The Classifications of Forklifts

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Deciding your warehouse or manufacturing facility needs to purchase a new forklift is only the first step. OSHA has identified and classified seven different types of powered industrial vehicles giving you a number of options to choose from depending on your organizations needs and applications.

The recognized seven classifications are as follows:

Forklift Classifications

So, what does this classification mean? Each class of vehicle has its own features and advantages and is best suited for certain applications. Here we break down what each forklift type means and what kind of work it should be used for.

  • Class 1 – Electric Motor Rider Trucks: Electric vehicles give off no emissions and make minimal noises in the workplace making it ideal for indoor applications. Electric motor rider trucks include both stand-up riders to sit-down models and are ideal for loading and unloading materials and handling pallets.
  • Class 2 – Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks: As the name implies, narrow aisle trucks work well for operating in tight spaces and is perfect for moving inventory within aisles. The smaller frame also ensures you will not need a large amount of space to store it.
  • Class 3 – Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks: Class 3 forklifts are design to life loads only a few inches off the ground and come in both walk-behind and rider models. Perfect for unloading deliveries or moving materials a short distance.
  • Class 4 – Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) Trucks with Cushion Tires: The wheels of these trucks are designed for indoors and use liquid propane fuel instead of an electric battery. Although electric trucks are usually preferred, class 4 forklifts are ideal for low-clearance areas and in facilities that do not have the extra space for a recharging station.
  • Class 5ICE Trucks with Pneumatic Tires: Class 5 trucks are essentially the same as class 4 but with different tires. The pneumatic tires allow the versatile truck to be used outdoors and on rough surfaces.
  • Class 6 – Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors: Also known as tuggers and tow tractors, these vehicles tow a load rather than lifting it. You might see one of these vehicles at an airport pulling carts of luggage across the tarmac.
  • Class 7 – Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks: Outdoor workplaces like a lumberyard or a construction site require a forklift that can handle rough terrain. Class 7 trucks are optimal for outdoor environments and for lifting building materials to high elevations.
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In addition to these classifications, forklifts also have special attachments to do specific jobs. It is extremely dangerous to use unapproved attachments with a forklift because of the balanced nature of the machine. Using an attachment that is not approved will upset this balance and cause the forklift to overturn, which can result in serious injury or death. Some approved attachments include a drum grabber, jib crane, hoist, carpet lift attachment, and a personnel platform.

Forklifts work by counterbalancing the weight of the load with the body of the forklift. The front axle and mast of the forklift serve as the fulcrum. Each forklift can safely carry a specified amount of weight. All forklifts have a capacity plate which helps the operator determine which loads he or she may safely lift.

You will want to assess your facility and identify what applications you need a powered industrial vehicle. Carefully evaluate each classification and choose the truck that is perfectly fit for your organization.

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