Forklifts are one of the most powerful vehicles for builders. Whether you need to move heavy loads in a warehouse or construction field, forklifts can safely lift objects humans cannot, making them indispensable on any job site. Depending on the model, mechanical, pneumatic, or hydraulic actuating components power the forklift’s lifting capabilities, which can be limited to the vertical displacement or include both vertical displacement and horizontal extension. Additional design characteristics available for forklifts include manual or motorized drive, counterbalancing, and the integration of other forklift accessories.
The most popular forklift types on the market today are:
● Warehouse Forklift:
The warehouse forklift is the most recognizable type of lift truck. It resembles a yellow golf cart with twin forks extending from the front. You’ll most often use this forklift in a facility with a large number of items in inventory. These trucks are great for loading and unloading pallets and balanced materials, well as removing and transporting items from delivery vehicles.
● Side Loaders:
A subtype of the warehouse forklift, side loaders are usually found in steel service centers and manufacturing facilities with heavy and bulky items. The operator stands in a sideways compartment and the side loader unloads objects on its side. Due to its sideways operation, side load forklifts can easily drive up alongside racks and load and unload without having to turn. This makes them suitable for navigating narrow aisles and handling long loads like timber and pipes. Toyota, Raymond Corporation, Yale, and Hyundai are some of the top brand manufacturers of side loaders.
● Counterbalance Forklift:
The counterbalance forklift is a popular lift that features forks in the front and a weight in the back of the vehicle to counterbalance the weight of the load. Counterbalance forklifts have no extending arms, giving them the ability to move directly to the load. There are a few different types of counterbalance forklifts. The 3-wheel variant is ideal for situations requiring the operator to turn and maneuver in circles. The stand-up counterbalance forklift allows operators to easily hop on and off between loads. Popular manufacturers include Mitsubishi, Toyota, and Crown.
Also known as a telescopic forklift or a reach forklift, the telehandler has a boom and extendable arm, making a combination of a crane and forklift. The twin forks attached to this arm are used to move pallets off the ground. A standard telehandler is capable of lifting 5,500 lbs of materials from up to 19 ft in the air. These material handling trucks are great for reaching into tight spaces and odd angles.
● Industrial Forklift:
The industrial forklift—also called a large capacity forklift—combines the functionalities of a warehouse forklift with that of a telehandler. While it can’t reach difficult angles the way that a telehandler can, it is capable of lifting payloads much higher off the ground than a warehouse forklift and heavier loads. The industrial forklift starts with a 30,000 lbs maximum lift. However, you only need such power in specialized jobs. The industrial forklift’s utility is narrow in scope compared to the telehandler and warehouse forklift.
● Rough Terrain Forklift:
Also known as a straight mast forklift, the rough terrain forklift is designed specifically for outdoor job sites, especially on uneven surfaces. These trucks have sturdy pneumatic tires that help them navigate rocky ground. The special tires are oversized and threaded, giving them better balance and stability to safely transport materials. If you do most of your work indoors it is unlikely that you’ll ever need one, but rough terrain forklifts are a must for outdoor applications and construction sites.
● Pallet Jack:
Pallet jacks are specialized in nature. Also known as pump trucks, these forklifts aren’t capable of lifting large loads due to their small size. In exchange for power, pallet jacks have a small footprint, allowing them to fit into the tightest spaces and lift small loads in tight quarters. While you sacrifice power and maneuverability, the acquisition and renting costs of a pallet jack are much lower.
While size plays an important role, forklifts carry an impressive amount of weight due to their special design. The key elements of a forklift are its lift capacity, load center, and stability. Forklifts have varying abilities in each category, which must be taken into account when choosing one;
The lift capacity is the amount of weight that a forklift can carry safely. This amount also plays a key factor in the vehicle’s stability — a forklift that carries too much weight isn’t stable.
The load center is the distance from the forks to the center of gravity of the load. The amount varies depending on the weight of the load, the lift angle, and the tilt angle. As a forklift operator, you don’t have to worry about the load center as long as you respect the listed weight capacity and keep the load balanced.
The stability triangle is an area under the forklift. It maintains the center of gravity needed to prevent the vehicle from tipping over. This triangle explains why you don’t worry about the load center. The truck’s design does that for you.
How to Choose A Forklift
To choose a forklift from all the different types, you’ll need to think about how the machinery will be used. Here are general criteria to reference when choosing a forklift to make sure your selected equipment performs efficiently and safely:
- Determine the capacity. How much weight do you need to lift?
- Calculate the weight of your job site. Can the ground sustain the forklift?
- Measure the height of the space. Can your forklift pass through openings?
- Select the correct fuel type. Do you need battery power or gas?
- Analyze the terrain. Is the surface smooth or uneven?
Forklift types vary in several aspects, from their fuel type and tire composition to their lift capacity and height. It’s important to consider these different factors when selecting a forklift. With their ability to lift and transport things of various sizes, forklifts are valuable players on any job site.