Forklifts are one of the most powerful vehicles for builders. Whether you need to move heavy loads in a warehouse or construction field, forklifts can safely lift objects humans cannot, making them indispensable on any job site.
Since there is a wide selection of styles and models, it can be difficult to select a forklift. Whether you're looking to rent a forklift for your next project or purchase one, our guide covers the different forklift types, the benefits of each equipment, and popular forklift models to help choose the right forklift for your needs.
The warehouse forklift is the most recognizable type of lift truck. It resembles a yellow golf cart with twin forks extending from the front. You'll most often use this forklift in a facility with a large number of items in inventory. These trucks are great for loading and unloading pallets and balanced materials, well as removing and transporting items from delivery vehicles.
A subtype of the warehouse forklift, side loaders are usually found in steel service centres and manufacturing facilities with heavy and bulky items. The operator stands in a sideways compartment and the side loader unloads objects on its side. Due to its sideways operation, side load forklifts can easily drive up alongside racks and load and unload without having to turn. This makes them suitable for navigating narrow aisles and handling long loads like timber and pipes.
The counterbalance forklift is a popular lift that features forks in the front and a weight in the back of the vehicle to counterbalance the weight of the load. Counterbalance forklifts have no extending arms, giving them the ability to move directly to the load. There are a few different types of counterbalance forklifts. The 3-wheel variant is ideal for situations requiring the operator to turn and manoeuvre in circles. The stand-up counterbalance forklift allows operators to easily hop on and off between loads.
Also known as a telescopic forklift or a reach forklift, the telehandler has a boom and extendable arm, making a combination of a crane and forklift. The twin forks attached to this arm are used to move pallets off the ground. A standard telehandler is capable of lifting 5,500 lbs of materials from up to 19 ft. in the air. These material handling trucks are great for reaching into tight spaces and odd angles.
The industrial forklift—also called a large capacity forklift—combines the functionalities of a warehouse forklift with that of a telehandler. While it can't reach difficult angles the way that a telehandler can, it is capable of lifting payloads much higher off the ground than a warehouse forklift and heavier loads. The industrial forklift starts with a 30,000 lbs maximum lift. However, you only need such power on specialized jobs. The industrial forklift's utility is narrow in scope compared to the telehandler and warehouse forklift.
Also known as a straight mast forklift, the rough terrain forklift is designed specifically for outdoor job sites, especially on uneven surfaces. These truck have sturdy pneumatic tires that help them navigate rocky ground. The special tires are oversized and threaded, giving them better balance and stability to safely transport materials. If you do most of your work indoors it is unlikely that you'll ever need one, but rough terrain forklifts are a must for outdoor applications and construction sites.
Pallet jacks are specialized in nature. Also known as pump trucks, these forklifts aren't capable of lifting large loads due to their small size. In exchange for power, pallet jacks have a small footprint, allowing them to fit into the tightest spaces and lift small loads in tight quarters. While you sacrifice power and manoeuvrability, the acquisition and renting costs of a pallet jack are much lower..
Walkie stackers are strange in appearance and specific in utility. Unlike other forklifts, these material handling vehicles don't have cabs. Instead, the worker walks behind the stacker and steers it by using an attached handle. Like a pallet jack, these units lack power, manoeuvrability, or speed. However, they are ideal for situations where you need a taller pallet jack. The walkie stacker reaches much higher off the ground than its counterpart.
An order picker is a subtype of the walkie stacker, used to pick and deliver materials from storage. Reaching heights of up to 32 ft., these machines are designed to lift operators up to warehouse racks and carry individual units. They are for customer order warehouses and storage facilities since they can pick one or two units rather than bringing down full pallets and loads. Their versatile design means they can handle items of various sizes, from auto parts to furniture.
The reach forklift is a warehouse truck used mainly for indoor work. Its key ability is that it can extend its forks beyond the compartment and reach into warehouse racks in a way that standard forklifts cannot. It also features an open compartment that allows the operator to have greater visibility. While excellent for indoor use, reach trucks for not suitable for outdoor work due to their under-carriage clearance.