Forklift Types – Diesel | LPG | Electric Which Is The Best For You?

Forklift Types Are Wide Ranging – Read On To Learn More!

Forklift Types – What Are the Most Common Types of Forklift Trucks?

forklift types

If this is a question you have been asking yourself, you are not alone as many people who are new to the industry get confused.

The good news is I will help you understand which forklift type you will need and how to tell the difference between one forklift and another.  You will be happy to know that there are only three fuel sources, diesel, gas (lpg) and electric.  So now that we have narrowed down the fuel sources lets jump into the different forklift truck characteristics.

Forklift Types

Now we know the three most common fuel sources let’s look at the types of forklifts available to hire, buy and lease.

  1. IC Counterbalance Forklifts
  2. Electric Counterbalance Forklifts
  3. Reach Trucks
  4. Low Level Order pickers
  5. Very Narrow Aisle
  6. Hand Pallet Trucks

Very narrow aisle, low level order pickers and reach trucks can all be placed in one forklift type category and that is Warehouse Forklifts.  Typically, these are the types of forklifts that you will find working in a warehouse and distribution centre.  To operate one, you will need a different forklift license to that of an electric or IC forklift truck.

Counterbalance trucks are the type that most people’s mind spring to when they think of a forklift truck.  It is the kind you working outside of factories loading and unloading heavy goods vehicles or working on the docks.

Electric Counterbalance Forklifts

These forklifts are ideal for working indoor and outdoor in certain conditions.  If you are considering the emission level of operating a forklift indoors then this is the forklift for you.  Zero emissions means they are clean to run indoors with little ventilation.  However, if you want to unload a wagon outside then you can.  However, you do have to be careful with the ground conditions, these machines can suffer from drive motor faults if they are driven through potholes or bad surfaces.

Because they are electric, they are incredibly quiet and again if noise pollution is a consideration, then this type of forklift is for you.  Typically, they take between 10 to 12 hours to charge the battery.  However, the new Lithium-Ion battery powered forklifts do offer an opportune charging facility.

Battery capacity ranges from 24-volt, 48-volt, 72 volt and 80 volt and you have a choice of single and 3 phase electric charging.  Depending upon the manufacturer you choose to buy from the lifting capacities vary, most commonly these forklifts never really go above 2 tonnes.  However, Toyota do make one that goes up to 18 tonnes.

Very Narrow Aisle Forklifts (VNA)

These machines are at the heart of most warehouses with high bay racking.  Narrow aisle forklifts are awfully expensive and complicated and need to be carefully considered.  Operating heights can be up to 14 metres so if you are afraid of heights, these are not for you. 

Warehouses like Amazon have these types of forklift.  Their entire throughput will be designed around the speed of operation that the forklifts can run at.  Vary narrow aisle forklifts will operate in an aisle width of around 1.2 metres and occasionally they have gone slightly narrower.

Often these types of forklifts are placed on a 5-year contract hire agreement and typically specified as part of the warehouse planning and build project.

IC Counterbalance Forklifts

Diesel and gas forklifts are the work horses of industry.  They can be found in so many different types of applications you would not believe.  They load and unload wagons, work on docks, timber yards, factories, warehouses, and airports to name just a few applications.

Lifting capacities range from 1.5 tonnes to 50 tonnes and lift heights can range up to 8 metres.  There is a huge range of options that can be fitted to these machines.  Front screen, half cab, full cab, dust particulate filters and proximity sensors are some of the most common.  They can be operated on public highways if they are taxed and insured.

The most common method of acquisition is hire and in particular long term over 3 to 5 years.  This allows for easy budgeting and running costs for the company who is hiring the equipment.

Very often you can take a one of the smaller capacity forklifts on demonstration to see how it fits your application.  Obviously, manufacturers and suppliers will not have a 50-tonne forklift available to give you on demonstration, but they may be able to take you to a referral site.

Reach Trucks

Along with VNA and low-level order pickers these electric warehouse forklifts are to be found working in warehouses and stores areas.  They do not work in aisles as small as VNA machines but can operate in 2.4 metres and lift to heights of around 11 metres.

Operators need to have a different license to operate a reach truck compared to a counterbalance forklift.  The most common lifting capacity for these types of forklifts is between 1.6 tonne and 2 tonnes. 

Battery charging times are similar to that of the electric counterbalance forklift trucks.  This style of forklift should never be operated outside of a factory or warehouse environment. They prefer nice smooth flat surfaces and if they are run outside the repair bills can be significant.

Low Level Order Picker Forklifts

The worker bees of any good warehouse operation these machines allow the operators to pick from the first two levels of racking.  They can be used to shuttle metal storage cages, the kind you find in supermarkets around from location to location.

Lifting capacities are low usually around 1 tonne but some manufactures do make them up to 2 tonnes in lifting capacity.

Ride on or walk behind options are available and usually a 1-day training course will be all you need to operate one these types of forklifts.

Hand Pallet Trucks

Millions of the hand trucks are sold around the world every year.  They typically lift around 2 tonne and come in different fork length and width the same as the low-level order pickers.

Delivery drivers often have them on the back of their vehicles to move pallets around.  Sometimes referred to as pump trucks because of the nature of how you raise the forks to lift a load.

Hopefully this will give you a flavour for the different types of forklifts and where each one fits into the world of industry.

If you would like to know more about how to buy a forklift just click here.

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