Beginners Guide to Forklifts

Choosing the right forklift for your application can make all the difference in your level of productivity.  Many factors should be considered before choosing a forklift. Use the information below as a quick guide or introduction to the forklift industry:

Forklifts are classified by the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) as:

  • Class 1:  Electric Motor Rider Forklifts
    • Used primarily indoors or loading and unloading trucks
  • Class 2:  Electric-Motor Narrow-Aisle Forklifts
    • Used for racking applications to put away and pull product from storage.
  • Class 3:  Pallet Jacks
    • Electric or hand-powered pallet jacks are primarily used for loading and unloading trailers and for short horizontal material handling.
  • Class 4:  Internal Combustion (IC) Engine Forklifts (Cushion Tires)
    • Traditional forklifts powered by either liquid propane gas(LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) or gasoline and used primarily indoors
  • Class 5:  Internal Combustion (IC) Engine Forklifts (Pneumatic Tires)
    • Traditional forklifts powered by either liquid propane gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG), gasoline or diesel fuel and used primarily outdoors

Choose IC or Electric:

  • Decide whether an internal combustion forklift or electric forklift is appropriate for your application.
    • Internal Combustion Forklifts
      • Operate on gasoline, diesel, compressed natural gas or liquid propane gas
      • Primarily used outdoors, but can be used in moderation in some indoor applications
      • Can operate in various conditions
      • No batteries to recharge
      • Toyota’s IC forklift line can lift over 51,000 lbs.
      • Lifespan depends on application, use and maintenance
      • Noise emissions meet or exceed ANSI B56.1 Standards
      • Toyota forklifts are designed to meet EPA Standards for emissions
    • Electric
      • Typically less maintenance than I/C forklifts
      • Quieter with little emission sounds
      • No fuel-storage requirements
      • Requires a charging station
      • Batteries are large and heavy to change out.  Battery extraction equipment may be required
      • No tailpipe emissions
      • Lifespan depends on application, use and maintenance
      • Better option for smaller, confined areas
      • Load capacity limited to 3,000 to 12,000 lb. capacity

Determine Use of Forklift:

  • Application:
    • Do you need to stack?
    • Is it an indoor or outdoor application?
    • What material is being moved?
    • How much does a typical load weigh?
    • What is the maximum racking height?
    • What is your aisle width?
  • Environment:
    • Freezer
    • Ambient
    • Hot
    • Extreme weather (for outdoor applications)
    • Dusty/dirty
    • Loud

Types of Forklifts:

  • Counterbalance Sit-Down Forklift –Typical forklift for indoor and outdoor use
  • Reach Truck – Narrow aisle application designed for pallet storage. Forks move vertically and horizontally.
  • Pallet Jack– Also referred to as “walkies.” Operators walk behind or along side the truck as loads are moved.  Often used for maneuvering loads in tight areas.
    • Walkie Riders– The operator stands on a small platform.  Used for moving loads over a longer horizontal distances.
  • StandUp Counterbalance Forklift– Similar to a traditional counterbalance sit-down forklift, but rather than sitting on a seat, the operator stands on a platform. Stand-Up Riders are common for frequent on and off truck usage and they are also useful in narrow aisles.
  • Tow Tractor– Used for towing products / carts. More commonly found in manufacturing facilities and at airports.
  • Order Picker –Loads are small and both load and operator are lifted up with the mast. Typically used to pick product from racking in a narrow aisle environment.

Other Considerations:

  • What capacity do you need?  Toyota forklifts range from 3,000 lbs. to 51,000 lbs.
  • What is your maximum lift height?
  • Frequency of use.  Will you use the forklift a few hours a day or during the entire day more than one shift?
  • Environmental considerations:  UL rating required,  cold storage conditions, rust proof specifications, etc.



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