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The Ultimate Forklift Guide: Discover the Top 7 Types and Power Up Your Knowledge

If you’re feeling a bit swamped by the myriad types of forklifts out there, unsure which one would perfectly serve your requirements, don’t worry! You’re not alone. This is a familiar scene that most of us encounter initially when we find ourselves navigating through this vast sea of forklift options.

But guess what? After investing countless hours pouring over resources at the Forklift Academy and undergoing some pretty rigorous forklift training myself, I’ve managed to amass quite an insightful knowledge bank in this area. 

In this article, we will delve into the world of top 7 types of forklifts, exploring their uses in detail and guiding you on how to make an informed choice that best suits your needs.

Common Types of Forklifts

There are several common types of forklifts including electric forklifts, IC forklifts, reach trucks, order pickers, and pallet jacks.

Electric Forklifts

Electric forklifts are perfect for indoor use. They produce zero emissions, keep noise levels down and reduce operational costs because they work on rechargeable batteries. Unlike their internal combustion counterparts, there’s no need to constantly refill them with fuel.

Plus, the absence of a motor makes electric forklifts easier to maintain and operate. The ability to maneuver in tight spaces also comes as an added advantage, making these machines highly suitable for warehouses or areas where space is limited.

IC Forklifts

IC forklifts, also known as internal combustion forklifts, are primarily operated by engines using fuels like diesel, gasoline or liquid propane gas. They offer the advantage of unlimited runtime because refueling them is quick and easy.

This type of forklift offers solid power output which makes it an excellent choice when dealing with heavy loads.

The IC Forklift’s robust performance excels even in cold weather conditions where electric counterparts might struggle. Plus, their high lifting capacities put them right at home in demanding environments such as construction sites or lumber yards.

Unlike an electric forklift that requires hours to recharge, IC Forklifts only need minutes to fill up on fuel and get back into action.

Reach Trucks

Reach trucks are a staple in many warehouses due to their exceptional maneuverability. They’re designed with two outer legs that distribute the load weight, and a single set of wheels located at the back.

This allows them to move smoothly even in narrow aisles and tight spaces while lifting heavy loads high up onto warehouse shelving. The ‘reach’ feature means they can extend their forks beyond the compartment area, effectively reaching into racking for placement or retrieval of pallets.

These characteristics make reach trucks highly efficient and flexible for use in various indoor settings, earning your workplace a gold star from Forklift Academy.

Order Pickers

Order pickers are a type of forklift commonly used in warehouses and distribution centers. They are designed specifically for picking orders from shelves at various heights. Order pickers have a platform that elevates the operator to reach items on high racks, allowing them to efficiently retrieve products and materials. One of the requirements to use the order picker is the mandatory use of a fall protection device or harness. 

The elevated platform provides better visibility, making it easier for operators to identify and select the correct items. With their maneuverability and ability to navigate narrow aisles, order pickers are essential for efficient order fulfillment in busy warehouse environments.

Pallet Jacks

Pallet jacks are a popular type of forklift used primarily in warehouse settings. They are designed to lift and move pallets, making them an essential tool for material handling. Pallet jacks typically have forks that slide underneath the pallet, allowing operators to easily maneuver heavy loads.

With their compact size and maneuverability, they are ideal for navigating narrow aisles and tight spaces. Pallet jacks come in both manual and electric models, offering options for different operational needs.

These versatile machines are commonly found in industries such as logistics, distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities where efficient pallet movement is crucial.

Understanding Different Forklift Types

There are several different types of forklifts that serve various purposes, such as industrial reach forklift trucks, industrial counterbalance forklifts, rough terrain forklifts, industrial side loader forklifts, and telescopic handler forklifts.

Industrial Reach Forklift Trucks

Industrial reach forklift trucks are a type of forklift that are specifically designed to reach high shelves and racks. With their extendable forks, these trucks can effortlessly lift and transport heavy loads to great heights, making them ideal for use in warehouses and distribution centers.

The ability to navigate narrow aisles also makes industrial reach forklift trucks highly versatile and efficient in maximizing storage space. By utilizing advanced hydraulic systems, operators can easily maneuver the truck’s mast and position the load precisely where it needs to go without any hassle.

Overall, industrial reach forklift trucks are essential equipment in industries that require frequent handling of goods at elevated locations.

Industrial Counterbalance Forklifts

Industrial counterbalance forklifts are one of the most common types of forklifts used in warehouses and industrial settings. These forklifts are designed with a weight at the back of the truck to balance out heavy loads at the front.

With their sturdy construction, they can easily lift and transport bulky items without tipping over. Industrial counterbalance forklifts are versatile and can be used both indoors and outdoors, making them suitable for a wide range of applications.

