Forklift Training - Basic Operations
How to Identify Different Types of Forklifts
Whether you're new to forklifts, or an experienced operator, it is always important to know as much as you can about forklifts and their operation. It is equally important to be able to identify different forklifts, both by look and name. This is especially important when searching for forklift operating jobs, as it will allow you to know which type of forklift you will be operating and if you have the experience to do so.
Identifying Basic "Forklifts" and Jacks
Know what manual pallet jacks are.Although not usually considered a forklift, pallet jacks are some of the most common manual forms of pallet handling that people will come across in logistics industries.
- Manual pallet jacks are usually very simple in design; the handle lever is squeezed to lower the pallet jack forks for insertion into a pallet, and the handle lever is moved in the opposite direction to engage the hydraulics that allows the pallet to be raised by pumping the handle.
Familiarize yourself with motorized pallet jacks.Motorized pallet jacks, on the other hand, are much more varied than manual pallet jacks. They are almost always powered by electric batteries.
- Some are walk-behind, some are ride-on, and some even require the operator to take a side stance to ride on/operate, which is considerably more difficult to learn. Motorized pallet jacks usually have extended pallet forks that are used to handle two pallets at a time for greater efficiency in large warehouse operations, such as order picking. However, single pallet handlers are more common in smaller warehouses, for greater maneuverability and ease of use.
Learn to recognize walkie stackers.Walkie stackers, also known as pedestrian forklifts, are still usually not considered a true forklift. However, they very closely resemble a forklift with forks, a mast, backrest, etc. They are almost always operated with a walk-behind pedestrian operator. They are frequently used in retail, very small storerooms, small scale warehousing, etc.
Identifying Counterbalance Forklifts
Know what standard counterbalance forklifts are.Being the most iconic, recognized, and popular type of forklift, a standard counterbalance forklift is a forklift where the driver sits facing the forks, and the counterweight is everything behind the front wheels of the forklift.
Consider how different standard counterbalance forklifts are powered.These forklifts can be powered by anything, from batteries, petrol (gasoline), diesel, LPG/propane gas bottles, and other forms of fuel, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
- For example, internal combustion forklifts (petrol, LPG, diesel, etc) are generally faster and have greater lifting capacities than electric/battery-powered forklifts. However, for health and safety reasons, combustion forklifts cannot be used in confined spaces (e.g. shipping containers, small warehouses, etc) due to the exhaust gasses produced when in operation.
Be familiar with how many wheels standard counterbalance forklifts have.They can be either 4-wheeled or 3-wheeled; two wheels at the front and one at the back allows for greater maneuverability, at the expense of stability. This is why 4-wheeled forklifts are usually more common, as they generally still have more than enough maneuverability for most applications in small spaces.
Identifying Warehousing Forklifts
Get to know reach forklifts.Designed for usage for indoors and on flat surfaces, reach forklifts (also known as high-reach forklifts) are named for their ability to reach high racking. (up to 12 metres (39ft) or more!!!) Depending on the forklift manufacturer, the reaching mechanism may be a moving mast type, or a moving forks and carriage type. Reach forklifts generally have lifting capacities of 1 ton to 2.5 tons. Lifting capacities above 2.5 ton are generally very rare due to many factors such as narrow aisle space and keeping the forklift compact (a stronger forklift must be larger and therefore unable to operate in narrow aisles) and also generally due to most loads in warehousing to be put in aisle racking usually just do not weigh more than 1- 2 tons.
- Reach forklifts drive differently, compared to counterbalance forklifts because the operator sits (or stands, depending on the model) sideways on the forklift.
- Reach forklifts are designed for narrow warehouse aisle use; the operator is able to look forward or backward without the neck strain of having to turn around. This sideways operator position, alongside with reversed steering controls, makes reach forklifts considerably challenging for a new operator to learn.
Know what double deep reach forklifts are.Double deep reach forklifts are very similar to reach forklifts. However, as the name suggests, they are able to retrieve/put away pallets that are stored in double deep racking, which are pallets that are stored one in front of each other in specially designed racks.
Familiarize yourself with order picker forklifts.Although an order picker forklift is considered a type of forklift, it is not used for regular forklift operations. Order picker forklifts require the operator to wear a harness and stand while operating, as they are used for lifting pallets alongside with the operator up into the air. The operator then typically picks up individual units of a product to manually stack on a pallet to "pick" an warehouse order; this is opposed to regular order picking, where workers can only pick products from ground level. An order picker forklift can allow operators to pick products quickly and efficiently at any level in the air.
