” pushers


Heavy pusher (


Heavy duty “walkie” pushers have also been available for decades. The operator walks behind the unit, as opposed to riding, as with a tow motor. Some pushers can handle up to 150,000 lbs., but typically move slower than walking speed.

Lightweight maneuverable tuggers


LightTuggers1 LightTuggers2  LightTuggers3
Lightweight tuggers are now available that are faster and more maneuverable (left and


In recent years, a series of powerful, yet small and highly maneuverable tuggers have become available. Typically the employee walks alongside the tuggers at normal walking speed. Some include an extra caster extension which helps stabilize the cart and permit sharper turns . These styles of tuggers are commonly used in shopping malls and airports (above right) to return a long train of carts back to the store or baggage carrousel.

There has been a rapid growth of vendors for these units, including those that are identified here with their specific products.


Pulling a train of heavy carts (


Among other benefits, tuggers provide ability to connect carts to pull several at a time . Pulling in this fashion would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to do manually. Thus, these tuggers can increase employee efficiency as well as reduce the risk of shoulder and back strains.

HeavyTugger1 HeavyTugger2  HeavyTugger3
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A number of models can pull surprisingly heavy loads given their size.


Moto-tugger (


Other models and styles are much smaller, more maneuverable, and designed for lighter loads.

Specialized Pushers

BeforePush  AfterPush1  AfterPush2
Before: Heavy manual push After: Homemade pusher for tow motor

Many operations have special needs that require creative thinking. The example above shows an employee at a paper mill using a long pole to push excess paper into a recycling area. The plant ergonomics team developed a homemade “plow” that could be attached to a tow motor, which made the job faster and easier.


Paper mill roll mover


Paper mills also use a rather unique style of powered pusher called a roll-mover. These devices may be applicable in other industries for moving large rolls of materials.