Why Using A Forklift Business Is Your Best Choice For Materials Handling

A forklift business should be able to offer access to information on a huge range of Forklift Trucks. Whether your business requires IC Powered or Battery Electric equipment.

The forklift business you choose to supply your business with materials handling.  Needs to have the right staff trained on all products both in-house and externally by major suppliers to ensure they are up to date with the changing trends.

forklift business

Why choose a forklift business?

Depending on the requirements your business might have, they should have access to the following forklift types :

  • Internal Combustion Forklifts (Petrol, Diesel, LPG powered)
  • Battery Electric Forklifts

What are Internal Combustion forklifts?

These types of forklifts will come in a huge range of specifications, all tailored for different applications. We have a few of them detailed below, but we always suggest having someone for a forklift business come out and evaluate your premises to ensure any equipment purchased is of suitable specifications for your premises.

TIP: It is a Workcover Requirement that all Forklift Drivers are fully trained and licensed. There are hefty fines for non-compliance.  So don’t risk it.

What you need to know about Internal Combustion forklifts

The Body is referred to as Counterbalanced: a (standard) conventional design for everyday use where space is not an issue, and can be used on most surfaces.

There is an option with the body known as a Stubby.  Which as above, but where space can be limited provides a better turning circle, allowing aisles to be narrower. Makes more use of available space. This unit is generally only available in limited capacities.

Mast types

Two Stage: as the name suggests, this mast has two stages of lift. Ideal when there are no height restrictions. This is a less expensive option, with the added advantage of a better vision of the load through the mast.

Three Stage: provides the ability to reach the desired height, with the added advantage of a lower collapsed height, allowing access to areas that may not be accessed with a standard two-stage mast.

Container Mast: as above, but collapses low enough to allow the forklift to be driven into a container for loading & unloading. The maximum lift height for this type of mast is 4700mm.

TIP: Nominal lifting capacity of any forklift de-rates with lifting height.

Fuel types

Petrol: Easy to use & readily available – for outdoor use.

LPG: Easy to use & readily available – for outdoor use.

Dual Fuel: Using either Petrol & LPG, or Petrol & CNG. As above with the option of longer run & emergency reserve.

Diesel: Ideal for sites with their own supply, lower running cost, for outdoor use only. Diesel units are also available in Flameproof configuration for dangerous goods and flammable conditions.

Tire types

Pneumatic: the best option for areas that may be rough or uneven, due to the ability to provide a little give & a smoother ride. These tires can, however, be subject to bounce with a heavy load on board.

Puncture Proof: ideal for use in situations where the ground surface is in good condition, long-lasting, can be re-grooved, and not as giving over rough surfaces.

Cushion Tyre: a narrow band of rubber is welded to a larger diameter steel rim, providing very stable load holding at heights.

What questions will a forklift business ask?

When inquiring about a forklift suitable for your application, the following information will be asked to ensure the correct equipment is quoted:

1. Weight & size of the load.

2. Lift height required.

3. Headroom restrictions, ie; mezzanine floors, low doorways, entering shipping containers for loading/unloading.

Do You Need a Battery Electric Forklift

Battery Electric forklifts are generally used for internal warehousing, cold storage, and hazardous areas.

Battery forklift

The advantage of using Battery Electric units is that there are no harmful fumes, there is minimum noise, and they have lower running costs.

These units are available in an abundance of styles and specifications, all with unique advantages.

We cover the basic differences below: –

TIP: Remember it is a Workcover Requirement that all Forklift Drivers are fully trained and licensed. There are hefty fines for non-compliance.

Reach Trucks

These units are available in either Stand-Up or Sit-Down models. The mast on these units reaches forward to retract with the load, this design allows for aisles to be positioned quite narrow, allowing the number of pallet bays to be maximized. These units should only be used on level, smooth, hard surfaces.

Pantographic Reach Trucks

These units are generally the same as above Reach Trucks, except the mast has a pantograph section that scissors in and out, allowing for even narrower aisles and greater warehouse productivity.

Counter-Balanced Battery Electric Forklift

These units are the fastest moving of the battery electric range of forklifts and are ideal to replace the Internal Combustion forklifts where fumes can create a problem. These units come in both 3-wheel & 4-wheel configurations. The 3-wheel configuration allows for a narrower turning radius, and the 4-wheel configuration is better suited for heavier loads.

Multi-Directional Reach Trucks

These units are particularly productive when required to operate in very narrow aisles or other confined areas handling long loads.

Turret Trucks

These units possess a unique turret head that is able to pivot to 90 degrees. The turret truck offers a high capacity for very narrow aisles, increasing warehouse capacity & productivity.

