Common non-powered vehicles that are towed by towing vehicles include quad steer carts, wagon wheel style trailers, hospital carts, dollies, hand trucks, maintenance carts and more. Capable of transporting heavy loads, typically ranging from 8,000 – 50,000 lbs, towing vehicles are useful for applications such as heavy lifting, tugging or towing, load transferring, pallet loading and unloading and load positioning.
They are often used in conjunction with other AGVs such as transfer cars or material handling robots. Towing vehicles allow workers to maneuver large numbers of carts that would not have been efficiently possible through manual labor. By creating a safer work environment as well as increased productivity, towing vehicles prove advantageous for industries such as metal processing, warehouse, automotive, food processing, agriculture, aerospace, construction, communications and military.
As the first AGV introduced on the market, towing vehicles are still highly popular automatic guided vehicles. Capable of navigating a guide path network that is flexible and easy to program, various navigation methods used on AGV towing vehicles include laser, camera, optical, inertial and wire guided systems.
These methods are generally divided into two categories: fixed path guidance systems where wire, tape or paint can be used as a physical guide path on the floor for guidance; and free-ranging, which have no physical pathway to guide them, making it easier to change towing vehicle pathways through computerized software. In general, towing vehicles use a navigation method from one of the two categories for guidance.
Most towing vehicles are equipped with onboard microprocessors as well as a supervisory control system which helps with various tasks, such as tracking and tracing modules and generating and/or distributing transport orders. Free-ranging towing vehicles such as laser guided towing vehicles have advanced navigation capabilities and are able to navigate around objects along a programmed path and avoid collisions independently using laser beam sensors. Towing vehicle manufacturers program tuggers for many different and useful maneuvers allowing for higher efficiency processes in the workplace. Some towing vehicles are designed for the use of an operator, but most operate independently.