A forklift is an important piece of equipment for any warehouse to have, but what type of forklift is the best?
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are seven classifications of forklifts, categorized as Class I – VII. Class I forklifts or electric motor rider trucks; Class II, which are electric motor narrow aisle trucks; Class III types that are electric motor hand trucks or hand/rider trucks; Class IV: internal combustion engine trucks; Class V: internal combustion engine trucks with pneumatic tires; Class VI or electric and internal combustion engine tractors; and, Class VII or rough terrain forklift trucks.
Forklifts are powered by one of two sources, internal combustion or electric engines. An internal combustion type forklift may be fueled by liquid petroleum gas, compressed natural gas, gasoline or diesel while electric forklifts are powered by an onboard battery. Additionally, forklifts are graded by a lift code, which classifies them further by the type of mast, carriage or fork that the machine is equipped with. The type of warehouse operation that you run will dictate the appropriate type of equipment that you should consider for your warehouse space.
As an example, a warehouse with a conventional rack storage system (and a 12 foot aisle width) would utilize a counterbalance lift truck with either an electric or internal combustion engine. These type of forklifts are found in Class I and Class IV. A warehouse space that has a space saving narrow aisle storage system may not be able to accommodate the width of a counterbalance lift truck. Reach trucks and order pickers may be more appropriate for meeting the narrower aisle widths that come with these types of systems. These type of machines are considered Class II (electric motor narrow aisle) powered industrial trucks.
Additional Considerations in Choosing a Forklift for Your Warehouse
Another important consideration regarding the type of forklift that you consider for your warehouse is the availability of space within your warehouse for fuel storage and the noise output of your chosen forklift. These concerns may however be outweighed by your need for a heavy lifter versus one that is both agile and able to operate in tight spaces.
Internal combustion engine forklifts have the ability to lift between 15,000 and 35,000 pounds, and are generally less costly than electric powered forklifts. These machines may operate a higher noise level and effectively cost more to maintain and fuel.
Electric forklifts are higher in initial cost but operate a lower cost since there is no need for fuel storage, just a power source. Electric forklifts are limited to loads of 15,000 pounds and under. If you are considering upgrading your current fleet of warehouse forklifts, you should seek the expertise of a dealer or other expert who can help you properly assess your needs.