Forklift Guide: What You Need to Know About Forklifts
Forklift Guide: All about Forklifts and Other Lift Trucks
Understanding the various types of forklifts can help you make a better decision about what type of used forklift is the best for your needs. That is why we have created this forklift guide to help you out.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) defines forklifts in general as "Powered Industrial Lifts". Colloquially, all industrial lifts are called forklifts, though "lift truck" is probably a more accurate name, since some types of industrial lifts do not use the two parallel forks most commonly associated with forklifts. Alternative lift trucks either have platforms instead of forks or are tractor style trucks designed for moving attached carrying devices. This forklift guide uses the terms "forklift" and "lift truck" interchangeably.
To start this forklift guide, let us first tackle the important parts of a forklift. In most cases, lift truck wheels or tires will be either pneumatic or cushion. A pneumatic tire can be either a typical air-filled tire or a solid rubber tire that looks like a standard air-filled tire. A cushion tire (or wheel) is also sometimes referred to as a "press on" tire and basically serves to provide cushioning between a solid wheel and the floor. Traditionally, cushion tires have been made from rubber, but polyurethane tires are becoming increasingly popular. Cushion tire lift trucks are designed for indoor use, while pneumatic tired lift trucks can be operated indoors or outdoors.
Lift trucks are either electric powered or powered by an internal combustion engine. Electric lift trucks are powered by large, heavy batteries. Internal combustion engines use a variety of fuels, including diesel, gasoline, LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) and compressed natural gas. Both electric and internal combustion powered forklifts are used indoors, though there are combustion and emissions safety hazards to be taken into account when operating fueled vehicles indoors.
Some lift trucks are counterbalanced in order to prevent them from tipping over when carrying a load. Others have outrigger extensions beneath the forks or platforms to balance the load and prevent tipping.
Forklift Classes and Codes
There are seven classes of forklifts. These classes are further defined by their "codes." Some of the typical distinguishing characteristics of each class and code are the types of tires on the vehicle, the type of engine that drives it and whether it is a counterbalanced or outrigger type of lift truck. The various codes make further distinctions.
A "rider" lift truck carries the operator inside of the vehicle, either seated or standing. All codes of Class I forklifts are front loading and counterbalanced. They all come standard with parallel forks and are the type of vehicle usually associated with the word "forklift." Four lift codes are associated with Class I forklifts:
Lift Code 1: Counterbalanced Rider Type, Stand Up
Lift Code 4: 3 Wheel Electric Trucks, Sit Down
Lift Code 5: Counterbalanced Rider, Cushion Tires, Sit Down
Lift Code 6: Counterbalanced Rider, Pneumatic or Cushion, Sit Down
Class II lift trucks are, as the name implies, designed for use in narrow spaces. There are 8 different lift truck codes that apply to Class II lift trucks:
Lift Code 1: High Lift Straddle (outriggers straddle the forks)
Lift Code 2: Order Picker (lifts a personnel carrier)
Lift Code 3: Reach Type Outrigger (forks have horizontal as well as vertical reach)
Lift Code 4: Side Load Platform (forks placed between two balancing platforms)
Lift Code 4: Side Load High Lift Pallets (forks extend to the side of the forklift and retract back to a centered, balanced position)
Lift Code 4: Turret Trucks (wider truck bodies, operator sits in a side mounted "turret")
Lift Code 6: Low Lift Platform (walk behind "walkie" lift truck with platform instead of forks)
Lift Code 6: Low Lift Pallet (walk behind with forks)
Class III lift trucks are either walk behinds (walkies) or have a platform for the operator to stand on.
Lift Code 1: Low Lift Platform
Lift Code 2: Low Lift Walkie Platform
Lift Code 3: Tractors (designed for transporting attachments)
Lift Code 4: Low Lift Walkie/Center Control
Lift Code 5: Reach Type Outrigger
Lift Code 6: High Lift Straddle
Lift Code 6: Single Face Pallet ("face" is a protective metal grid)
Lift Code 6: High Lift Platform (with outriggers)
Lift Code 7: High Lift Counterbalanced
Lift Code 8: Low Lift Walkie/Rider Pallet and End Control
Class IV lift trucks may use any of the various fuels associated with internal combustion motors. These are all typical counterbalanced, front loading "forklifts."
Lift Code 3: Fork, Counterbalanced, Cushion Tire
Lift Code 4: Fork, Counterbalanced, Pneumatic Tires
Lift Code 1: Sit Down Rider (draw bar pull exceeds 999 lbs)
Rough terrain forklifts typically have large tractor type pneumatic tires designed for riding across uneven, rough and sloping terrain. They are not, however, "all terrain" vehicles. These are a separate class of forklift and do not match any of the general lift truck codes. Types of rough terrain forklift trucks include those with a vertical mast similar to a high lift forklift, a lift with a telescoping boom and a transportable forklift designed for loading and offloading materials at a job site.
Thanks to the large range of used and reconditioned forklifts for sale on this site, you don't have to pay full retail price for a quality lift truck that can handle any job you throw at it. We carry a full complement of Class I through Class V reconditioned forklifts in our catalog. We also offer Class VII rough terrain forklift trucks in our "Miscellaneous Equipment" range of reconditioned lift trucks and other equipment.