Save Time with Safe-Moving Equipment

April 5, 2010
Selling safes normally carries two additional expenses: shipping the safe to your location presale and transporting the safe to the customer post-sale.

Safes are heavy and cumbersome. They are not easy to move. Burglary safes are reinforced with additional metal to protect the content from unauthorized entry. Fire safes are constructed with fire protection materials to prevent fire and heat from damaging the content. And, as a general rule, the more expensive the safe, the heavier it seems to be.

Selling safes normally carries two additional expenses besides the cost of the safe and any options or upgrades. These expenses are the cost to have the safe shipped to your location presale, and the cost to transport the safe to the end-user’s business or residence post-sale. In addition, there is the need to move the safes around once they are at your shop.

Suggestion: To lower presale costs, find out if there is a safe manufacturer in your geographic area. If there is, can you arrange with your locksmith distributor to accommodate factory pickup of pre-purchased safes?

The following article discusses some of the products available for transporting and moving safes. Transporting a safe involves a distance of miles. Moving a safe involves moving it around your shop or your customer’s residence or business, once the safe is at the location.


There are many different types of equipment for transporting a safe. A safe can be transported using a pickup or a larger stake bed or box truck. Before considering transporting a safe using a pickup, it is important to know the maximum payload. The maximum payload is the amount of weight that can be added to the vehicle. To determine the maximum payload, you need to know the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and the Curb Weight of the vehicle.

The GVWR is the maximum allowable total weight a vehicle can have when loaded. The GVWR is the rated maximum a vehicle can carry including everything added including occupants and accessories. The Gross Vehicle Weight is often included on the door or doorpost tag.

The Curb Weight is usually the total weight of the vehicle having standard equipment and a full tank of fuel. The curb weight does not include cargo or occupants. Every year and model pickup and truck has its own GVWR and Curb Weight.

The difference between the GVWR and the Curb Weight is the Maximum Payload. For example, a 2010 Dodge Ram 1500 has a GVWR of 6025 pounds and a Curb Weight of 4545 pounds. The Maximum Payload is 1480 pounds. That means that 1480 pounds can be added to this pickup, including the driver’s weight, passengers and any cargo.

I decided to eliminate the larger trucks as in many states, additional licenses, permits and fees are inflicted. In addition, larger vehicles can be required to stop for inspection at every weigh station.

The maximum towing capacity is the upper limit to the weight of a trailer a vehicle can tow. However, towing a trailer is also dependent upon the trailer hitch. Trailer hitch classifications should be respected when towing a trailer. The light duty Class I trailer hitch will accommodate up to 2,000 pounds. The medium duty Class II trailer hitch will accommodate up to 3,500 pounds. The heavy duty Class III trailer hitch will accommodate up to 5,000 pounds. The extra heavy duty Class IV trailer hitch will accommodate up to 10,000 pounds. A fifth wheel/gooseneck style of trailer hitch will accommodate weight greater than 10,000 pounds. Most late model trailer hitches have a label that indicates the duty rating of the hitch and the tongue weight capacity. Remember: The tongue weight can be 10 percent of a loaded trailer’s weight.

Is it better to use a heavy duty pickup and a liftgate, or a smaller pickup and a trailer? Most pickup- sized liftgates have a weight limit of up to about 1500 pounds. A trailer will need a parking place when not being used.

An interesting alternative to a liftgate-equipped pickup truck is a Dodge pickup modified to move safes. The rear drive line was removed (probably started with a four-wheel drive) and two fixed wheels were installed, eliminating the drive shaft and rear axle. The bed area was opened and reinforced, and a custom bed was constructed and installed. This custom bed could be lowered to the ground. Once down, the safe could be dollied over and placed in the bed. Once the safe had been placed into the bed, it was raised up and the vehicle could be driven to the end-user’s location.

Locksmiths need a safe transporting trailer that is easy to load and to unload. For this reason, safe moving trailers generally tilt or lower to the ground for ease of loading. The smaller trailers are the tilt types usually having only two wheels and designed to hold few safes. The lower to the ground for loading type trailers have a deck that remains level as it raises or lowers. These trailers are available with two or four wheels with larger decks to accommodate more or heavier safes.

