Choosing the Right Forklift for Your Warehouse
So many factors play into choosing the right forklift for your warehouse needs, and the array of customized forklift options available is vast.
But when your lift truck selection perfectly matches your individual material handling needs, your warehouse operating costs, productivity, and inventory management can all see dramatic improvement.
Common Forklift Types
Electric forklifts, rider trucks (Class 1 forklifts)
Electric motor rider truck forklifts, aka electric forklifts, are especially essential trucks for warehouses. They’re normally used indoors and the operator sits or stands on the vehicle to operate.
Electric narrow aisle forklifts (Class 2 forklifts)
Narrow aisle forklifts, which include side loaders, are ideal for working in narrow spaces. Although their turn radii may be tighter and agility higher than electric rider forklifts, their load capacities are usually lower.
Electric hand truck forklifts (Class 3 forklifts)
These forklifts, which include pallet loaders, pallet jacks, stackers, and tow tractors are used for loading and unloading at short distances. They’re usually “walkies,” meaning the operator walks behind them.
Gas forklifts with cushion tires (Class 4 forklifts)
Powered by gas or diesel, these ride-on forklifts use cushion tires made of solid rubber, making them suitable for smooth surfaces only.
Gas forklifts with pneumatic tires (Class 5 forklifts)
Gas forklifts bearing pneumatic tires can move beyond the warehouse or loading bay to outdoor areas, like lumber yards and construction sites. Like Class 1 and Class 4 forklifts, the operator rides on the Class 5 forklift to operate.
With these classifications in mind, here are some of the most important criteria when determining which type of forklift is right for you:
Load Capacity and Lift Height
Knowing how much weight you need your forklift to safely carry is one major factor in your decision. Every forklift and its attachments have an OSHA-required data plate that specifies the manufacturer’s guideline for how much weight the forklift can safely lift.
Here are the typical load capacities for some of the most common forklift types, although the data plates vary per make and model:
Electric Three Wheel Forklifts 3,000 lbs.–5,000 lbs.
Electric Four Wheel Forklifts 3,000 lbs.–12,000 lbs.
Electric Stand-Up Riders 3,000 lbs.–5,000 lbs.
Electric Reach Trucks 3,000 lbs.–4,500 lbs.
Electric Order Pickers 3,000 lbs.
Gas Powered Counterbalanced Forklifts 3,000 lbs. and up
Rough Terrain Forklifts 5,500 lbs. and up
The higher the lifting height needed from your forklift, the less weight it can safely carry, due to the shifting of the load center of gravity.
Fuel Type: Electric, Propane, Gasoline, or Diesel
If your forklift will solely be used indoors in an enclosed space, air quality in your work environment is a leading concern. If ventilation is limited in your space, focus your search on electric forklifts trucks, which have zero emissions. If your warehouse is well-ventilated and spacious, propane-fueled forklifts are another option. Gas- and diesel-powered forklifts can only be used in indoor workspaces if they are clean burning with a catalytic converter.
Additionally, cost comes into play in the electric vs. gas forklift decision. The upfront costs for internal combustion engine forklifts are significantly less expensive than electric ones. However, over the lifespan of ownership, the cost of fuel, parts, and maintenance add up, and many electric trucks will end up being lower in cost after four–five years of ownership.
Wheel Type: Terrain: Indoor Only, Indoor/Outdoor or Rough Terrain
Cushion tires are the wheel of choice for forklifts that will remain inside on smooth floors. Pneumatic tires are able to transition from the warehouse to dry outdoor surfaces, too. Forklifts outfitted with rough terrain tires are used primarily outdoors for driving over rocky and uneven ground, in wet or dry conditions.
Alliance’s Experts Can Help
These factors are only the beginning of the forklift selection process. To determine the best class, make, and model of forklift for your warehousing needs, work with an Alliance equipment expert. They’ll help you determine the customized solutions and equipment that are ideal for your warehouse.