Lift truck forks carry larger loads than almost any lifting device yet are often mistreated and forgotten. As insubstantial as they seem, neglecting forks could make
them dangerous. There is barely a word about forks mentioned in most operator training manuals or instructed courses. Lift truck technicians may ignore them completely. You can find thousands of extra parts for lift trucks in some fleet repair shops, but you’ll seldom see spare forks. Even when all the trucks on the fleet are the same, fleet maintenance managers rarely order spare forks. Forks last a long time if treated properly, but they can deceive by looking as good from most viewing angles when they are worn as when they are new.
It’s true that most forks are customized to the truck by model and capacity: they are big and heavy and thought of as indestructible. But forks can be abused or ruined in the course of daily work.
Here are some examples of ways that forks can be damaged:
■ Frequently inexperienced drivers will drag the forks across the ground and wear the heel to the point where it is too thin to handle it's original load.
■ Forks can be overloaded either by picking up a load too far out on the forks, or simply by picking up loads heavier than the truck rating.
■ Maintenance shops may bend forks back into shape, weld on them, or drill holes through them. Lift truck users can add attachments to the truck that stress the forks. Drum clamps and portable booms can be supported on the forks—but what is contained in the drum or on the boom hook makes the safety difference.
■ Forks are often used to open rail car doors and break loads out or away from other loads. They are also used to pick up capacity loads not seated against the fork shank and to pick up off-balanced loads far from the side of the truck. The fork tips are sometimes inserted under other fork trucks to lift them during maintenance operations.
■ Lift trucks may collide with building columns and walls, and though the forks show no discernible bend, they may be damaged beyond safety.
■ Any time excessive heat is applied to any part of a fork —during repair, for instance—hidden damage may occur. The fork itself is a concern but so are the hooks that
secure them to the lift carriage.
You apply the outer jaws of the wear caliper to the shank (vertical) portion of the fork because it is rarely worn. Then you apply the caliper to the heel of the fork and check to see if the inner jaws slip past at any point. If so, they are worn past 90%.