The smallest trailers are the two wheel tilt type trailers. These trailers are designed to provide a slightly above ground level loading and unloading platform. The Defiant Safe Inc. Black Safe Chariot is a two-wheel tilt type trailer with a 50” deep and 52” width deck. The trailer weight is 1500 pounds with a payload capacity of 3500 pounds. The trailer coupler accommodates a two-inch ball. The trailer tongue weight is approximately 10 percent of the gross trailer weight. The Safe Chariot is designed for one person operation using a single drive winch to tilt the bed down to load and unload the safe and up to transport. Important: Always be certain the trailer is attached to the tow vehicle before loading or unloading a safe.

The second option is the two and four wheel trailers that lower to the ground for loading and unloading. These trailers are available in a variety of configurations that include different widths as well as lengths. The deck onto which cargo is loaded varies in size. The larger deck usually indicates greater payload capacity. The larger the trailer, the more the trailer weighs. For example, a four foot-four inch by eight foot deck, single axle trailer can weigh about 1,700 pounds. A six foot by 12-foot deck, dual axle trailer can weigh about 3,000 pounds. Payload capacity goes from about 2,000 pounds for the smaller trailer to about 7,000 pounds for the larger.

For example, Air-Tow ground level loading trailers have a 75” wide steel diamond plate deck. These trailers are available with single or tandem axles. The payload capacity is up to 10,000 pounds depending upon the trailer. The deck can be lowered to the ground. Once the safe is loaded, the deck is raised hydraulically.

Advanced Metal Working Trailers have the ability to not only provide ground level loading, but their Lift-A-Load Trailers have elevating platforms that can load at truck or dock height up to 52 inches. Lift-A-Load Trailers are available with two or four wheels with a payload capacity from 4,400 pounds up to 15,000 pounds. These trailers are available with a tongue or gooseneck hitch.

The features available for ground level loading trailers vary by size and manufacturer. Most have hydraulic lift mechanisms with a dedicated battery and electric brakes. Some of the trailer manufacturers that lower to the ground for loading include Air-Tow trailers, Lift-A-Load Trailers, Selma Hydraulic Trailers and Triple L Trailers.

When towing a trailer long distances, consider stopping every hour or so to check the tires and the content of the trailer. Make sure the straps are tight and the safe(s) have not shifted.


Moving the safe around the shop or positioning the safe in the end-user’s location can require heavy duty moving equipment. We will begin with the moving the safe from the outside in and then address moving the safe into position in the showroom or end-user’s location.

Loading a safe onto or off of the trailer or liftgate requires the ability to move it from the warehouse dock, your storeroom or safe showroom. Many larger safes come crated with a pallet attached to the bottom. To make sure the safe can be loaded onto or off of the trailer, carry pieces of 6061 T6 aluminum plate about 1/8” or 3/16” thick to smooth out a rough floor. This helps if the trailer is parked on an angle. This type and thickness of aluminum plate will normally flex when moving an average size safe. One safe company recommends two or two and one half feet by four feet sheets.

IMPORTANT: When rolling a safe into a residence through a sliding glass door, use two 2x4s to create a rise and protect the track. Place the T6 aluminum plate over the track and 2x4s. Move the safe at a constant speed to avoid damaging the track.

One of the more efficient tools to move a palletized safe is a pallet jack or pallet truck. Most safes weighing 150 pounds or more are palletized. A pallet jack is a wheeled fork-equipped tool used to lift and move pallets by sliding into the pallet openings and lifting the pallet off the ground. Each of the two front wheels is mounted inside the forward end of the forks on a levered mechanism. When pressurized, the on-board hydraulic jack raises the forks vertically lifting the load upwards from about three to seven inches. A pallet jack raises the pallet just enough to clear the floor.

Pallet jacks are available hand-powered and motorized to allow lifting and moving of heavier and stacked pallets. Fixed and adjustable fork widths accommodate the different sized pallets. Fork lengths vary from 32 inches to more than 48 inches. A good starter pallet jack should have forks no longer than 36 inches and approximately 20 inches apart. Wider forks will make it harder to lift standard size safes. Narrow forks make it harder to lift larger, bulkier safes.

Bishamon® BS Series includes a variety of smaller pallet jacks. The Bishamon BS-55H pallet jack is a good size for general safe moving. It has 32 inch long forks that are 20.5 inches apart. Bishamon BS series pallet jacks are rebuildable.

