Lift trucks, also known as forklift trucks, are industrial vehicles which are used to lift, retrieve and move heavy products, items and loaded pallets. They are capable of stacking, racking and otherwise manipulating loads into desired locations, thus reducing the need for manpower and improving the overall efficiency of an operation. Electric forklift trucks are used in almost every industry which handles heavy items or large quantities, such as warehousing, industrial manufacturing and distribution.
Lift trucks are particularly useful in storerooms, construction sites and loading docks and can be constructed for wide aisle, narrow aisle and very narrow aisle use. Lift trucks are used both indoor and outdoor, in large cooling units or on factory floors. Using a forklift improves storage potential, optimizes labor, and reduces risk of injury and cuts stocking time, allowing the operations of a facility to be more efficient. Lift trucks typically have a power operated forked platform attached to the front of the vehicle.
This is designed to be inserted under loads to lift and move them. The trucks themselves may have safety rails installed around the lifting fork to minimize the risk of a load sliding or falling off. Other additions, such as flashing lights or audible sirens, are common safety features which help keep co-workers aware of the vehicles’ movement and presence in order to avoid injury and product loss.
Depending on the truck type and the application for which it is used, a truck can be powered with an internal combustion engine, using diesel, gas or liquid propane, or an electric motor, using AC motors, DC motors, regenerative braking motors or fast charging motors. Hydraulic systems are used for lifting power in most lift trucks, although some companies have developed electric actuator controlled lifts.
A few common lift truck features include tilting and rotating frames and wheels to increase the vehicles’ overall maneuverability and efficiency. Some wheels also may be fitted with stabilizing outriggers. Lift truck manufacturers divide their products into specific classes of design and capacity. These classes primarily depend on the type of engine and tires that are used. Cushion or solid tires are designed for indoor use on smooth surfaces. Pneumatic tires are designed for outdoor use on uneven surfaces.
Another factor in the classification of lift trucks is the nature of counterbalance in the vehicle. Counterbalancing uses specifically placed weights to prevent the lift from toppling over under the weight of a load. This method is far more convenient than the other alternative of placing supports under the loads.