Tugger trains are means of transport that are used in intralogistics processes, primarily in manufacturing companies.

Other common terms include logistics trains or tugger train systems. Like other industrial trucks, they are used for the internal transport of production equipment, where they move inventory, materials, finished and semi-finished products from the warehouse to the production or assembly site on horizontal levels, usually on a just-in-time basis, and then transport them onwards from there.

Unlike forklifts, for example, they can transport several load carriers per trip and are the safest solution for comparable intralogistics material flows due to their fixed routes.

Structure of tugger trains

Tugger trains consist of a towing vehicle, goods carriers, and load carriers. As a rule, the towing vehicle is a converted electric tractor, which effectively acts as a locomotive. The individual goods carriers thus form the counterpart to the wagons of a train, while the load carriers contain the goods to be transported and serve to load the goods carriers.

A tugger train with different load carriers. Source: Neumaier Industry, tugger train indoor 2, CC BY-SA 4.0

There are different systems of goods carriers, which differ in terms of the type of loading (floor level/non-floor level) and loading direction (one side/both sides). The shape of the load carriers depends on the particular application and is very individual. Often, certain load carriers are already in operation in a company, whereupon the goods carriers are then adapted accordingly.

Examples of goods carriers and load carriers

Functionality of tugger trains/tugger train systems

By means of the load carriers, the transported goods are picked up by the tugger train at the source (warehouse, assembly site) and driven to the sink (drop-off point). New transport goods or empties can then also be loaded and transported onwards there. Thus, several sinks on the route can be targeted in the course of a trip. In contrast to transport by forklift truck, this saves unnecessary return trips, which significantly reduces the volume of traffic in the facility. The related activities, such as driving, loading and unloading, can be carried out manually by employees or they can be partially or even completely automated.

Tugger trains versus forklifts

Tugger trains are now being used more and more frequently, replacing forklifts as material handling vehicles or means of transport. Forklift accidents are still common and often have serious consequences, both financial for the company and for the health of the workforce. These health and economic hazards are tremendously reduced by the introduction of tugger trains, creating a much safer work environment.

In addition, forklifts incur higher costs, both in terms of purchase, maintenance and operation, for which a separate driver’s license is required. Advantages of tugger trains over forklifts include:

  • The reduction of industrial accidents
  • The lower energy consumption
  • The time saved by transporting several goods carriers and load carriers at once
  • The easier handling
  • The lower operating costs
  • The individual adaptation of the goods carriers and load carriers to the transported goods
  • Die Möglichkeit zur Automatisierung

The necessary large-scale introduction of a tugger train system can be seen as a disadvantage, which may require far-reaching changes to internal processes and infrastructures in order to accommodate the new transportation method.

Automation in tugger trains

Tugger trains can be fully or partially automated. Automation can thus affect individual processes or the entire tugger train system. If the driving of the tugger train is automated, this can be done via magnetic tapes, magnetic points or RFID, geo navigation, or also via colored tapes. For this purpose, the towing vehicle, i.e. the tractor, is equipped with appropriate technology, which also allows mixed navigation using the aforementioned methods. Semi-automated driving can also be implemented, in which individual actions are automated, similar to how a modern car has the ability to park itself.

Loading and unloading can also be automated. Here, the load transfer can take place by means of roller conveyors, with extendable telescopic forks or via automated underride AGVs.


Tugger trains are industrial trucks used for the internal transport of inventory, materials and other goods. They consist of a towing vehicle, goods carriers and load carriers. As a rule, they are used in production or assembly, but they are also used in other ways; for example, for waste disposal in companies or amusement parks, but also as a means of transport at airports, in the catering industry, and in the pharmaceutical and food industries. Due to various advantages in internal transports compared to forklifts, tugger trains are increasingly replacing them and are an indispensable part of a (fully) automated factory.



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