Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki

A US airman operating a Hyster forklift

A Forklift truck (also called a lift truck, a High/Low, a forklift, a stacker-truck or a sideloader) is a powered industrial truck] used to lift and transport materials.

The modern forklift truck was developed in the 1920s by various companies including the transmission manufacturing company Clark and the hoist company Yale & Towne Manufacturing. The forklift truck has since become an indispensable piece of equipment in manufacturing and warehousing operations, with specialist version developed for Agriculture and Construction industries rough terrain operations.


Toyota's first lift truck

The middle 19th century through the early 20th century saw the developments that led to today's modern forklifts. The Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906 introduced battery powered platform trucks for moving luggage at their Altoona, Pennsylvania train station. World War I saw the development of different types of material handling equipment in the United Kingdom by Ransomes, Sims and Jeffries of Ipswich. This was in part due to the labour shortages caused by the war. In 1917 Clark Material Handling Company in the United States began developing and using powered tractor and powered lift tractors in their factories. In 1919 the Towmotor Company and Yale & Towne Manufacturing in 1920 entered the lift truck market in the United States.

Continuing development and expanded use of the forklift truck continued through the 1920's and 1930's. World War II, like World War I before, spurred the use of forklift trucks in the war effort. Following the war, more efficient methods for storing products in warehouses were being implemented. Warehouses needed more maneuverable forklift trucks that could reach greater heights. New forklift truck models were made that filled this need.

Design types

Forklift classes.JPG

A truck mounted forklift called "Moffett", used to unload deliveries at customers sites.

A pair of Sideloader forklifts used in a steel fabrication yard to handle long lengths of steel stock from storage area to fabrication shop

A Raymond reach truck. Note the pantograph allowing the extension of the forks in tight aisles. This electric machine weighs over 7000lbs and can lift 4000lbs to 24 feet in the air.

The following is a list of the more common lift truck types. It is arranged from the smallest type of lift to largest:

  • Hand pallet truck
  • Walkie low lift truck (powered pallet truck, usually electrically powered)
  • Rider low lift truck
  • Towing tractor
  • Walkie stacker
  • Rider stacker
  • Reach truck (small forklift, designed for small aisles, usually electrically powered)
  • Electric counterbalanced truck
  • Counterbalanced truck
  • Sideloader
  • Rough Terrain
  • Telescopic handler
  • Walkie Order Picking truck
  • Rider Order Picking truck (commonly called an "Order Picker"; like a small forklift, except the operator rides up to the load and transfers it by picking each article and placing in a Cage or basket)
  • Articulated Very Narrow Aisle Counterbalanced trucks (commonly called "Flexi Truck")
  • Guided Very Narrow Aisle truck - 'Man Down' (a type of reach truck designed for aisles less than five feet wide) and 'Man Riser' Combination Order Picker/ Stacker truck

Early Agricultural Forklifts

These were based on a tractor skid unit and generaly consisted of replacing the rear 3-point linkage with a mast fitted with forks and reversed driving position, thus resulting in rear steering. Early ones being based on Fordson drive units. These were built by Chaseside, Matbro and Muir-Hill among others.


Forklifts can be fitted with a wide range of specialist attachments other than forks to do a wide variety of tasks in a better or safer manner, and make them more efficient and versatile.

Typical attachments

  • Grabs
  • Buckets
  • Clamps
  • Spikes
  • Rotators
  • Hooks and Crane booms
  • Man rider baskets / booms

Forklift safety organizations

Image of an electric forklift with component descriptions


A forklift transporting a pallet of potted plants.

Forklift safety is subject to a variety of standards world wide. The most important standard is the ANSI B56—of which stewardship has now been passed from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation after multi-year negotiations. ITSDF is a non-profit organization whose only purpose is the promulgation and modernization of the B56 standard.

Other standards have been implemented in the United States by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and in the United Kingdom by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In many countries forklift truck operators must be trained and certified to operate forklift trucks. Certification may be required for each individual class of lift that an operator would use.

Typical safe load chart for a forklift truck

Load chart.

As a lifting appliance most countries regulations require that they display a plate with the safe load capacity of the truck displayed. For clarity this is often done in the form of a safe load chart, as it varies with reach and load centre on the forks. Modern machines are also fitted with safety cut outs to limit the load others have accurate on board weighing devices to allow the recording of the weight of material loaded or unloaded from vehicles or containers..

Forklift Training in the United Kingdom

In the UK, Forklift Training is monitored by a number of different organisations, which all Forklift Instructors must be registered with at least one of them. Although R.T.I.T.B. insist on 2 yearly refresher training, the amount of time determined between refresher courses is subject to H&S Executives, Insurance companies or company policies. H&S Executives do recommend re-training every 2 years.

United Kingdom Forklift Instructors must be registered to one of the following; Road Transport Industry Training Board LTD (RTITB) Independent Training Standards Scheme and Register (ITSSAR) National Plant Operators Registration Scheme (NPORS) Association of Industrial Truck Trainers (AITT) CITB-ConstructionSkills

There are various different training companies across the UK that can provide training on-site at your business premises, these can be independent instructors or part of a training company. There are also various training centre's across the United Kingdom that can provide individuals not already trained to use a Forklift Truck to help gain a licence.

In the United Kingdom training falls into four different categories;

  • REFRESHER - People who have gained a Forklift Training Certificate and need to be brought up to date with new laws and/or regulations.
  • CONVERSION - People who have been trained on a type of truck recently, and need to start using a different type.
  • SEMI-EXPERIENCED - People who are competent on a Forklift Truck, but have never been certificated.
  • NOVICE - Never been on a Forklift Truck before and never been certificated.

The courses can last for 1 day for a Refresher or a Conversion course, to 5 days for a Novice course. United Kingdom Forklift Instructors are allowed to train a maximum of Three People per day, this does not include classroom work.

Manufactures and Suppliers

The range of machine available is huge and a lot of the Manufactures of Agricultural machinery and Construction plant make Forklifts of either the rough terrain or Telescopic types or offer Fork attachments for other machines.

UK Manufacturers

Canadian manufacturers

  • Lift King
  • Load Lifter
  • Moffett Mounty
  • Patrick

US Manufacturers

European manufacturers

Japan and Asia



  • Lees
  • Luxford

External links

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