A forklift truck (also called a lift truck, a fork truck, or a forklift) is a powered industrial truck used to lift and transport materials. The modern forklift was developed in the 1960s by various companies including the transmission manufacturing company Clark and the hoist company Yale & Towne Manufacturing. The forklift has since become an indispensable piece of equipment in manufacturing and warehousing operations.
The middle nineteenth century through the early twentieth century saw the developments that led to today's modern forklifts. The Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906 introduced battery powered platform trucks for moving luggage at their Altoona, Pennsylvania train station. World War I saw the development of different types of material handling equipment in the United Kingdom by Ransomes, Sims and Jeffries of Ipswich. This was in part due to the labor shortages caused by the war. In 1917 Clark in the United States began developing and using powered tractor and powered lift tractors in their factories. In 1919 the Towmotor Company and Yale & Towne Manufacturing in 1920 entered the lift truck market in the United States.
Continuing development and expanded use of the forklift continued through the 1920s and 1930s. World War II, like World War I before, spurred the use of forklift trucks in the war effort. Following the war, more efficient methods for storing products in warehouses were being implemented. Warehouses needed more maneuverable forklift trucks that could reach greater heights. New forklift models were made that filled this need. In 1956 Toyota introduced its first lift truck model, the Model LA, in Japan and sold its first forklift in the United States in 1967.
The following is a list, in no particular order, of the more common lift truck types:
At the other end of the spectrum from the counterbalanced forklift trucks are more 'high end' specialty trucks:
These are, unlike most lift trucks, front wheel steer, and are a hybrid VNA (Very Narrow Aisle) truck designed to be both able to offload trailers and place the load in narrow aisle racking. Increasingly these trucks are able to compete in terms of pallet storage density, lift heights and pallet throughput with Guided Very Narrow Aisle trucks, while also being capable of loading trucks, which VNA units are incapable of doing.
These are rail or wire guided and available with lift heights up to 40' non top-tied and 98' top-tied. Two forms are available; 'man-down' and 'man-riser' where the operator elevates with the load for increased visibility or for multilevel 'break bulk' order picking. This type of truck, unlike Articulated Narrow Aisle Trucks, requires a high standard of floor flatness.
Omni-directional technology (such as mecanum wheels) can allow a forklift truck to move forward, diagonally and laterally, or in any direction on a surface. Omni-directional wheel system is able to rotate the truck 360 degrees in its own footprint or strafe sideways without turning the truck cabin. One example is the Airtrax Sidewinder. This forklift truck has also made an appearance in the TV -series called 'Mythbusters'.
In North America, some internal combustion powered industrial vehicles carry Underwriters Laboratories ratings that are part of UL 558. Industrial trucks that are considered "safety" carry the designations GS (Gasoline Safety) for gasoline powered, DS (Diesel Safety) for diesel powered, LPS (Liquid Propane Safety) for liquified propane or GS/LPS for a dual fuel gasoline/liquified propane powered truck.
UL 558 is a two stage Safety Standard. The basic standard, which is G, D, LP, and G/LP is what Underwriter's Laboratories considers the bare minimum required for a lift truck. This is a voluntary standard, and there is no requirement in North America at least by any Government Agency for manufacturers to meet this standard.
The slightly more stringent GS, DS, LPS, and GP/LPS, or Safety standard does provide some minimal protection, however it is extremely minimal. In the past Underwriter's Laboratory offered specialty EX and DX safety certifications. If you require higher levels of protection you must contact your local Underwriter's Laboratory Office and check ask them what the correct safety standard is for your workplace.
These are for operation in potentially explosive atmospheres found in chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, food and drink, logistics or other industries handling flammable material. Commonly referred to as Pyroban trucks in Europe, they must meet the requirements of the ATEX 94/9/EC Directive if used in Zone 1, 2, 21 or 22 areas and be maintained accordingly.
In order to decrease work wages, reduce operational cost and improve productivity, automated forklifts have also been developed. Automated forklifts are also called forked automated guided vehicles and are already available from a growing number of suppliers.
A typical counterbalanced forklift contains the following components:
Below is a list of common forklift attachments:
Any attachment on a forklift will reduce its nominal load rating, which is computed with a stock fork carriage and forks. The actual load rating may be significantly lower.
It's possible to replace an existing attachment or add one to a lift that doesn't already have one. Considerations include forklift type, capacity, carriage type, and number of hydraulic functions (that power the attachment features). As mentioned in the preceding section, replacing or adding an attachment may reduce (down-rate) the safe lifting capacity of the forklift truck (See also General operations, below).
