On conveyor drives, a sprag clutch is used for indexing and anti-runback.
Overrunning occurs when two or more motors can be used to drive the same machine, including through the same shaft. A typical setup is as follows. The service drive, or prime mover, provides a combination of high speed and high power for normal operation. The secondary drive, or pony drive, can be run at low speed and low power, usually to position the conveyor for maintenance.
The overrunning clutch allows the secondary drive to remain stationary during normal high speed operation of the conveyor drive.
An indexing motion provides for accuracy in the drive system. A link is installed between the prime mover and one race of the sprag clutch. The reciprocating motion of the prime mover is converted to an indexing movement on the other race of the sprag clutch.
Backstopping prevents a loaded inclined conveyor from running back when the drive system is stopped. The outer race of the sprag clutch is fixed to the machine frame, usually via a torque arm. The inner race rotates freely in the forward direction of the conveyor drive. When the machine tries to run backward, the sprag clutch prevents this motion. In this application the sprag clutch is often called a "backstop" or "holdback"