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What Type of Forklift Do I Need?

Unless you work with forklifts every day, you probably don’t know very much about them. Even those who own or operate forklifts might not be familiar with the full range of options on the market. That’s okay—we’re here to help.

The right truck will fit your work environment and its demands in several key areas. Here are a few considerations you need to make when purchasing a lift truck:

  • Will it be used indoors, outdoors or both?
  • How often do you intend to use the truck?
  • What types of materials do you work with, and in what manner?
  • How high up do you need to go?
  • How narrow are your aisles?
  • How heavy/long of a load will it need to lift?

Will it be used indoors, outdoors or both?

Toyota 4-wheel electric with cushion tires

The type of truck you’ll want depends on your answers to these questions. If your truck will do its work indoors, you may want to go with a battery-powered forklift. They’re quieter, emission-free and more compact than liquid propane gas (LPG) machines. LPG trucks make more sense in outdoor applications, but they’re also able to operate indoors. Diesel trucks are intended purely for outdoor use.

The indoor/outdoor question also dictates tire type. Forklifts take two different types of tires: cushion and pneumatic. Cushion tires are ideal for indoor use, pneumatic for outdoor. The important thing to know going in is that forklift frames are built specifically for cushion or pneumatic tires. You can’t change them later.

Electric walkie

How often do you intend to use the truck?

Some forklift users purchase trucks to use a little bit each day, while others run forklifts nonstop. If you’re seeking something for occasional use, you might consider a walk-behind (walkie) forklift, as the they’re more cost-effective. In that regard, used equipment is a fine option as well. Those operating forklift trucks on a high cycle will want to invest a few more dollars in customization. Important considerations include attachments such as sideshifting fork positioners and ergonomic features for operator comfort and safety.

Order pickers allow employees to assemble orders on the lift

What types of materials do you work with, and in what manner?

The types of materials you’re working with will translate to equipment choice in several ways. First, it will affect how you choose to warehouse inventory. In other cases, it won’t necessarily be your materials, but what you do with them (like how you assemble orders) that dictates the ideal truck. So, for certain industries, a reach truck or an order picker might be the best fit for your application. Other types of trucks are optimized to handle specific materials, like lumber or metal; others are designed for cold storage applications.

How high up do you need to go?

Your warehousing will also dictate how high the forks need to reach. This will help you to decide which mast you require.

How narrow are your aisles?

The aisle width will help you decide whether you should choose sit-down or stand-up rider trucks, and whether to opt for three- or four-wheel equipment.

Large capacity diesel

How heavy/long of a load will it need to lift?

The weight of your materials will guide your decision as to what size truck you need. The heavier the materials, the larger the truck required to lift them. Larger trucks are, of course, less maneuverable; they’re also more expensive, so it’s important to find the right balance. The load length of your materials are also a deciding factor. Longer loads may require longer forks but will also affect the truck’s lift capacity. So, longer loads will necessitate more powerful trucks than shorter loads of the same weight.

So which model is best for my needs?

To find out, use our forklift finder tool to help you determine which model is best for your application.

There are myriad interrelated factors to consider when investing in a lift truck. Hopefully this article answers some questions, and we’ll delve more in to the specifics every month. On the bright side, our veteran sales team will guide along every step of the way.

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