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What Are the Different Types of Forklift Truck?

by Kurt Morales

As an increasing volume of goods is being moved across the country, storage and transportation methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Often, this movement is dependent on a "just-in-time" philosophy, and this calls for even larger and more complex warehouse facilities at strategic points along the way. With this expansion come opportunities for skilled operators, and with this in mind, you may be considering whether to apply for a job as a forklift truck operator. What do you need to know about the various opportunities available so that you can plan your future properly?

Choices Available

Many people think that there is only one type of forklift truck. However, there are many different versions, and each has its own characteristics.

Different Types of Truck

At the top of the list is the more conventional "counterbalance" truck that is used in warehouse conditions where there is typically a reasonable amount of room to manoeuvre. These trucks are equipped with a counterbalancing weight at the rear, which augments the sheer weight of the battery to provide stability when the fork at the front is loaded and at the top of the mast. The operator here needs to focus on ensuring that the load is within acceptable limits and correctly positioned.

If the warehouse location is quite congested and there's not much room to move, some companies choose to get three-wheeled versions of the counterbalance truck. With a single wheel at the back, this allows them to move in very tight turning circles to get very close to the location of the merchandise.

In particularly large and very well-stocked warehouses, operators may be asked to drive a reach truck, where the fork is designed to move far beyond the stabilising front legs to secure pallets more easily. These trucks are also able to lift to a far greater height than conventional versions and, due to their very compact design, do not need a great deal of counterbalancing weight at the rear. Sometimes, the cab itself will tilt so that the operator can see what is going on at a height, while in other versions a tiny camera could be fitted to the carriage, which relays an image of the remote location to a screen within the cab. 

Finally, some facilities choose to bring in side-loading trucks, which as the name indicates will load the pallets from the side, as viewed from the driver's cab. These are especially good for very wide or long loads that would simply be impossible for a counterbalanced machine.

Appropriate Training

Each one of these trucks will require a different skill set from the operator and it's important to take appropriate forklift training courses before applying for the relevant licence. Get in touch with your nearest school for further details.