Lift Trucks


  • Hand trucks are used for manual movement of non-palletized, unstacked loads.

  • Counterbalanced forklifts are weighted at the rear to prevent the vehicle from tipping forward when lifting a load.

For independent movement, lifting and placement of discrete loads throughout a facility, a variety of motorized lift trucks or forklifts can be used. These mobile, self-loading trucks are power-propelled to carry, push, pull, lift, stack or tier material. Trucks can be outfitted with forks for pallet-based unit load picking, or with a variety of attachments—such as platforms, grippers or clamps—for handling loads that are not palletized. Other motorized vehicles transport personnel or loads onboard or towed behind. Manually powered vehicles, such as carts and hand trucks can be used to move lighter loads.

The maximum amount of weight a vehicle can carry and/or lift is dependent on its capacity rating, as well as its power source. The flexibility afforded by a maneuverable lift truck makes them an important tool in a facility. Typical uses in warehouses and distribution centers include placing and removing loads into storage rack, loading and unloading trailers in the yard or at the dock, delivering components to an assembly line, and positioning loads for further handling processes.

There is a wide variety of lift truck styles and accessories for customization to unique applications and needs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) divides powered industrial trucks into seven classifications. These include:

Class I: Electric motor rider trucks - An electrically powered vehicle with or without seating for one operator that has a movable fork mounted on the front. These trucks are typically counterbalanced, or weighted at the rear, to prevent the vehicle from tipping forward when lifting a load. They include:

  • Counterbalanced rider type, stand up
  • Three wheel electric trucks, sit down
  • Counterbalanced rider type, cushion tires, sit down
  • Counterbalanced rider, pneumatic or either type tire, sit down (includes high- and low-platform)

Class II: Electric motor narrow aisle trucks - Electric-powered by either a battery or a fuel cell, these vehicles are operated by a seated or standing operator. Forks may be oriented to the front or at a right angle for lifting loads in closely-placed (narrow aisle) racks. These vehicles can also be called order picker trucks, turret trucks, side loader trucks or straddle trucks. They include:

  • High lift straddle
  • Order picker
  • Reach type outrigger
  • Side loaders, turret trucks, swing mast and convertible turret/stock pickers
  • Low lift pallet and platform (rider)

Class III: Electric motor hand trucks – Electric-powered by either a battery or fuel cell pallet trucks are walked behind or pulled by an operator. They may have forks or a platform to support the load. Movement controls are mounted on a yoke or handle affixed on a lever. They include:

  • Low lift platform
  • Low lift walkie pallet
  • Tractors (draw bar pull under 999 pounds)
  • Low lift walkie/center control
  • Reach type outrigger
  • High lift straddle
  • High lift counterbalanced
  • Low lift walkie/rider pallet

Class IV: Internal combustion engine trucks, solid tiresCounterbalanced, with forks mounted to the front and space for one operator, these vehicles are powered by gasoline, diesel fuel or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). They ride on solid rubber tires for indoor use. They include:

  • Fork, counterbalanced (cushion tire)

Class V: Internal combustion engine trucks, pneumatic tires – Identical to Class IV trucks (counterbalanced, with forks mounted to the front and space for one operator, and powered by gasoline, diesel fuel or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)), these trucks ride on pneumatic tires for indoor/outdoor use. They include:

  • Fork, counterbalanced (pneumatic tire)

Class VI: Electric and internal combustion engine tractors – These include tractor-trailers, which are non-load-carrying motorized vehicles that pull a train of trailers, such as dollies or floor hand trucks, across a facility. Also included in this class are personnel and burden carriers, which transport workers within a facility. They include:

  • Sit-down rider (draw bar pull over 999 pounds)

Class VII: Rough terrain forklift trucks – Exclusively for outdoor use, these trucks handle rough terrains such as unimproved construction sites. They are less frequently used in materials handling applications.

Unclassified by OSHA, but also used to transport materials throughout a facility, are:

Hand truck – Used for manual movement of non-palletized, unstacked loads. Types include two-wheeled hand trucks, which require the load to be tilted during travel; three-or-more wheeled dollies have a platform but no handle, so the load is pushed; and manually-pushed floor hand trucks or carts that ride on four-or-more wheels and may or may not have a hitch for pulling or a handle for pushing.

Pallet jack – A forked vehicle for manual movement of a single pallet, similar to Class III trucks above, but with no power source for lifting or travel.

Lift trucks move materials in multiple ways throughout a facility, including:

  • Loading
  • Order picking
  • Receiving
  • Shipping
  • Storage
  • Unloading

Lift trucks provide a variety of benefits:

  • Ergonomics – By removing the tasks of pushing or lifting heavy loads, workers are less prone to injury
  • Flexibility – Because they move independently throughout, indoors and outside a facility, lift trucks can transport loads without being required to follow a fixed path
  • Productivity – Capable of moving larger loads of products, lift trucks increase the amount of volume that a facility can handle

Lift trucks are used in every industry, including:

  • Aerospace
  • Appliance
  • Automotive
  • Beverage
  • Chemicals
  • Construction
  • Consumer goods
  • E-Commerce
  • Food
  • Hardware
  • Hospital
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials processing
  • Paper
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Plastics
  • Retail
  • Warehousing and distribution

Read more about how Lift Trucks are used in different industries and applications.