Forklift attachment manufacturers offer on-line calculators to estimate the safe lifting capacity when using a particular attachment, but only the forklift truck manufacturer can give accurate lifting capacities. Before installing any attachment, you should contact your local authorized dealer of your forklift brand, and ask them to begin re-rating your lift according to the attachment you want to install. Once re-rated you should receive a new factory authorized specification plate to replace the original currently found on your lift.
In the context of attachments, a hydraulic function consists of a valve on the forklift with a lever near the operator that provides two passages of pressurized hydraulic oil to power the attachment features. Sometimes an attachment has more features than your forklift has hydraulic functions, and one or more need to be added.
There are many ways of adding hydraulic functions (also known as adding a valve). The forklift manufacturer makes valves and hose routing accessories, but the parts and labor to install can be prohibitively expensive. Other ways include adding a solenoid valve in conjunction with a hose or cable reel that diverts oil flow from an existing function. However, hose and cable reels can block the operator's view and are problematic, easily damaged. The Ditto Valve kit uses a solenoid valve and special HydWire hoses, in which the wire reinforcing braid doubles as an electrical conduit. These hoses replace those already on the forklift, nesting in the original reeving, keeping it safe from damage and out of the operators field of vision.
Forklift hydraulics are controlled with either levers directly manipulating the hydraulic valves, or by electrically controlled actuators, using smaller "finger" levers for control. The latter allows forklift designers more freedom in ergonomical design.
Forklift trucks are available in many variations and load capacities. In a typical warehouse setting most forklifts have load capacities between one to five tons. Larger machines, up to 50 tons lift capacity, are used for lifting heavier loads, including loaded shipping containers.
In addition to a control to raise and lower the forks (also known as blades or tines), the operator can tilt the mast to compensate for a load's tendency to angle the blades toward the ground and risk slipping off the forks. Tilt also provides a limited ability to operate on non-level ground. Skilled forklift operators annually compete in obstacle and timed challenges at regional forklift rodeos.
Forklifts are rated for loads at a specified maximum weight and a specified forward center of gravity. This information is located on a nameplate provided by the manufacturer, and loads must not exceed these specifications. In many jurisdictions it is illegal to remove or tamper with the nameplate without the permission of the forklift manufacturer.
An important aspect of forklift operation is that most have rear-wheel steering. While this increases maneuverability in tight cornering situations, it differs from a driver’s traditional experience with other wheeled vehicles. While steering, as there is no caster action, it is unnecessary to apply steering force to maintain a constant rate of turn.
Another critical characteristic of the forklift is its instability. The forklift and load must be considered a unit with a continually varying center of gravity with every movement of the load. A forklift must never negotiate a turn at speed with a raised load, where centrifugal and gravitational forces may combine to cause a disastrous tip-over accident. The forklift are designed with a load limit for the forks which is decreased with fork elevation and undercutting of the load (i.e., when a load does not butt against the fork "L"). A loading plate for loading reference is usually located on the forklift. A forklift should not be used as a personnel lift without the fitting of specific safety equipment, such as a "cherry picker" or "cage".
Forklifts are a critical element of warehouses and distribution centers. It’s imperative that these structures be designed to accommodate their efficient and safe movement.
In the case of Drive-In/Drive-Thru Racking, a forklift needs to travel inside a storage bay that is multiple pallet positions deep to place or retrieve a pallet. Oftentimes, forklift drivers are guided into the bay through guide rails on the floor and the pallet is placed on cantilevered arms or rails. These maneuvers require well-trained operators. Since every pallet requires the truck to enter the storage structure, damage is more common than with other types of storage. In designing a drive-in system, dimensions of the fork truck, including overall width and mast width, must be carefully considered.
There are many national as well as continental associations related to the industrial truck industry. Some of the major organizations are listed as:
There are many significant contacts among these organizations and they have established joint statistical and engineering programs. One program is the World Industrial Trucks Statistics (WITS) which is published every month to the association memberships. The statistics are separated by area (continent), country and class of machine. While the statistics are generic, and do not count production from most of the smaller manufacturers, the information is significant for its depth. These contacts have brought to a common definition of a Class System which all the major manufacturers adhere to.
