With forklift trucks in use in warehouses throughout the world it is hard to imagine how heavy work would get done without them. The earliest powered lift vehicles were developed for factory use after World War I when workers were scarce. Since then forklifts have improved and various types have evolved. Today, forklifts are divided into seven classifications. Two factors determine how a truck is classified – the fuel used and the intended use for the truck. It is essential that businesses choose the appropriate class of truck for their purposes. All forklift operators are required to be certified for the class of truck they will operate. Here are the various classes of forklifts:
Class 1 Electric Motor, Rider, Counter-Balanced Trucks (solid and pneumatic tires)
These trucks are powered by an electric motor. The operator may sit or stand when operating the vehicle. One group of Class 1 trucks are counter-balanced models that have a large weight in the rear designed to counterbalance the weight of the loads. Other sub-groups are defined by the number of tires (3 or 4) or the type of tires. Cushion tires are used indoors on smooth, level surfaces. Pneumatic tires are useful outdoors and on rougher terrain. Electric trucks are desirable for enclosed areas when fuel fumes cause difficulties. Common examples are the stand up rider or the electric-powered versions of the sit down rider.
Class 2 Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks (solid tires)
These electric trucks are specially designed to operate in narrower aisles and other tight spaces. They may have specialized attachments or features that allow them to do specific jobs, like a side loader. Some examples of Class 2 trucks are the narrow aisle stand up rider (no counterweight, straddle legs in the front provide stability), the narrow aisle stand up reach rider (a scissor-action fork extends in several directions from the truck) and a stand up rider order picker (the driver stands and operates control on a platform; he moves to the goods and “picks” them).
Class 3 Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks (solid tires)
These electric trucks are mostly operated by a handle at the rear. They may be walked (hand trucks) or may have a seat. They are low lift units often referred to as pallet jacks. An example would be a motorized hand pallet jack.
Class 4 Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (solid tires)
These lift trucks are distinguished by the use of an internal combustion engine similar to a car. They have solid tires for indoor use on smooth surfaces and sit low to the ground in low clearance area. They may be counterbalanced. The internal combustion engine may use gasoline, diesel or LP gas. A gas-powered sit down rider with solid tires is a common example.
Class 5 Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (pneumatic tires)
Class 5 trucks are similar to Class 4 trucks, but have pneumatic tires, making them desirable for indoor or outdoor applications. They are powered by LP gas, gasoline, diesel or compressed natural gas. They are usually counterbalanced. These sit down riders are the most common type found in warehouse use.
Class 6 Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors (solid and pneumatic tires)
These vehicles are not, in fact, forklifts at all. They are tractors. They may be powered by electric or any type of gas.
Class 7 Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks (pneumatic tires)
These forklift trucks are specially designed for use in rough terrain. They have large flotation tires that make them useful on construction sites or lumber yards. Many types of forklifts may be included in this group – the distinction is that the tires are for rough surfaces.