Recognize the disadvantages of picker forklifts.The only main disadvantage of them is that they must be operated on flat ground, and they cannot be operated on slopes or uneven ground; they are top heavy, and this increases the risk of tip overs.
Identifying Big Forklifts
Know what a heavy duty forklift is.A heavy duty forklift is an umbrella term used to describe a counterbalance forklift with a high lifting capacity. Most standard counterbalance forklifts in warehouses and manufacturing plants will only have a lifting capacity of 1-3 tons, whereas heavy duty forklifts have a lifting capacity of 5 - 50+ tons!
Understand how heavy duty forklifts operate.All heavy duty forklifts will require significant space to be able to maneuver around. The higher the lifting capacity the forklift has, the larger the rear end (counterweight) of the forklift will need to be. The vast majority of heavy duty forklifts will be powered by diesel fuel, though some lower end heavy duty forklifts (with lifting capacities up to 8-10 tons) may still be powered by LPG/propane gas bottles or petrol fuel.While It is generally very uncommon to encounter battery powered heavy duty forklifts, a few forklift companies have recently started to offer them up to the 20 ton range.
Learn about container handling forklifts.Container handling forklifts generally come in two types: Laden and Unladen (i.e. for handling full or empty containers, respectively).
- Laden container handling forklifts are usually capable of stacking full shipping containers 4-5 high, with lifting capacities ranging from 35-50 tons.
- Unladen container handling forklifts are able to stack as high as 8 or 9 shipping containers high, but with a lifting capacity of only 7-10 tons (empty shipping containers generally only weigh 3-5 tons). For these reasons, an unladen container handling forklift cannot be used for handling laden shipping containers, as it will be extremely overloaded. (full shipping containers can weigh anywhere from 10-30 tons).
Learn about reach stackers.Reach stackers are technically not forklifts at all; as they do not have a mast or forks to lift loads, instead, they operate with a heavy duty boom that extends from the rear to the front of the reach stacker, and they lift shipping containers using a container handling attachment. Reach stackers often are highly sophisticated machines with on-board computers and other technologies. Their load capacity usually ranges from 40-50 tons. However, due to the extending boom feature, overloading is still possible.
Identifying Specialist Forklifts
Learn about Articulated VNA Forklifts.Pictured here, Articulated VNA (Very Narrow Aisle) Forklifts are generally known as "Bendi" or "Flexi" Forklifts. Articulated Forklifts are special types of forklifts which are articulated from the front end (wheels, mast, and forks and carriage) so that they are able to perform both duties of a counterbalance forklift (loading trucks) and a reach forklift (retrieve/put away stock in narrow aisles). Another variation of the articulated forklift is the "Turret truck" also known as the "Man-up forklift", named so, as much like an order picker forklift, turret truck forklifts lift the operator high up in the air along with the forks. Much like "bendi" articulated forklifts, turret trucks allow for maximized warehouse storage space by greatly reducing the aisle widths - however unlike bendi forklifts, turret trucks cannot be operated outside, on slopes or on uneven ground, similar as order picking forklifts.
Identify an all terrain forklift.Generally similar in operation to standard counterbalance forklifts, the main difference is All terrain forklifts usually have large trodden tires, for use on all terrain ground, dirt, mud, grass, etc, where regular solid forklift tires would simply not operate on the ground - they would have no traction and get "bogged". All terrain forklifts are generally best identified by the large trodden tires and a similar appearance to a small tractor.
Learn about side loaders.A side loader, or multi-directional forklift, is a specialist type of forklift used mainly for the moving of long shaped loads, such as timber, piping, etc. Its main feature is it is able to be driven in different directions; for example, it can be driven sideways after retrieving a long load from an aisle - which greatly eases the process of getting long loads in and out of racking storage - as opposed to turning a full 90 degrees with standard forklifts, a maneuvering problem exacerbated by long shaped loads.
Learn about telehandler forklifts.Similar in design to reach stackers, telehandler forklifts are a specialist type of forklift common in the construction industry, the use of a boom with the forks and carriage on the end allows the handling of loads to places standard mast type forklifts cannot reach, for example on a rooftop, in the middle of a large trailer, etc. Again with the boom extension care needs to be taken as lifting capacity can be significantly reduced.