Order Pickers

These units come in two styles, the Low-Level order picker, and the High-Level order picker. The Low-Level order picker (left) brings versatility for first and second-level pick heights. The High-Level order picker (see Turret Trucks) is ideal for vertical picking tasks, reaching up into your warehouse to prepare orders.

TIP: Contact Workcover to ensure the driver has the correct license for your Order Picker, as some of these units require special licenses.

Forklift Attachments

There are many types of specialized attachments to make handling your goods more efficient. We have included the most common in this section.

TIP: Be sure to have your unit rated with the attachment fitted and without. This assures the forklift is working safely and within its capacity – this is a Workcover requirement. Clamps will reduce the capacity of the unit they are fitted to.

Manual Forklift Attachments

Slippers or fork extensions are the most common manual attachment. These come in various lengths and are available in capacities from one to twenty tonnes.

Carpet prongs are used to lift long rolls of carpet or other similar packaged material. These come in sizes to suit your needs. They use these types of prongs to twenty-tonne, lifting wire, and steel coil.

Man-up cages are used for safely lifting personnel up with a forklift for short-duration jobs. They are not to be used for order picking or constant man-up jobs.

Forklift jibs are used for lifting loads that require slings, chains or a lifting eye. They come in several types and may be fixed or extendable in length. Capacities for these attachments range from one to twenty tonnes.

Note: These cages require special drop testing and your forklift must be suitable for using a cage.

Tarp spreaders are used to distribute tarp overload on trucks.

Load spreaders are used to stabilize long loads such as wallboard that could bend and break or have an excessive bow. These are available to suit all shapes and sizes of machines.

Drum handling is an art form with several types of attachments available for handling standard 205L drums through to plastic. They come in single, double, top, pick side pick & rim pick.

Powered Forklift Attachments

Side-shift: the first and most common powered attachment is the side-shift, this allows the load to be shifted at 90 degrees to the forklift by about 150mm. These should be nearly standard equipment today as this improves loading speed by up to 20%.

Rotators come in 360 or 180degrees, with or without clamping action. These units are available for all capacity forklifts. These units are also available with load hold down to allow boxes to be emptied.

Carton clamps or white goods clamps as they are sometimes called are used to clamp goods to move without a pallet. The arms are available in different sizes and are fitted with rubber pads to stop damage to goods as well as an adjustable valve to limit pressure applied to products. These units are available to suit units to 3000kgs.

Push-pull attachments are for the movement of goods without pallets. They work with a slip sheet which is a sheet of plastic or cardboard that the goods sit on this and are pulled on or pushed of hydraulically.

There are advantages to powered attachments

The advantages of these are the saving of weight of pallets and the added saving of not needing to track or retrieve pallets, especially in exports.

Paper roll and general roll clamps are used to clamp rolls of product. These units come in a variety of combinations and a vast range of sizes. These need to be discussed on an application basis. Extender forks are used to extend the load forward to load trucks from one side or to load double deep racking.

The disadvantage is these units have a large loss of capacity. Mainly fitted to 1500kg to 3000kg units.

Note: These roll clamps have many facings to prevent damage to the roll materials. Some use vacuum grabs to stop all damage.

Twin pallet handler: another of the options available, coming in many sizes. Standard clamp: another of the options available, coming in many sizes.

Side Loaders

The side loader is designed to carry long loads in very narrow aisles and as the name suggests the mast extends out to the side. These units are available in diesel, petrol/LPG, and electric.

Internal Combustion

IC version units come in capacities up to 35 tonnes. The electric units tend to be of lesser capacity but have lift heights in excess of 9000mm.

The IC unit’s typical uses would be in timber, steel yards, and hardware applications. The units are one of the best solutions to maximize the space with long objects in warehouse space.

TIP: These units only require a standard forklift license to operate.

These units can also be used for lifting steel coils & ingots and can be fitted with container frames or special attachments to suit your special needs & applications.

The information required when enquiring about side loaders is:

1. The weight and size of the load.

2. Lift height required.

3. The width of the aisle.

4. Headroom or turning limitations.

5. Surface that the unit will be working on.

Battery Electric

The electric range of units comes in similar styles to the IC units shown above and can also come as four-directional, allowing the unit to work in very narrow aisles. These aisles can be as narrow as 1500mm.

The narrow aisle units have either wire guidance or guide rails fitted along the side of the racking. With the very high lift units, there is the option of the operator traveling up with the mast for better visibility.