Forklift safety is subject to a variety of standards world wide. The most important standard is the ANSI B56—of which stewardship has now been passed from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) to the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation after multi-year negotiations. ITSDF is a non-profit organization whose only purpose is the promulgation and modernization of the B56 standard.
Other standards have been implemented in the United States by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and in the United Kingdom by the Health and Safety Executive. In many countries forklift truck operators must be trained and certified to operate forklift trucks. Certification may be required for each individual class of lift that an operator would use.
In the UK, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) state that operators of fork lift trucks must be adequately trained in their operation, but the nature of this training is not specified. Third party organisations have developed de facto 'best practice' standards for forklift training, commonly referred to in the UK as a 'forklift licence', but such training is not a legal requirement as is commonly believed. Organised training however helps to demonstrate that an employer has taken steps to ensure its 'duty of care' in the unfortunate event of an accident. The details below represent the de facto standards proscribed by training organisations.
In the UK, Forklift Training is carried out by a number of different organisations, which all Forklift Instructors must be registered with at least one of them. Although R.T.I.T.B. operators are registered on a database which has to be renewed a 3 yearly basis, the amount of time determined between refresher courses is subject to the H&S Executive, Insurance companies or company policies. The H&S Executive (HSG136 Workplace Transport Safety) does recommend re-training/testing every 3 to 5 years.
United Kingdom Forklift Instructors can be registered to one of the following, though registration is not compulsory to instruct:
Forklift instructors throughout the UK tend to operate either as independent instructors or as part of a larger training provider. Training is delivered in one of two ways; on-site (sometimes referred to as In-House training) where training is delivered to a clients premises making use of their own Lift Truck, or off-site (public courses) at a training centre where the Lift Truck would be supplied. Training centres offer the opportunity for the unemployed with little or no Forklift operating experience to achieve a certificate of competence and increase their employment opportunities.
In the United Kingdom training falls into four different categories:
The courses can last for 1 day for a Refresher or a Conversion course, to 5 days for a Novice course. It is recommended in the Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) for Lift Truck Operator Training that United Kingdom Forklift Instructors train a maximum of three people per session; this does not include classroom work.
The British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) categorised the different Forklift Truck types into groups and assigned a unique identifier to each classification. Known as the ‘BITA List’ it has become accepted as a standard in the UK. Forklift training certificates display the appropriate BITA classification to clearly identify the confines of the certification.
Every year Modern Materials publishes a Top 20 Global Ranking of Forklift Manufacturers by sales in dollars. A modified copy of the report is below in a sortable table.
|Rank||Company Name||2008 Rank||2009 Revenue||North American Brands||World Headquarters||Country|
|1||Toyota Industries||1||$4,600,000,000||Toyota, BT, Raymond||Aichi||Japan|
|2||KION Group||2||$4,100,000,000||VOLTAS, Linde, STILL, OM, Baoli||Wiesbaden||Germany|
|3||Jungheinrich Lift Truck Corp.||3||$2,300,000,000||Jungheinrich||Hamburg||Germany|
|4||Crown Equipment Corporation||5||$1,600,000,000||Crown, Hamech||New Bremen, Ohio||USA|
|5||NACCO Industries, Inc.||4||$1,500,000,000||Hyster, Yale||Cleveland, Ohio||USA|
|6||Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc.||6||$920,000,000||Mitsubishi, CAT||Sagamihara||Japan|
|7||Komatsu Utility Co.||8||$750,000,000||Komatsu, Tusk||Tokyo||Japan|
|8||Anhui Forklift Group||9||$668,000,000||Heli||Hefei, Anhui||China|
|9||Nissan Forklift Corp.||7||$624,000,000||Nissan, Barrett, Atlet||Tokyo||Japan|
|11||Nippon Yusoki Co.||11||$559,000,000||Not available in N. A.||Nagaokakyo, Kyoto||Japan|
|12||Doosan Infracore||15||$418,000,000||Doosan||Seoul||South Korea|
|13||Clark Material Handling Company||12||$405,000,000||Clark||Seoul||South Korea|
|15||Zhejiang Hangcha Engineering Machinery Co.||14||$251,000,000||HC||Hangzhou||China|
|16||Hyundai Heavy Industries||16||$237,000,000||Hyundai||Ulsan||South Korea|
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Forklift truck history:
From ell brown
From ell brown
From Tom Olliver
From D Services
From Syb Wartna
From ell brown
From Loz Flowers
From Leo Reynolds
From Leo Reynolds
From Dell's Pics
From Neil T
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