Your Electric Tug Essentials

Material Handling Tugs

MasterTug moving a yacht in a manufacturing yard

What is an electric tug? 

An electric tug is a battery-powered machine designed to move heavy-wheeled loads. They are known by many names such as ‘electric tows’, ‘electric tow tugs’, ‘pedestrian tugs’ and ‘powered tugs’.

As a type of material handling equipment (MHE), electric tugs are used extensively within industrial manufacturing environments and in sectors such as retail, biopharmaceuticals, waste handling and more.

Using electric tugs enables businesses to create processes that are more efficient and safer, enabling a single operator to push, pull and stop heavy loads.

With compact designs, electric tugs are the ideal solution for moving large loads in tight spaces - guaranteeing total manoeuvrability.

Benefits of an electric tug

Electric tow tugs can be found in industrial manufacturing environments across the globe, but what benefits do they deliver?

Improving operational efficiency - icon

Increase operational efficiency

Eliminate manual handling - icon

Reduce manual handling

Licence free operation - icon

No operator license required

Zero emissions - icon

Zero emissions

Staff safety - icon

Improve workplace safety

Improve flexibility - icon

Maximise flexibility

Industrial tugs - An alternative solution to… 

Line of forklift trucks

Traditional handling equipment – Forklift trucks & electric tow tractors 

By keeping loads safely on the ground, electric tugs offer an effective alternative to traditional material handling equipment such as forklift trucks, pallet trucks and overhead cranes. 

With a compact machine footprint, many businesses are opting for electric tow tugs as an alternative to an electric tow tractor to deliver the precise movement of loads in tight or congested areas.    

MasterTug MT300 moving components for Continental during tyre manufacturing

Manual handling solutions  

Where wheeled loads were moved manually, an industrial electric tug takes the strain – increasing safety and reducing the risk of injuries and musculoskeletal disorders.   

Choosing the right electric tug

Material handling tugs are specified on an application basis to ensure any solution delivers quantifiable safety and efficiency gains for you right out of the box. With a wide range of electric tugs on the market, there a number of key factors that can influence which is right for you:

Maximum Load Weight

The heavier the total load weight, the more power needed from the machine to push, pull and stop it, in a safe and controlled way.

This is often referred to as the ‘towing capacity’ or ‘maximum load capability’.   

Moving on slopes - icon

Rolling Resistance

This is the force needed to start a wheeled load moving and is influenced by factors such as floor condition, castor wheels and slopes.  

Slopes can have a significant impact on the right electric tug for an application. A simple rule of thumb, the steeper the slope, the more powerful the electric tug needs to be.


When looking at electric tugs, it’s important to consider how the equipment will connect to your load.

Couplings are the essential part that facilitates this connection, and their design dictates how secure your equipment and load are during transportation.

We offer a range of coupling options across our range of electric tugs:

Hydraulic clamp coupling - icon

Hydraulic clamp

Available on the SmartMover range, our hydraulic clamp creates an unbreakable connection to the load.

Connect directly to your trolley or with our available adaptors.

CombiCoupling - icon


Delivering a rigid connection to loads using a male and female coupling system, our unique

Combi Coupling facilitates unrivalled weight-moving capability and manoeuvrability  

Pin Coupling - icon

Pin coupling

Enabling quick and easy connection to a wide range of industry-standard drawbars and towing arms, the pin coupling is a convenient solution for connecting to multiple loads.

Box Coupling - icon

Box coupling

Perfect for applications where movement is on slopes or rough terrain, the BoxCoupling ensures a strong connection to the load, enabling precise manoeuvrability.  

Channel coupling - icon

Channel coupling

Facilitating a secure, direct connection to your trolley, the ChannelCoupling can be used on multiple loads without the need for modifications.

Hydraulic options are available for added load security.     

Custom coupling - icon

Custom coupling

Designed around your needs. Our experienced engineering team are on-hand to create custom coupling solutions that prioritise security, ease-of-use and suitability. 


Material types & environmental ratings  

The construction material needed for an electric tug or specialist environmental protection such as required ingress protection (IP) or explosion-proofing all impact the specification.   

Specific applications

Specific electric tugs are designed around certain applications. For example:   

TMS2000+ moving a Cartwright trailer

Electric trailer mover

Our Trailer Moving System is designed to move heavy articulated trailers and HGV trailers safely and offers a safer alternative to shunters and lorries.  

