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Forklifts are used in a variety of environments ranging from the confines of a small warehouse to large construction fields and even lumberjack yards.

The 9 most common types of forklifts with their uses are shared below:

1. Counterbalance Forklift – This common forklift has forks out at the front and counterbalancing weights at the back. Counterbalance forklifts do not have extending arms as they can be directly driven to the loads. These are most commonly used in situations where circular maneuvering is required.

Counterbalance Forklifts

2. Pallet Jack – Pallet jacks trade-off their size and load-carrying capacity to get the ability to lift small loads and fit into the tightest quarters. These are generally powered with a battery or manually.

Pallet Jack Forklifts

3. Walkie Stacker – Unlike other forklifts, these machines do not have operator cabs. Instead, the operator has to stand behind the machine and steer it manually using an attached handle. The Walkie stacker also lacks maneuverability, power, and speed, but can reach much higher off the ground than the pallet jack, and hence are used where pallets need to be taken to higher heights which is not possible with a pallet jack.

Walkie Stacker Forklifts
4. Order Picker
– A type of the Walkie stacker, order pickers can reach heights of up to 32 feet and are designed to lift operators to warehouse racks, instead of the traditional lifting of loads. These are found in customer order warehouses and storage facilities where operators can be lifted up to the warehouse racks to bring down individual units of inventory rather than lifting entire pallets.

Order Picker

5. Reach Fork Truck – The reach fork truck has forks that can extend beyond the compartment and reach warehouse racks in a way that is not possible with the standard forklifts. The cab operator compartment is open which provides higher visibility. With stabilized legs and forward-extending forks, reach fork trucks can be used in quick and precise pallet picking in indoor situations.

Reach Fork Truck

6. Telehandler – Telehandler is a combination of a crane and a forklift as it has an extendable arm mounted on a boom. The forks are attached to the arm itself which allows a telehandler to lift objects from the ground to high up in the air. These machines can reach tight spaces and odd angles with ease and find themselves useful on construction sites.


7. Industrial Forklift – It combines the functionality of a telehandler with that of a warehouse forklift. It can easily haul much heavier loads to greater heights than a warehouse forklift, although it can’t reach tight cornered spaces. With a highly specialized operation, these forklifts find limited uses in the transportation of heavy loads for industrial applications.

Industrial Forklift

8. Rough Terrain Forklift – Specially designed for outdoor job sites, these machines are equipped with oversized pneumatic tires to get better grip and traction. Even the cab operator cage is reinforced as the machines are used in difficult uneven terrain. You can easily find these machines on outdoor job sites with uneven and rocky terrain.

Rough Terrain forklift

9. Side Loader – It gets the name due to its sideways operation where the operator stands in a sideways compartment and the loader unloads and loads objects on the side. These are suitable for operations in narrow spaces whilst handling long loads such as pipes and logs.

Side Loader forklift

Forklifts can also be organized based on their classifications that describe their fuel option and uses, as per the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The classification types are shared below:






   Electric Motor Ride Truck


                  Indoor settings where air quality is of concern


  Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Truck


Movement of inventory in narrow/tight spaces


  Electric Motor Hand Truck


Quick upload of the delivery truck across short distances


  IC Engine with Cushion Tires


Low clearance work areas


  IC Engine Trucks with Pneumatic Tires


Indoor and outdoor with rough/uneven surfaces


  Electric and IC Engine Tractors


Towing or hauling of heavy loads


  Rough Terrain Forklift Truck


Uneven ground, construction sites, high elevation lifting

Each forklift type and classification has its own unique uses and features. Contact us today to see what best suits your material handling needs!

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