The sky’s the limit with VNA (very narrow aisle) trucks


VNA trucks – or Very Narrow Aisle trucks, to give them their full name – are an increasing addition to the forklift truck market but, between 2020 and 2028, that market size is projected to grow by over 40%. So, what exactly are VNA trucks and what is driving the rising demand for them in warehouses?

What is a VNA truck?

A VNA truck is a specialised forklift truck which is designed to operate in Very Narrow Aisles. These specialist vehicles are sometimes called turret trucks due to their ability to operate at height with very little ground space. At a time where eCommerce is booming and the 24/7 logistics industry is seeing ever-increasing demand, warehouse space is at a premium and high bay warehouses have sought to maximise capacity by utilising as much space as possible. This means vertical shelving as much as horizontal.

VNA trucks are designed to operate safely and efficiently in narrow aisles, able to operate in these small spaces and reach high pallet locations to store and retrieve goods. Narrower, taller aisles can deliver between 15 & 25% increase in storage capacity against other conventional equipment, utilising potential unused height, so it’s no surprise that the demand for VNA trucks is increasing. Unlike traditional reach trucks or counterbalance forklifts, VNA trucks can operate quickly and safely in very small spaces and are designed especially for use high racking warehouses with limited space and lots of stock.

The different types of VNA trucks

There are two main types of VNA truck; the Man Down (STILL NX-V) and the Man Up (STILL MX-X). Which is most suitable can depend on personal preference, but objectively it can come down to the types of goods you need to move and store. Man Down trucks, as the name implies, keep the operator at ground-level while the forks of the truck move up to the high levels. Man Up trucks take the operator up with the forks, allowing the operator to have full visibility of the pallet, delivering greater control and precision – something especially important if the goods they need to retrieve high value or fragile.


The rise of the VNA truck and the high-capacity warehouse

Space is very much at a premium in modern warehouses, particularly those who sell a high volume or high variety of goods and need to keep a large amount of products on-site. Both require high storage density and high stock levels, which is where tall Racking offers a solution and narrow aisles allow for maximum pallet locations. The cost of increasing warehouse space and acquiring new premises is steep, so maximising existing capacity is often far more cost-effective. High rack systems separated by Very Narrow Aisles are one of the most effective layouts in terms of infrastructure and organization storage. Compared to a standard warehouse that it’s easy to manoeuvre an electric forklift truck around, the width of the working aisles can be reduced by up to 65% when VNA trucks are utilised. Traditional wide aisles are typically around 2900 – 3600mm, whereas VNA trucks are designed to operate in aisles less than 1800mm wide. (Subject to load criteria)

In these types of warehouse layouts, larger forklifts simply cannot operate safely or efficiently and counterbalance trucks, can be limited by height and the ground space available. This is where VNA trucks offer the solution. STILL VNA trucks, MX-X and NXV models, can also allow operators to access both sides of the aisle without having to turn the truck around, potentially in one synchronous movement, which can further enhance warehouse efficiency and operator performance for tasks like order picking and order fulfilment.

Making the switch

If you’re running a wide-aisled, outdoor and/or low racking warehouse, a VNA truck probably isn’t going to be the best solution. VNA trucks offer some major advantages over traditional forklifts in restricted spaces; precision, efficiency, capacity and safety.

  • Precision - This is something which is particularly true of the Man Up model of VNA truck, where operators can get a close, precise view of the goods and racking to allow careful handling of fragile goods and avoid any costly damage being made to stock or shelving. The Man Down truck variations, where the operator remains on the ground, still offer increased precision in tighter spaces than a non-specialised truck because they are specifically designed to reach high up in very narrow aisles.
  • Efficiency - Many VNA trucks, STILL’s models included, allow for access to both sides of a narrow aisle so operators don’t need to waste time turning the vehicle or running up and back down the same aisle. For fulfilment centres this allows for much faster order picking and for storage centres it can mean faster and easier processing of good from delivery to rack.
  • Capacity - Narrow aisles mean more aisles can be fitted in a warehouse and high racking, now reachable thanks to VNA trucks, allows for more storage space per square metre. The efficiency features of these trucks, with speeds upwards of 10 km/h and double-sided aisle access can also increase the fleet’s operational capacity by reducing the time needed for each task.
  • Safety - A big part of on-site safety is having the right equipment for the job and a key element of VNAs is that they are designed to move quickly and safety in small spaces. They can be fitted with a host of additional features like STILL’s smart assistance systems to make work faster, easier and safer for operators.


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