These forklifts come in various sizes and lifting capacities, allowing them to handle different types of materials. They have a simple design with two forks at the front that slide underneath pallets or other objects for lifting.

Rough Terrain Forklifts

Rough terrain forklifts are designed to efficiently operate in challenging outdoor environments. These powerful machines feature large, rugged tires that provide excellent traction on uneven surfaces such as construction sites or gravel yards.

With their sturdy build and high ground clearance, rough terrain forklifts can navigate through obstacles and handle heavy loads with ease. These versatile forklifts are commonly used in industries such as agriculture, construction, and mining where regular forklifts may struggle to perform.

Whether it’s lifting materials on a worksite or transporting equipment across rough terrains, rough terrain forklifts are equipped to handle the toughest tasks effectively and efficiently.

Industrial Side Loader Forklifts

Industrial side loader forklifts are a versatile and efficient solution for handling long and bulky loads in tight spaces. With their unique design, these forklifts allow operators to load and unload materials from the side, rather than from the front or rear like traditional forklifts.

This makes them ideal for navigating narrow aisles and confined areas where maneuverability is crucial. Equipped with sturdy forks that extend sideways, industrial side loader forklifts provide excellent stability and can lift heavy loads with ease.

Their ability to transport long items such as lumber, pipes, or steel beams makes them indispensable in industries like construction, manufacturing, and logistics.

Telescopic Handler Forklifts

Telescopic handler forklifts, also known as telehandlers, are versatile machines commonly used in construction and agricultural industries. These forklifts have a telescoping boom that extends outward and upward, allowing them to reach high heights and lift heavy loads.

With their ability to extend and retract the boom, telehandlers can easily maneuver in tight spaces. They are equipped with forks or attachments such as buckets or platforms to handle a variety of materials.

Telehandlers are particularly useful for tasks like stacking pallets, loading/unloading trucks, or reaching elevated areas on construction sites. Their flexibility and lifting capacity make them an essential tool for many job sites.

In addition to their impressive lifting capabilities, telescopic handler forklifts offer other features that enhance productivity and safety. Many models come with 4-wheel drive functionality for better traction on rough terrains, making them suitable for outdoor applications as well.

Some telehandlers may have a rotating capability which allows operators to move the load horizontally without repositioning the entire machine. This feature is especially helpful when working in confined areas where turning space is limited.

When operating a telescopic handler forklift, it’s important to receive proper training and certification from accredited institutions like Forklift Academy or the Forklift Training Academy.

Familiarize yourself with the controls and safety guidelines before operation to ensure optimal performance while minimizing risks of accidents or damage.

Applications of Forklift Types

– Food and beverage industry: Forklifts are commonly used in the food and beverage industry to efficiently transport pallets of products within warehouses or distribution centers.

– General warehouse use: Forklifts are essential for various tasks in warehouses, including loading/unloading trucks, moving pallets, and stacking materials on high shelves.

– Cold storage: Forklifts designed for cold storage environments can withstand low temperatures while safely moving goods in refrigerated warehouses.

– Retail: Forklifts play a vital role in retail operations by assisting with inventory management, stocking shelves, and transporting merchandise from the backroom to the sales floor.

– Freight transportation: Forklifts equipped with specialized attachments enable efficient loading/unloading of cargo containers or trailers at shipping docks.

Food and beverage industry

In the food and beverage industry, forklifts play a crucial role in various operations. They are used to transport goods within warehouses and production areas, making it easier to move heavy pallets of ingredients or finished products.

Forklifts also help with stacking products on shelves, maximizing storage space. Additionally, they aid in loading and unloading trucks for transportation purposes. Overall, forklifts are essential equipment in the food and beverage industry, improving efficiency and productivity.

General warehouse use

General warehouse use is one of the most common applications for forklifts. These versatile machines are essential in warehouses for moving and stacking goods efficiently. Whether it’s unloading trucks, organizing inventory, or loading pallets onto shelves, forklifts play a crucial role in daily operations.

With their ability to navigate narrow aisles and lift heavy loads, forklifts make it easier to maximize storage space in warehouses. They can quickly transport goods from one location to another, saving valuable time and reducing manual labor.

Forklift operators are trained to handle different types of loads with care while ensuring safety regulations are followed.

In a bustling warehouse environment, having reliable and well-maintained forklifts is key to maintaining productivity levels. Regular maintenance checks and routine inspections ensure that the machines are always ready for use.

From small electric forklifts to larger IC models, there is a wide range of options available based on the specific needs and requirements of each warehouse operation.

Cold storage

Cold storage is a crucial application for forklifts in industries such as food and beverage. These specialized types of forklifts are designed to withstand low temperatures and operate efficiently in cold environments.

