A forklift, also called a lift truck, a trailer loader, a fork truck or a forklift truck, is a type of industrial vehicle that is used for lifting and moving heavy loads of materials for short distances. Two flat pieces of metal attached to the front of the vehicle, called the forks, distinguish a forklift from a tractor or other industrial vehicle. The forklift operator can raise, lower and tilt the forks so that heavy materials can be moved without tipping over. Here are some forklift facts and information about forklifts.
Some forklifts are used indoors in warehouses, in and outdoors to move goods onto trucks, or outdoors at construction sites to move construction materials. Usually the use of the forklift will determine the equipment’s capabilities. For example, small electric forklifts are generally used in a warehouse, and there are even thin forklift trucks designed to work in tight spaces. Many employers are very concerned with safety when operating forklifts, and will provide operators with forklift checklists on safety procedures that they must follow.
Types of Forklifts
There are many different types of forklift trucks in use in warehouses and construction sites around the world. Most forklifts are designed for the specific environment they will be used in and the types of materials they will be moving. There are small forklifts that can be operated by a lever used for lifting and moving pallets of materials short distances, and there are larger forklift trucks that the operator sits in and drives. Most larger forklift trucks are counterbalanced, or balanced against the weight of the materials on the forks so that the truck doesn’t tip forward. There are even forklift trucks designed for moving materials outdoors over rough terrain.
Many forklift trucks are made up of similar parts. First is the frame that supports all the other components, much like a car frame. The counterweight is a heavy piece of cast iron on the rear of the forklift truck that counterbalances the load. Sometimes the forklift battery serves as part of the counterweight. Forklift trucks also contain parts found in tractors and other vehicles such as a cab with a seat, a steering wheel and levers. Most forklift trucks also have a metal roof that protects the driver from falling objects. Some forklifts are powered by a battery or by an internal combustion engine. Smaller forklift trucks meant for lighter loads moved over short distances are usually battery powered, and machines that are used outdoors or for heavier loads generally have an engine that usually runs on diesel fuel. The forks are attached to a part called the carriage that raises and lowers the forks on another part called the mast.
Depending on their use, forklift trucks can have various speciality attachments in addition to forks. Many attachments allow the forks to be rotated, shifted laterally or moved closer or father apart. These fork attachments are meant to allow the operator to position the load using the forks rather than the truck. There are also various attachments that hold different types of containers such as round drums or large rolls of paper. Some modern forklift trucks used in shipping have an attachment called a dimensioning device that electronically scans the load and provides the dimensions so that loads can be efficiently stacked in warehouses or freight containers.
To operate a forklift, skills are required, including driving skills, an understanding of special relationships and knowledge of the machine. While not all employers require it, many forklift operators are certified to use industrial forklift trucks. A forklift operator training program will familiarize future forklift operators with operating procedures, safety and basic maintenance tasks.