A forklift is an industrial vehicle used to lift heavy objects. It has a power-operated platform and uses a two-pronged fork attachment to lift heavy loads of goods or cargo up and down. They are self-powered by either combustion engines or electric batteries.
Forklifts are rated for loads at maximum weight and a forward center of gravity. This information is located on a nameplate provided by the manufacturer, and loads must not exceed these specifications. In many jurisdictions, it is illegal to alter or remove the nameplate without the permission of the forklift manufacturer.
Warehouse owners can use them to move goods in and out or building contractors to lift materials or move them across the site. Bricks, wood, and tile used for exterior and interior construction are delivered on pallets, packaged together. A forklift can help move them to wherever the builders will use them to increase the efficiency of daily operations.
Forklifts are indispensable in running distribution warehouses. They can fit inside storage bays, retrieve goods and move them to other locations. Often it is a precise job with the goods needing to be picked up and re-stacked in tight areas. That is why forklift drivers need to be very skilled to avoid damage to the goods, warehouse structure, or the forklift itself.
How are forklifts put together?
The forklift components need to work together to be this maneuverable and able to lift heavy weights with efficiency. The following are the main parts present in all types of forklift vehicles.
A truck frame. That is the base of the forklift. The frame holds all the parts together, including the wheels, mast, and counterweight.
Cab. This is where the operator sits or stands to drive the machine. It contains the control pedals, levers, the steering wheel, switches, and a dashboard with a control panel. The cab area can be open or enclosed. There may be a heater fitted in the cab for outside work in cold climate countries and a fan for keeping cool in hot weather. Some forklift models allow operators to sit in the cab, and others allow standing room only.
Overhead guard. It is a metal roof supported by metal beams at each corner of the cab that protects the operator from falling objects. The overhead guard is integrated on some forklifts as part of the frame assembly.
Counterweight. Due to the design, a forklift carries all its weight at the front of the vehicle. A counterweight is installed at the back to balance the vehicle as it lifts the selected loads to keep the forklift from falling over and dropping the cargo. The counterweight is made of cast iron, and usually, it is placed at the back of the forklift.
Power source. To make the forklift move, it has a built-in combustion engine that can be fueled with diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, natural gas, and compressed natural gas, which is an eco-friendly alternative to gasoline. Lead-acid batteries power the electric type of forklift.
Carriage. It is a base of the forklift. The carriage is attached to the mast to enable it to move up and down. This is the part where the cargo is loaded.
Mast. The mast is the part responsible for lifting and lowering of the load. It also has interlocking rails to allow for horizontal movement of the carriage.
How the Forklifts Have Developed
Since the invention of the hydraulic-powered lift system, the machine could lift more weight and reach higher. At the same time, a standard pallet to pack heavy objects was used by more businesses, and more efficient storing methods of materials in warehouses were established. It made more sense to develop a standard-size forklift with a prong span that fits the standard palettes and is able to move around a warehouse with ease.
Since then, most of the upgrades have been about the operator’s comfort, maximizing lifting capacity, and reducing emissions. Today’s forklifts have comfortable, ergonomic cab designs, and some are electrically powered.
Popular Makes of Forklifts
The three big names in the forklift manufactures have all been in operation since early 1900.
The company was established in 1929 as a logging equipment manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest. The idea to manufacture lifting equipment like a forklift came from one of the employees who used a hoist to help loggers move their equipment. Their reputation was made during WWII when both American and British armies used Hyster forklifts to move supplies in warehouses.
Yale is a well-known lock company, but it has also manufactured forklifts since 1920. The Yale forklifts are large and can lift anything from 3,500 lbs to 35,000 lbs. These heavy lifting forklifts are created for construction, farm, shipping yards, and warehouse needs.
JCB stands for Joseph Cyril Bramford, and the company was established in 1945. They manufacture a telehandler forklift with a unique outward reach. Instead of a fork, a telehandler has a telescopic boom to which you can fit many different attachments, depending on what you want to lift. It resembles a mini-crane. This innovative design shows how diverse forklifts can be and how they may be adapted for many uses. They also developed a rough terrain forklift and recently introduced their first electric forklift model.
Where Are Forklifts Used
Forklifts are an integral part of industrial workplaces as well as many other industries. Whether in construction or shipping, they improve efficiency wherever large orders of heavy materials are needed.
Dockyards – Forklifts are used for unloading and stacking containers on barges and ships. Today, they move bulky cargo from delivery trucks to storage facilities in the dockside and ships. They are useful for transporting steel and wood shipments.
