Forklift is a general term applied to any machine that is able to lift and transport heavy materials for short distances. These generally have a set of forks or blades on the front of the machine that can lift, tilt and raise the material up in the air to place it on a shelf or truck. There are several different general classes of forklifts and a wide universe of specialized equipment that falls into this category as well.
The first main difference between forklifts is what they use for power. There are two main types of forklifts in wide use today and they are either powered by electricity or an internal combustion engine. The electric forklifts are normally used indoors or in close quarters where exhaust fumes would pose a danger. These units have a set of batteries that power their motors and can be charged overnight when needed. The other type of power comes from an internal combustion engine and this can use either gasoline or natural gas as a fuel. The natural gas models can be used indoors as they generate very little exhaust. The gasoline-powered forklifts are normally seen outdoors when moving materials between trucks.
The other major difference between forklifts is where the operator of the device is located. There are three basic models where the operator either sits in a cab and moves the load, sits on a platform and moves with the load, or walks alongside the forklift moving the load. Each of these forklifts are used for different situations and all of the have a specialized set of controls for moving the machine.
The most common type is the one with a small cab for the operator and a set of forks in the front that lift the material. This is commonly known as a Counterbalance Forklift. In this case the operator drives the forklift like a small car and slides the forks in underneath the material being moved. This material is usually secured to a pallet, which makes lifting the item easier since the forks can slide into the gap below the item.
The second category is a platform type forklift, which is normally used in a warehouse for smaller items that the operator may have to slide on and off the platform. You may hear this called a Reach Truck. This makes moving heavy boxes to elevated shelves easy and all the controls for the movement of this forklift and the raising of the platform are on the platform itself. In some cases the operator can actually drive this type of forklift in an elevated position to move items between two high shelves without returning to ground level.
The third major type of forklift operates much like the first but doesn’t include a cab for the operator. With this machine the person using the forklift controls the unit from a control box and walks alongside the machine. This type of unit is great for smaller warehouses that don’t require loads to be lifted too high in the air and instead simply moved around at floor level.
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