TIP: These units are not only for long loads – they can be set up for standard pallet handling and this could Improve the amount of product that you can fit into your warehouse due to the narrow aisle widths.

The information they will ask for is:

1. Weight and size of load?

2. What Height do you require?

3. Layout of racking and headroom?

The options for these units are too many to include here. So make sure you ask your local forklift business.

All-Terrain Forklifts

All-terrain forklifts come in two basic styles – mast type and boom type. Units are usually powered by a diesel engine and are larger than industrial units. The reason for this is that industrial units are rated for hard-level surfaces. The all-terrain unit is rated to travel over uneven surfaces and to lift on uneven level surfaces.

The mast-type unit comes in 2 to 16 tonnes with lift heights of 7000mm. These units come with power-shift or Hydrostatic transmissions.

The units are available in both 2WD and 4WD and with configurations of large and small tires – the latter model tending to be all equal in size. They are usually 2 wheel steer.

TIP: These units are more suited to yard work with exception of very low profile units that are used on building sites to travel between the floors of car parks. These units are available with lowered heights under 2000mm.

The information a forklift business will require when enquiring about these units will be:

1. Capacity and size of load?

2. Lift height required?

3. Headroom restrictions and working surface?

Boom type telehandlers

The boom-type unit is much more versatile than the mast type as they have the ability to fit many attachments such as buckets etc. The units tend to be four-wheel drive and steer allowing greater maneuverability. The units also have capacities of two to seven tonnes and boom heights of 22m. Some of the larger units even have full slew capabilities.

TIP: The mast units require a standard forklift license the boom units that lift over 3000Kgs or above 13mtrs require a non-slewing crane license and the slewing units require slewing crane license.

The units have a quick hitch to change attachments quickly. The unit’s capacity is at full height as close as possible to the front of the unit. The capacity reduces as the unit is boomed out. Some of the larger units have stabilizers.

Information required when enquiring about boom-type rough terrain units is as follows:

1. Capacity and size of the load?

2. Lift height required?

3. Headroom restriction and surface the unit is working on?

4. Attachments required?

Container Handling Equipment

Container handling equipment is a very specialized field. Not every forklift business will be able to help you with these types of inquiries.

Make sure you seek out a specialized forklift business that deals in large container forklifts

container forklifts

We can give you a basic introduction to the options of Container Handling Equipment available for this purpose. This is broken up into two sections:

Empty Container Handlers

The empty container handler can be a forklift with long tynes, this option is fine so long as the containers have tyne pockets. Older containers had this option, but many of the new containers have not.

A further option you have is to use a frame, these come in many types but the most common for empties are side picks with manual or hydraulic attachment. There are also 20 or 40-foot sizes these are either fixed piggyback or hydraulic extensions.

TIP:  There are just two types of container frames. If you have a hydraulic 20/40 frame this will be able to handle all standard closed top units. A fixed frame and a  hydraulic frame with twin box ability.

The frames can fit onto a standard fork. Another option is the dedicated empty handler they are available from four to ten high stacking. The size of the unit dictates the height you can stack too.

The type of information that you will need to give them is:

1. Ground surface.

2. Height to stack too.

3. Size of boxes you are handling.

Full Container Handlers

The second part of container handling is full boxes and these units are divided into two types – mast type and reach stackers.

Mast type units

Will come in 20 to 55-tonne capacity and stack to five high. These units have as many variations as days of the year. The basic unit would stack 4 high with 36 tonne capacity under the twist locks. This is usually how they are described as under twist lock for height as well 4high on 9’6’’ boxes. The units have two types of container frames drive-in or gantry.

The unit to the right on top is a drive-in frame and the one to the right below is a gantry that has the advantage of a sloping pile.

The type of information that you will require is:

1. What weights and sizes of boxes are you handling?

2. How high are you stacking?

3. What ground surface are you operating on?

4. What are your hours of operation per day and amount of lifts?

TIP: Most new frames today are hydraulic 20/40 and have side shifts and a degree of slew.

Reach stacker units

These units offer many advantages over the mast-type unit. Reach stackers come in 40 to 60 tonnes and lift to 6 containers high.

The first advantage is higher capacity at full height. They also have the ability to stack up to 3 deep with reduced capacity.

The slew on some of these units is 185 degrees, allowing containers to be turned around without putting them down and picking up from the other side. They can even place boxes end onto buildings or into doorways.

The information required for reach stackers are:

1. What is the weight and size of containers?

2. What is the lift height required?

3. What ground surface are you operating on?

4. How many moves per hour?

TIP: These units exert less ground force than conventional mast-type units. It is about the same as a fully loaded trailer. This is only a very basic overview of container handling.

