Different Types of Forklifts
Training Module 3 – Different Types of Forklifts Overview
We walk through the various different types of forklifts and their specific functions. Industries have different requirements and understanding which Forklift truck is best suited will help you gain a further understanding and industry experience.
The name refers to the ability of the fork carriage to ‘reach’ out beyond the stabilising legs and therefore ‘reach’ into racking. The combination of this reach capability and the stabilising legs means reach trucks can lift to great heights (up to 13 metres) while still operating in very tight working environments (3m aisle widths).
The stabilising legs and batteries (which can weigh over a ton alone) within a reach truck negate the need for any counterbalance weight within the truck construct. High quality reach trucks can lift up to 900kgs at 13m high. Smaller reach trucks can lift 1.4 tons to 9m without the reach truck derating at all.
Reach trucks can also be fitted with cameras on the fork carriage that transmit a signal down to a LCD screen in the cab to aid navigation and visibility. Reach trucks also come fitted with height indicators, height selectors and weight indicators which make using the reach trucks at height much easier for the operator.
While excellent for use indoors, reach trucks are not ideally suited to work outside. Their low under-carriage clearance can cause problems on uneven working surfaces, and their electric power systems can be prone to contact trouble if regularly shaken due to undulating working surfaces. It must also be pointed out that warehouse equipment tyres are not fit for uneven surfaces and must only be used on flat even surfaces.
On counterbalance trucks, the forks protrude from the front of the machine, with no outrigging legs or arms, meaning the truck can be driven up to the exact location of the load or racking. This means that no reach facility is required, and lends itself to straightforward operation.
Counterbalance machines are available as electric, petrol/gas or diesel powered. Many have side shifts, a mast tilt facility, and occasionally driver cabs. They come with two types of masts being 2 stage or 3 stage masts. 3 Stage masts are used for container entry with a maximum lift height of just under 5m.
As the name suggests, counterbalance trucks operate a counterbalance weight design, with a weight at the rear of the truck off-setting the load to be lifted at the front. Electric counterbalance machines are able to operate with a smaller counterweight as the battery serves as ballast as well as a source of power.
3 wheel counterbalance machines are perfect for use where space is limited (3.4m aisle widths) due to their tight turning circles ease of movement. They are also ideally suited to applications that require inside and outside use and racking loading. The combination of counterbalance under-clearance and tight manoeuvrability ensures maximum productivity as well as safety.
The main benefit of teletrucks is the excellent access they offer, with most machines offering the ability to access both sides of a delivery wagon from one side only; this can lead to strong efficiencies.
The drawbacks to teletrucks are the cost (they are significantly more expensive than counterbalance machines) and some reliability issues due to the increased complexity of their design and structure.
They are very good at handling wide (or long) loads that would otherwise be unstable on a conventional counterbalance machine. Sideloaders are excellent for handling lengthy materials such as timber, piping and sheets.
This strength is also a weakness however, as they offer limited flexibility for handling more conventional loads.
Hand pallet jacks are non-powered tools designed for the moving of palletised loads; typically up to 2,500kg in weight.
They are simple in their operation with the operator sliding the forks into the pallet, ‘pumping’ the handle to raise the forks off the ground, and moving the load via the handle.
The front wheels are mounted inside the end of the forks, and as the hydraulic jack is raised, the forks are separated vertically from the front wheels, forcing the load upward until it clears the floor. The pallet is only lifted enough to clear the floor for subsequent travel.
There are a wide variety of hand pallet trucks available:
- Standard pallet compliant
- Euro pallet compliant
- Low profile
- Wide forkspread
- Narrow forkspread
- Stainless steel construct
- Long forked
- Short forked
You get a walk behind and ride on power pallet truck.
Typically, there is a ‘paddle’ control to select forward or reverse direction, and button control to raise or lower the forks.
As with all electric powered trucks, the batteries contained within need to be charged. Often, with a powered pallet truck, the truck has an integral charger meaning that it can be plugged straight into the mains without the need for a stand-alone charger.
Powered pallet trucks operate best on flat and smooth surfaces and have various fork lengths such as 1150mm and 2350mm.
A stacker is basically a power pallet truck but with a mast. There are two types of mast being a 2 stage and 3 stage mast. Mast heights vary from 2.5m to 5.4m lift height.
There are also two types of stackers, walk behind and ride on. However stackers also have two additional models, a fork over stacker and a straddle stacker.
Fork over stackers are used when using euro pallets or open bottom pallets while straddle stackers are used when you need to lift closed bottom pallets.