Recycling facilities – Forklifts are handy to use in recycling operations. They are used to unload recycling trucks and dumpster rental containers before their contents are sorted into different recycling materials. They efficiently unload trucks, elevators, and railway cars.
Construction sites – Forklifts are not only suitable for industrial uses. Construction workers can also benefit from forklift use to carry and move heavy building materials from the delivery trucks to where they will be used. A forklift can be used as both a piece of lifting equipment and a vehicle in the construction world. Forklifts are best used in unloading pallets of bricks, steel joists, construction equipment, and materials.
Warehouses – This is the place where the life of a forklift began. Mostly forklifts are used here to unload trucks and transport goods. There are different types of forklifts available for warehouse use. Depending on how heavy are the loads they must lift, forklifts vary in size and shape.
Advantages of owning a forklift
If you are using forklifts occasionally, renting one per-project basis may be the better option. Several forklift contractors hire forklifts. However, if you move a lot of heavy materials or cargo, owning your forklift may be more practical. If you have your own, you can customize it to suit particular needs.
The most important advantage of owning a forklift is that you get a chance to familiarize yourself with the machine—the same way as owning a car. Even if you drive another vehicle of the same model, it won’t “feel” the same as your own car does. Each specific machine has its own “feel”. The operators get to know how their specific machine handles. That can translate into a more efficient operation as the operator who is familiar with the forklift is less likely to lose a load or cause any other damage.
Another advantage is that you cut out potential downtime while waiting for the forklift to be delivered by the forklift service. You also cut out the inconvenience of having to source a machine every time you need one.
A forklift is an asset to your business if your company owns it.
Features to Consider When Purchasing a Forklift
When you decide to purchase a forklift for your company, you need to shop around to find one that matches your needs.
You need to be specific about how the forklift will be used in your business and compare how the machine attributes to match your requirements.
Check the maximum load capacity of the forklift. It needs to have a higher capacity than the heaviest loads you plan to move with it. Check the load requirement in terms of weight, dimensions, and shape. It would be best if you made sure that the machine can move the cargo or loads that you have. If you are a metal supplier, your load dimensions will differ from someone who has a container rental business. Therefore, you may need a different type of forklift.
Examine the top load beam. It is important that the forklift will be able to access the aisle with its load raised. The forklift should also clear the ceiling height without touching. If you need the machine to be able to stack boxes at right-angles, your aisles need to be wide enough to accommodate the required movement. Bear in mind that a forklift will need a liftoff space of about 8 to 12 inches.
Ensuring Forklift Operator’s Safety
Operating a forklift is a specialized skill and not everyone can do it. Forklift truck operators must be trained and certified to operate forklift trucks in many countries. Certification may be required for each individual class of lift that an operator would use. Accidents in the workplace are common for even experienced forklift operators. That is why employers are required by law to train their forklift operators, protect their employees from potential hazards, and ensure that nobody operates a forklift without mandatory training.
A common cause of injuries is the rear collision with shelving. It happens because most forklifts are designed with open backs without a physical barrier to protect the driver from colliding with horizontal cross-beams. Forklifts often operate in small, confined spaces, and if they need to reverse, it is easy to bump a shelf situated directly behind the driver and out the line of vision.
If a driver is injured on duty, he has a right according to the personal injury law to hire personal injury accident lawyers or personal injury law attorneys and seek compensation for medical expenses and lost income during the accident recovery period.
If you need to move something heavy or move things around in a warehouse, renting a forklift to finish a specific task may be a better option than buying one.
For one, there is no point in spending thousands of dollars on a piece of equipment that will be used once. If that is your situation, then renting a forklift when you need it is a much better option. Forklift rental companies can rent their trucks daily, weekly or monthly basis. So, whether your once-off job can be completed in one day or will take a couple of weeks, you will be able to find someone to hire a forklift for your needs.
Usually, the forklift rental companies set their rental prices according to the machine’s load capacity. The prices will also depend on whether the machine has a combustion engine or runs on electric batteries. The freight fee for travel from the dealer to your business is based on distance. There is usually a flat fee within a predetermined area, and after that, a per-mile rate is billed.
Forklifts are very useful tools that can be used to pick up loads and transport them to where they are needed. They can operate in various settings, from warehouses where they stack goods on shelves to big construction sites to help unload heavy loads of materials and equipment. So, if you have a business where you will need a forklift every day, buying a machine would benefit your situation. However, if you feel that you will use a forklift only once or twice a month, perhaps renting a forklift will be better.