Pedestrian Operated Equipment

Pedestrian equipment products have a wide range of equipment to choose from well.

pedestrian forklifts

Hand Pallet Jacks

Hand Pallet Jacks are used for the transporting of pallets by hand pumping up the pallet by a jack connected to the trolley.

Pallet Jacks are made in different capacities and sizes, the most common would be 660mm wide by 1150mm long with a 2000Kg lift capacity.

Pallet Jacks can be narrower than standard and also have a low-profile version that is only 55mm high when lowered. These are designed for the lower imported pallets. They only come in a 1500Kg capacity.

Pallet jacks also are available in galvanized and stainless steel materials. These are used in corrosive and wet conditions. The stainless is used in the food processing areas.

Pallet jacks are also available with different wheels such as nylon polyurethane and rubber. The tires are designed for the surface that they work on. They are available with braking systems for much safer operation. These work either on the outside or in a small drum on the steering wheels.

Pallet jacks with scales are also available for customers who require to know the weights of products loaded or supplied. They also have scale units with print-outs for users that require documentation.

The units are available in a high lift version that will lift a load to 800mm. At this height, the unit will not be able to be moved forward or backward. The unit will only work on stillage-type pallets which are pallets without bottom boards. The capacity for this type of unit is 1500Kg.

Powered Pallet Jacks

Powered Pallet Jacks are used for the transporting of pallets from one place to another. The units employ batteries for the purpose of drive and lifting. These units are much more agronomical than manually operated units. They come in a number of different designs to suit a variety of applications.

The most common would be the standard walk-behind unit. These have capacities from 1500 to 3000Kgs and are made to suit standard pallets. They have a hydraulic lift and are lower by means of buttons on the handle. Drive is operated by twisting the throttle on the handle and brakes are operated by lowering or raising the handle.

These are also available in a mini version which lifts 1300Kgs and the unit only weighs 420Kg. This makes this type of unit perfect for use in the back of trucks and delivery vehicles. Or as a light-duty unit for use in shops or factory outlets.

Tip: The power pallet truck can be used by all staff members as they do not require a license – only that the operator has instruction on safety and unit operation.

Some of these units that are used in distribution facilities have the ability for the operator to ride on or in the unit. There are four types:

1. Platform rider this unit has a fold-down platform where the operator stands.
2. End rider where the platform is fixed and once again the operator stands on the platform.
3. Center rider the drive stands on a platform that is between the load and the power unit.
4. Ride-in units the unit has a rear stand-up control where the operator stands and steers by means of a steering wheel.

Do you need double length?

Some of the ride-on units are available in double length. This enables them to carry two pallets at a time one after the other.

The information that will be required when you need to purchase a Pallet Jack is:

1. Weight of your load?

2. Surface and distance the unit will be driving on?

3. Hours of operation required per shift?

The information that will be required when you need to purchase a Pedestrian Forklift is:

Let’s take a look at Pedestrian forklifts:

Pedestrian Stackers

Pedestrian Stackers are available to 2000kg and many lift heights, all stackers have outrigger legs the load will be lifted between. The units have a power drive and some come in the push. The units will also have low-duty and high-duty battery options depending on operational needs. Most of these units only have a lift function.

Tip: Pedestrian Forklifts are designed for use on smooth level floors and powered units are fitted with brakes.

Pedestrian Reach Trucks

Are the most versatile type of pedestrian forklift and come in a large range of configurations of mast lift heights, with the most common capacity being 1500Kg. The unit has the ability to reach the load forward of the outrigger legs enabling goods to be stacked on docks or block-type stacking.

The units all come with traction batteries for heavier duty operation and have a lift, reach and tilt and options of side shift.

Tip: Pedestrian Forklifts can be used by all staff members as they do not require a license – only that the operator has instruction on safety and unit operation.

Counterbalanced Stackers

Counterbalanced Stackers are power drive units with forks in front of the unit. It can block or dock stack. With capacities of 2000Kgs and many lift heights, the only disadvantage is the length.

Being counterbalanced the unit is longer and requires more room to turn in. These units all come with traction batteries and lift and tilt as standard.

What you will need to know:

1. Weight and size of loads?

2. Lift height required and headroom the unit will work in?

3. Type and conditions of the floor?

4. Hour of operation required?

With everything we listed above, there is a clear reason you should be talking to a Forklift business about your materials handling requirements.

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By John

John Condron, has had a very long varied career in heavy equipment industry. Including a 10 year stint in the USA materials handling markets. John now make a full time writing for several online publications.