Understand truck mounted forklifts.Truck mounted forklifts, also known as "donkey forklifts", are just as their name suggests. They are a small type of forklift that can be easily mounted on the back of a truck for transport, and easily taken off for use of loading or unloading the trucks on-site. These forklifts are generally built to be lightweight and very simple to operate, thus lifting capacities and lift heights are generally very low. Essentially they are used for lifting small loads on and off trucks, unless they are otherwise specially designed to perform other functions.
Learning About Forklift Attachments
Get to know what attachments are on offer.The use of these attachments sometimes results in forklifts being mistaken for a different type. Forklifts can actually be fitted with a wide range of attachments for many different tasks. Some popular forklift attachments include:
- Carpet spike - Used for handling roll type loads such as carpet, textiles, steel, etc
- Drum clamp attachment - Often has to be manually clamped to move around individual drums, attachments may also rotate (manual or powered).
- Drum lip grab, beak and jaw attachment - Used for transporting individual drums, the beak and jaw mechanism is designed to mechanically close, grab, and lift the drum when weight is placed on the jaw from the drum lip while lifting.
- Fixed jib attachment - Used for lifting loads where a crane type attachment is needed, e.g. lifting a heavy steel grate out of the ground.
- Fork positioners (not to be confused with Sideshift) - Used to widen or narrow the forklift's fork tines via the hydraulics while the forklift is in operation; useful for heavy duty forklifts or when many different pallet sizes are in use.
- Sideshift - Has become a standard attachment on the vast majority of forklifts; allows the moving of the forks and carriage left or right to increase accuracy in load placement or retrieval
- Multiple tynes - Usually twin tyne or triple tyne; these attachments allows for handling of two or more loads at the same time
- Fork slippers/fork extensions - Like the name suggests, fork slippers, slip onto the fork tines for extended fork tines to handle large loads (e.g. plasterboard) or handling two pallets at the same time.
QuestionWhat are the parts of a forklift?Top AnswererSome basic parts of most forklifts include: fork tines (the 'forks" used to lift loads), backrest/load guard (stabilizes the load and prevents from rubbing against the mast), mast (enables the forks and carriage to be lifted upward - often telescopic- 2 stage, 3 stage, and even 4 stage types are out there), overhead guard (protects operator from above), wheels (often solid rubber intended for operation on hard surfaces - e.g. concrete), lift cylinder/s (provides the hydraulic lifting action of forks and carriage) tilt cylinder (provides forward and back tilt), and side-shift (allows for small amount of left or right movement of the forks and carriage).Thanks!
- As a forklift operator, it is up to you to learn as much as you practically can about the forklifts you operate for safe and efficient operation. It's also helpful to be able to identify different forklifts to assess your own skill and experience level, so as to not accidentally claim proficiency of operating a certain type of forklift, only to realize your experience level does not match the expectations set. For example, a new counterbalance forklift driver will have nowhere the skill or experience level as a reach forklift operator, and will not be able to match the expectation of reach forklift operation in narrow aisles retrieving or putting away stock.
- While it's relatively easy to learn the basics of forklift driving, becoming a safe and efficient driver takes many years of experience and practise, even most job advertisements will ask for at least 6 - 18 months of Forklift Operating experience as it is considered the standard minimum amount of time an operator will need in order to become regarded as a "good" forklift driver.
- If you are looking to get more work or more experience driving different types of forklifts, its well worth completing training courses for them, additionally, depending on your country, quite a few different types of forklifts require proof of training, certificates, or separate licences to operate, for example, as they lift the operators in the air, order picker and turret truck forklifts usually require a separate licence, heavy duty telehandlers and reach stackers also usually require a certain class of mobile crane licence.
- With the exception of All Terrain Forklifts, Most forklifts should ideally always be operated on a flat level surface, e.g.Concrete, Counterbalance Forklifts have a limited ability to operate on slopes and uneven ground, but extra caution must always be used when driving on them to prevent forklift tip-overs.
- Never attempt to use an Order Picker Forklift on slopes or uneven ground as being top heavy, they are extremely prone to tip over accidents when operated on slopes or uneven ground, regardless of speed.
- Never use an Unladen Container Handler Forklift to handle Laden Shipping Containers, this will likely result in the forklift being extremely overloaded and possibly lead to a tip over. Also empty containers are handled from the side corner twist lock attachments, whereas full containers must be handled from the top twist locks, handling a full shipping container from the side can result in the container being torn apart from the weight - full containers should always be handled from the top.
Video: Jungheinrich Forklifts - Warehouse Navigation
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