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Different Forklift Types and Choosing the Right One

Forklifts are a versatile and handy piece of equipment to have in your warehouse. They are the perfect machine to use for moving heavy loads safely in your warehouse or on the construction field. With a wide range of models and styles available on the market, it can be difficult to determine which type of forklift is right for your operation. 

At Trupar America, we have a large selection of different forklift types to rent or purchase. We’ve put together a guide that provides more information on the different types of forklifts and their benefits to help you determine which type best fits your needs. 

Types of Forklifts to Consider 


Warehouse Forklift for Large Inventories

This is one of the most common forklifts found in a variety of industries, specifically in a warehouse where there are a lot of items in inventory. This forklift looks like a golf cart that has forks sticking out of the front. Pallets and balanced materials are easily hauled and unloaded with this type of forklift. They are also a useful tool for unloading items from delivery trucks. 

Counterbalance Forklifts: A Popular Lift

This type of forklift is a subtype of a warehouse forklift that is equipped with forks in the front of the lift with weight in the back of the vehicle. This is designed to counterbalance the weight of the load. A counterbalance forklift does not feature extending arms, meaning the operator can move the lift directly to the load. 

Counterbalance forklifts are available in a few different configurations. Counterbalance forklifts are available with a 3-wheel configuration that allows the operator to turn and move in circles as needed. There is also a stand-up counterbalance forklift that gives operators the ability to get on and off the lift between loads. 

Side Loaders for Heavy, Bulky Items

Sides loaders are a subtype of a warehouse forklift. These are a common type of forklift used in warehouses for the steel, wood, and building materials industries where heavy or bulky items need to be moved. To operate this forklift, the operator stands in a sideways compartment. The machine unloads objects to the side, allowing it to easily navigate alongside racks, loading, and unloading without the need for turning. 

Telehandler/Reach Forklift

Also known as a telescopic forklift, a telehandler features an extendable arm and boom. This type of forklift essentially combines a crane and forklift. With the twin forks attached to the arm of the forklift, this machine can be used to move pallets off the ground and can lift it up to 19 ft in the air. They are capable of lifting up to 5,500lbs.

Industrial/Large Capacity Forklift Combines Functionalities

A large capacity forklift is a combination of a warehouse forklift and a telehandler. An industrial forklift cannot move items at tight angles like a telehandler, but it does have the ability to move much heavier items with a 30,000lb max lift and can also lift items higher off the ground. These types of forklifts are used for more specialized jobs and have a narrower scope than the warehouse forklift or telehandler. 

Pallet Jack/Pump Truck for Smaller Loads

Pump trucks or pallet jacks are specialized tools that allow the operator to fit into tight spaces and lift small loads. While these are not the most powerful machinery or the most maneuverable, they leave a small footprint and are cheaper to rent or purchase for your operations. 

Reach Fork Truck for a Higher Reach

These are handy indoor machines that can extend their reach farther than a standard forklift. This allows you to reach pallets that are higher up in the racks safely and easily. With an open compartment, the operator can see the load for safe, accurate operation.

Straight Mast Forklift for Rough Terrain

The straight mast or rough terrain is designed for outdoor hauling on uneven or difficult surfaces. Featuring pneumatic tires, they can be used to easily navigate rocky or uneven ground. A rough terrain forklift features tires that are threaded and oversized which provides them with the stability and balance needed for safe transportation outdoors. These are best for operations that are primarily done outside. 

Forklift Features and Sizes to Choose From 

Forklifts are available in a variety of sizes. The standard forklift is between 4 to 7ft wide and 8 to 10 ft long. For outdoor or rough terrain forklifts, the size is typically greater than 10 ft long. Counterbalance forklifts require aisles that are at least 13ft wide to ensure they can turn, move through the aisles, and move loads. Height is also important to keep in mind. Standard forklift height ranges between 10- 15 ft, whereas specialty lifts such as telehandlers can lift up to 55ft depending on their size. 

If you plan to use your forklift inside of your warehouse, take your aisle width into consideration when choosing your forklift. There are also a few forklift features or elements to consider when choosing your forklift:
  • Load center- This is the distance from the forks of the lift to the load’s center of gravity. The load center will vary depending on the lift angle, tilt angle, and weight of the load. This is not a major concern if the listed weight capacity is followed and the load is balanced. 
  • Lift capacity- This is the amount of weight that a forklift can safely carry and plays a major role in the forklift’s stability. If a forklift is overloaded, it won’t be stable. 
  • Stability- The stability triangle is located underneath the forklift and helps to maintain the center of gravity for the machine. This prevents the lift from tipping over, which is why you don’t need to worry about the load center. 

Seven Forklift Classifications to Consider

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines seven classifications of forklifts that describe their use and fuel type, including:
  • Class I – Electric Motor Ride Truck- This uses electricity for fuel and is often used in indoor settings where air quality needs to be preserved. 
  • Class II – Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Truck- This class is powered by a battery and is typically used for moving inventory in tight or narrow spaces. 
  • Class III – Electric Motor Hand Truck- This class is powered by a battery and can be used to unload delivery trucks and travel short distances.
  • Class IV – Internal Combustion Engine with Cushion Tires- This class is powered by gas or diesel and is useful in low clearance situations. 
  • Class V – Internal Combustion Engine Trucks with Pneumatic Tires- This class is also powered by gas or diesel and is often used on rough surfaces indoors and outdoors. 
  • Class VI – Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors- This class can be powered by battery, gas, or diesel and is often used to haul or tow loads. 
  • Class VII – Rough Terrain Forklift Truck- Powered by gas or diesel, this class works well for uneven ground, construction sites, or high elevation lifting. 
When choosing a forklift, it is important that operators are trained in the proper safety practices for each forklift classification and will need to be certified on each class of forklift for safe operation. 

Tips for Choosing a Forklift for Rent or Purchase

Now that you understand the type of forklifts on the market, it’s time to prepare to shop around for forklift rentals. To determine which type of forklift you need, you will need to determine:
  • Capacity or how much weight you need to lift. 
  • The weight of your worksite to ensure the ground can handle the forklift’s weight. 
  • The fuel type that works best for your operation. 
  • The type of terrain you are working with. 
  • The height of your space to ensure the forklift can be maneuvered through openings. 

Visit Trupar America for A Wide Selection of Quality Forklifts

At Trupar America, we are your one-stop shop for forklift purchases and forklift rentals in the Pittsburgh area. With selections from manufacturers like Hyundai, we provide our customers with a variety of high-quality new and used forklifts for their operations. Contact us today to learn more! 

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