REMEMBER: Very few safes are larger than 36” deep. A 36” deep safe will not get through most doorways.

When moving a safe, do not slide the pallet jack in completely. This usually results in one or two problems. This first problem is when the pallet jack tries to lift the pallet, the front wheel is on the bottom brace and the result is the safe cannot be moved because the pallet is broken. The second problem happens when the safe is moved against the wall at the end-user’s location. The forks of the pallet jack extend beyond the rear of the safe and with enough force, your customer will have two holes in the wall or two breaks in their molding.

Probably the most common tool is the hand truck. There are the appliance hand trucks, the electrified hand trucks and the electrified stair climbing hand trucks. When considering purchasing a hand truck, make sure the capacity is sufficient to handle the safes you sell.

Lectro Truck steel and aluminum power hand trucks are designed for a load capacity of 600 to 1500 pounds, lifting the safe from 33 to 41 inches. These battery powered electrified hand trucks provide sufficient height to climb stairs. Accessories for the Lectro Truck include, the All-Terrain Wheel Assembly and the Hook Box. The All-Terrain Wheel Assembly has air filled 15”x 6” wheels that clip onto the rear. The hook box installs into the bed of a pickup to enable the Lectro-Truck to act as a powered lift gate.

The ULTRA LIFT™ powered hand truck is fabricated from aircraft aluminum extrusion. The battery powered 1500 and 1500L models have a load capacity of 1500 pounds with a lift height of three or four feet, sufficient to climb stairs. The ULTRA LIFT is equipped with a four wheel snap-out dolly to ease moving heavy safes on flat surfaces. The 1500 and 1500L models weigh 120 pounds and 123 pounds respectively.

Standard appliance hand trucks are available from a wide variety of manufacturers at many price points. When purchasing a hand truck, make sure the truck is designed to lift the safes you have to move.

A fantastic companion for a hand truck is a wood or plastic framed four-wheel dolly. These rubber capped, carpeted, open or closed deck dollies can carry a significant amount of weight. Depending upon the design, the four caster wheels can be free rotating, making it more difficult to move in a straight line, but much easier to shuttle into a confined area. Four-wheel dollies are available from many suppliers.

For very heavy safe lifting and moving, consider using a product mover or machinery mover. I was introduced to the hydraulic Rol-A-Lift when researching this article. The two pieces of a Rol-A-Lift are designed to lift and move large, bulky and hard to handle safes up to six tons in tandem. Each unit has two adjustable forks that are slid under the safe or pallet. The two Rol-A-Lifts are positioned against the body of the safe and a strap assembly is wrapped around. The hand-operated hydraulic jacks are pumped to lift the forks raising the safe up. Once the safe is lifted off the ground, the safe and the Rol-A-Lifts are pushed or pulled to the final destination.

Two and four wheeled winch and hydraulic pedalifts lift hand trucks and stacker hand trucks are designed to move objects around like a hand truck, but to also raise them up. The tip of the nose plate touches the floor.

Many of these units can safely lift more than 700 pounds up more than four feet. These winch or hydraulic operated lifting trucks provide an excellent way to stack safes in a warehouse or display and to move a safe from the showroom out and into a customer’s vehicle.

The final tools to consider for moving a safe are the SlikSticks Safe Moving System and the Johnson Bar. The SlikSticks Safe Moving System incorporates nine wood sticks covered with a layer of a Teflon type of material. Eight of the sticks are 42” long and the ninth stick is 24” to accommodate corners. A frame spreader and four saver blocks are included.

An optional Slik Sled is available for rough bottom safes. The SlikSticks Save Moving System is available from Lockmasters, Inc.

NOTE: SlikSticks work extremely well on wood floors. A wood floor can be damaged easily even with a pallet jack or appliance hand truck.

A Johnson Bar is a two-wheeled pry bar used to jockey heavy items into position. Johnson bars have an extended length wooden or metal handle for leverage and a short deep scooped nose-iron designed to slide under heavy objects without cutting into a soft floor. This tool has been around forever, making use of the lever and fulcrum’s mechanical advantage to multiply the mechanical force that can be applied to the safe. The Johnson bar can be used to exert a large force over a small distance at the nose-iron end by exerting only a small force over a greater distance at the end of the handle.

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