They are equipped with features like insulated cabins, temperature-controlled compartments, and special tires that provide increased traction on slippery surfaces. Forklifts used in cold storage facilities play a vital role in transporting goods from one area to another safely and efficiently, ensuring that perishable items remain fresh throughout the entire process.


Retail businesses rely heavily on forklifts to efficiently move and handle inventory. With the wide range of forklift types available, retailers can choose the one that best suits their specific needs.

Whether it’s unloading shipments, organizing stock in the backroom, or moving products onto store shelves, forklifts play a vital role in keeping retail operations running smoothly.

The right forklift can help improve productivity, reduce manual labor, and enhance safety in a retail setting.

Freight transportation

Freight transportation is a crucial application for different types of forklifts. Whether it’s moving pallets of goods in a warehouse or loading and unloading trucks, forklifts play a vital role in keeping the supply chain running smoothly.

Different types of forklifts, such as industrial counterbalance forklifts and side loader forklifts, are commonly used in freight transportation. They are designed to handle heavy loads efficiently and navigate narrow spaces with ease.

With their versatility and strength, these forklifts help ensure that goods get transported from one place to another safely and efficiently.

How to Choose the Right Forklift

To choose the right forklift, consider the environment and terrain, evaluate weight and size of materials to be lifted, determine necessary lift height, assess the need for specialized attachments, and consider budget and maintenance costs.

Consider the environment and terrain

When choosing the right forklift, it is important to consider the environment and terrain in which it will be used. Different types of forklifts are designed to operate in specific environments.

For indoor use, electric forklifts or reach trucks are suitable options. If you need a forklift to work outdoors on rough terrains, a rough terrain forklift would be more appropriate.

By considering the environment and terrain, you can select a forklift that is best suited to handle the demands of your specific workplace conditions without compromising safety or efficiency.

Evaluate the weight and size of materials to be lifted

To choose the right forklift, it’s important to evaluate the weight and size of the materials you’ll be lifting. This will help determine the capacity and reach requirements of the forklift needed.

Assessing the weight and size of your materials ensures that you select a forklift that can handle them safely and efficiently. By accurately evaluating these factors, you can ensure smooth operations and avoid any potential accidents or damage to both the materials being lifted and the forklift itself.

Determine the necessary lift height

To choose the right forklift, it is crucial to determine the necessary lift height. This involves assessing how high materials need to be lifted in your specific environment. Factors such as storage racks or shelves should be considered when determining lift height requirements.

By accurately determining lift height needs, you can ensure that the chosen forklift will have the capability to safely and efficiently handle your lifting tasks without any limitations.

Assess the need for specialized attachments

To choose the right forklift, it’s important to assess the need for specialized attachments. Specialized attachments can enhance the versatility and efficiency of a forklift, allowing it to perform specific tasks beyond standard lifting and carrying operations.

These attachments can include options like clamps, fork positioners, rotators, and side shifters. By evaluating your specific requirements and considering what additional functions may be necessary for your operations, you can determine whether specialized attachments are needed.

This will ensure that your forklift is equipped to handle tasks such as handling different pallet types or fragile loads with precision and safety. Assessing the need for specialized attachments helps in selecting a forklift that best suits your unique operational needs without compromising on productivity or workplace safety.

Consider budget and maintenance costs

When choosing the right forklift, it’s important to consider budget and maintenance costs. Assessing how much you are willing to spend on purchasing or renting a forklift is crucial in making a cost-effective decision.

In addition, don’t forget to factor in ongoing maintenance expenses such as regular servicing, repairs, and replacement parts. By considering both your budget and long-term maintenance costs, you can ensure that you make an informed choice that fits within your financial capabilities.


In conclusion, understanding the various types of forklifts and their uses is crucial in determining which one is best suited for your specific needs. Whether you’re working in a warehouse, cold storage facility, or retail space, there’s a forklift type that can help improve efficiency and productivity.

By considering factors such as environment, material weight, lift height, attachments needed, and budgetary constraints, you’ll be able to choose the right forklift that meets all your requirements.


1. What are the top 7 types of forklifts?

The top 7 types of forklifts include individual, stand up and Cherry Picker forklift among others.

2. How is a Cherry Picker forklift used? 

A Cherry Picker forklift is often used in warehouses or outdoor jobs to lift workers or materials to great heights.

3. When should I use an Individual Forklift?

Individual Forklifts are mainly utilized when there’s a need to move heavy objects around a warehouse or construction site.

4. Can you tell me more about the Stand Up Forklift? 

Stand Up Forklifts allow operators easy access, making them ideal for applications with shorter run times where getting on and off frequently is required.

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