MasterTow TOW200 bin mover moving up a slope

Electric wheelie bin tug

A range of BinMover tugs are available to remove the physical effort in the movement of heavy waste bins in facilities management.   

SmartMover SM100+ moving roll cages off a lorry

Roll cage material handling

Our Roll Cage Mover is also specifically designed to make the movement of heavy retail cages safer for supermarkets. 

Electric tug vs electric tow

Electric tugs vs electric tow tugs

The phrases electric tug and electric tow tug are often used interchangeably, leading to confusion around what the differences are.

The two terms describe two different machine designs designed for different jobs...

Traction is essential when it comes to moving heavy loads and the key difference between an electric tug and an electric tow tug is how they generate traction and in turn, move loads.

Electric tugs utilise a weight transfer system and a specialist coupling set-up designed to get your load moving, steer it, and bring it to a controlled stop. Weight transfer involves a machine transferring an element of the loads weight down onto the drive wheel of the machine to gain traction, allowing compact machines to move very heavy weights.

Unlike tugs, which utilise a weight transfer system to generate traction, an electric tow ultimately uses its own weight to gain traction and get loads moving.   

AGV300TOW automated electric tug

Technology & control options

Electric tugs are available with various technology and control options, designed to maximise the benefits of safety and efficiency. From pedestrian operated electric tugs to fully autonomous solutions - there are electric tow tug solutions to meet every requirement.

Remote control operation provides operators with complete flexibility, allowing them to take up the ideal vantage point when making a movement delivering maximum visibility.

Innovative MultiLink technology on our PowerSteered range allows multiple machines (up to 12) to work in synchronisation via one remote control, perfect for the movement of large, awkward loads that require precise positioning.  

Take advantage of Line Follow navigation on AGV electric tugs to easily automate the repeated movement of heavy loads to drive operational efficiency. Or benefit from a totally integrated and autonomous solution with a full AGV system that utilises intuitive natural navigation. 

Electric tow tug safety features & options

Any material handling equipment needs to maximise operator safety, particularly when moving heavy loads within congested and pedestrianised areas.

Our high-quality electric tow tugs boast all the safety features detailed below, ensuring that operators and pedestrians remain safe at all times.   

Ergonomic controls

Ergonomic controls

Emergency stop

Emergency stop

Automatic tiller cut off

Automatic tiller cut off

Anti-crush button

Anti-crush button

Castor guard

Castor guard

Visual safety aids

Visual safety aids

Audible alerts

Audible alerts

Adjustable speed

Adjustable speed

Industrial electric tug applications & industries

Working with many Fortune 500 companies to slimline their operations and improve safety has enabled us to work in a diverse range of industries from biopharmaceuticals to industrial manufacturing.   

Your questions, answered - FAQs

Do I need a license to operate an electric tug?

No, you do not need a licence to use an electric tug. This is one of the many reasons industrial manufacturers are increasingly opting for electric tugs to create fork-fee environments.

Unlike forklift trucks, electric tow tugs don’t lift loads, so they do not fall under LOLER regulations (Lifting Operations ad Lifting Equipment Regulations, 1998).  

With an electric tug, you no longer need to wait for the availability of a licensed forklift truck driver to move a load.   

How long does the battery last?

Like any battery, the battery life of an electric tug or electric tow is determined by usage, specification, and environmental factors. Battery life can be influenced by variables such as:  

  • Load weight and route  
  • Run speed  
  • Battery specification/size  
  • Environmental conditions such as temperature

We provide a runtime figure on each of our product pages.   

Will they work on slopes?

Yes, all MasterMover machines will work on slopes. The maximum angle our tugs are capable of clearing, on average, is 8°.  

It is important to remember that for every degree of slope involved, the maximum load capacity of the machine is reduced, just as pushing a car on the level requires less force than on a slope.  

Therefore, if the weight of the load is already close to the maximum capacity of the machine a more powerful tug may be needed to move the load on a slope.   

Can they work outside?

Yes, all our electric tow tugs are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Our AllTerrain tow tug range is the ideal solution for the most challenging of environments.

What if I need a custom solution?

For applications where a standard solution isn’t the right fit, we have a dedicated engineering team on hand to create custom solutions. With 25 years of industry experience in providing customised solutions, you’re in safe hands with MasterMover.