One of the most important and widely used pieces of equipment in material handling, the lift truck is a powered industrial vehicle used to lift and transport materials for short distances. Known also as forklift truck, fork truck or forklift, it was developed in the early 20th century.
Lift trucks use either gasoline-powered engines, diesel engines, or electric motors, with the power supplied by a rechargable industrial battery.
A typical lift truck uses two power-operated horizontal prongs (forks) that can be raised and lowered for loading, transporting, and unloading goods, particularly goods stacked on wooden pallets.
Some of the most typical lift trucks include:
Counterbalance forklift trucks, the most common type, its forks protrude from the front of the machine, with no outriggers or baselegs to support the load.
Counterbalance forklift are available in 4-wheel and 3-wheel configuration. 3-wheel counterbalance forklift trucks are similar to 4-wheel counterbalance machines. While both types of trucks steer with the rear wheels, 3-wheel forklifts use a steered wheel assembly in the center of the rear of the machine. 3-wheel forklifts are typically more maneuverable than 4-wheel machines. They work better than 4-wheel forklifts where space is limited.
Counterbalance forklifts are available in configurations where the operator sits down, similar to driving a car, or stands up in an operator compartment. Stand up trucks are 3-wheel configurations specifically designed for operating in very congested areas on loading docks or manufacturing facilities and for loading/ unloading trucks and railroad cars.
Reach trucks are used most in warehouses for placing and retrieving pallets in warehouse rack at elevated heights. They offer maximum lift height with excellent maneuverability. In North America, reach trucks are typically stand up trucks. The forks on a reach truck are attached to a pantograph mechanism that extends them forward to place in or retrieve pallets from warehouse racking. Reach trucks have baselegs extending from the tractor to support the load. The baselegs and stand-up configuration of the tractor allow reach trucks to be used in aisles as narrow as 9 feet.
Hand-pallet trucks (aka pump trucks) are non-powered tools used to move palletised loads; typically up to 5500 lbs. in weight.
Powered pallet trucks operate to a very similar principle as hand-pallet trucks. The operator slides the forks into the pallet to allow for load bearing. On a powered pallet truck, however, the lifting of the load, and truck movement, is powered by the electric motor within the machine.
Orderpickers or stockpickers raise operators on a platform with the forks, facilitating piece and case picking at elevated heights.
Turret trucks or Swing-Reach® can work in aisles as narrow as 60”, and are used for placing and retrieving pallets in warehouse rack at elevated heights.
Sideloaders are trucks that operate by picking up their load from the side and travel parallel to the length of the load, from the perspective of the operator.
Variations on this term: Lift Truck may also be referred to as Forklift, Forklift Truck, or Fork Truck