What are the Different Types of Forklifts?

15 july 2022 13:59 PM

There are several different types of forklifts, all of which have their own specific applications. Assuming you're forklift certified, depending on what environment you’re working in and what you want to accomplish with a forklift, you’ll need a different type.

What is a Forklift?

A forklift is a vehicle used to lift and transport materials over fairly short distances. Though there are several different types of forklifts, they typically have a power-operated set of forks that pick up the materials. Forklifts are industrial vehicles most commonly used in warehouses and construction sites, though they have several other applications as well.

Different Types of Forklifts

To help you decide which forklift is right for your job, here are some of the different types of forklifts and their optimal uses:

Truck Mounted Forklift

A truck-mounted forklift, commonly known as a TMF, All-Terrain Forklift, TMFL, and piggyback forklift, is designed to lift and mount onto the back of a Class 8 truck or trailer via a preinstalled carrier. Truck mounted forklifts are lighter and more agile than a traditional forklift. Its smaller size also allows it to be attached to a flatbed truck for quick transport to remote job sites. This model of forklift is ideal for handling more specific jobs that deal with rough or unstable terrain.

Due to it's size and mounted ability, the Truck Mounted Forklift can be brought with the delivery driver on each trip. The forklift can then be unmounted from the carrier under its own power, and then transport the payload almost anywhere onsite! All while your truck stays on the paved road.

Truck mounted forklifts can be used in many applications, including agriculture and recycling.

If you are already using a TMF, check out this Truck Mounted Forklift Pre-Operation Inspection Checklist. 

Counterbalance Forklift

Counterbalance forklifts are extremely popular forklifts that have counterbalancing weights opposite the forks. The back-mounted weights help to offset the weight of the load and keep the forklift balanced.

A key characteristic of counterbalance forklifts is that they don’t have extending arms. That means they can easily get directly to and from the load. There’s more than one type of counterbalance forklift, too.

One that you might see often is a 3-wheel variation of the counterbalance forklift. It’s handy for maneuvering in circles. There’s also a stand-up counterbalance forklift that makes getting in and out between loads easy for the operator.

Warehouse Forklift

If you asked someone to picture a forklift, they would probably picture a warehouse forklift. They have a cab for the operator to sit in and have two forks coming out of the front. The cab of a warehouse forklift is typically about the size of a golf cart.

Warehouse forklifts are ideal for use in facilities with lots of items in inventory. They can easily load, unload, and transport items around a facility.

Side Loader Forklift

Side loader forklifts are typically considered a subtype of warehouse forklifts. These forklifts are designed so that an operator can stand in a sideways compartment with a side loader to pick up and unload objects.

Though it’s a fairly simple modification from the standard warehouse forklift, this sideways operation allows the forklifts to drive up to wracks without needing to make any turns. Side loader forklifts are ideal for getting up and down narrow aisles and moving long loads. You’ll often find them in manufacturing facilities that handle bulky items like pipes and timber.

Reach Forklift

A reach forklift, also called a telehandler, is yet another type of forklift. These forklifts combine the typical characteristics of a forklift with a crane. They have long extendable arms with twin forks mounted on a boom for lifting and moving materials.

Telehandlers often have higher lifting capacities compared to other forklifts, but the biggest advantage of using a telehandler is that they can get materials very high into the air even at odd angles. Reach forklifts come in very handy on construction sites for getting building materials where they need to go.

Pallet Jack

Pallet jacks are an affordable and straightforward option for moving items around in warehouses and stores.

These forklifts are pedestrian operated meaning there is not a cab for the operator to sit and drive the forklift in. The operator simply stands behind the pallet jack and pushes it into place beneath a pallet. From there, the operator can pump a hydraulic jack to bring up the fork.

The downside of using a pallet jack is that they have limited functionality. They’re not capable of moving goods above ground level or holding loads above a low size and weight limit. The benefit of using a pallet jack over other forklifts is that they’re much less expensive than many other options. If you only need to move around small loads at ground level, a pallet jack may be a perfect choice.

Rough Terrain Forklift

Rough terrain forklifts, as the name suggests, are intended for use on uneven or otherwise rough terrain like snow, ice, or mud. The tires on rough terrain forklifts are different from those on many other types of forklifts. Rough terrain forklifts use pneumatic tires, typically oversized pneumatic tires, with thicker threads that offer enhanced grip and traction.

The cab operator cage on these forklifts is also often reinforced to protect the operator on the harsh terrain. If you look around an outdoor construction site, especially one with rocky or uneven terrain, you’re likely to see a rough terrain forklift or two.

Forklift Sizes

Forklifts don’t just come in different styles. They also come in different sizes. For businesses intending to use forklifts in a warehouse setting, it’s vital to keep the aisle width in mind.

The width and length of the forklift aren’t the only measurements to consider. Make sure to take the height of the forklift into account, too.

Choosing the Right Forklift

There are several factors to keep in mind when choosing the right forklift for your particular situation.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How much weight do you need to lift and move?
  • Is the terrain uneven or smooth?
  • How big is the space the forklift will have to pass through?
  • Do you need battery, electric, or gas power?

The answers to these questions will clarify the appropriate capacity, size, fuel type, and terrain style of the forklift you should use. You don’t want to rush through the selection process only to find out later that the forklift you selected actually won’t work for one reason or another. Take the time to make sure you choose the ideal forklift out of all the different types of forklifts detailed above.

You’ll also want to consider the manufacturer of the forklift. Like with any other product, the quality of your forklift will be greatly affected by the manufacturer that produces it. You may find it’s worth investing in a higher-quality forklift to make sure it can get the job done now and well into the future.

If you’ve been searching for high-quality forklifts, look no further than Hiab. Our wide selection of truck-mounted forklifts can help you complete even the toughest job. Shop our MOFFETT Truck Mounted Forklifts today!


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