parts of the forklift that you should know

Forklift Forks - aka tines or blades

Forklifts can’t be called with that name without their forks. The forks are the predominant part of the forklift when you see one. The forks take the weight of the load in unison with the carriage of the truck.

The forks can either be hooked or pinned into position on the carriage. The different kinds of forks are two-stage taper, fully tapered, tire forks, tin plate, spark retardant, inverted, drum forks, folding type, gypsum forks, anti-slip type, block forks, bolt-on type, coil forks, corrugated and shaft forks.

For more information about forklift forks, follow this page.

Forklift forks can be fitted with an attachment. The most common is a side shifter that enables the carriage to move 4 inches in either direction to position the load being lifted in a rack or in a trailer truck. The second most common attachment is the fork positioner that spreads independently moves the forks in or out so that the operator to pick up a wider or a narrower load. The third one is the multiple load handler attachment, it is designed to have either 4 or 6 forks on it. This attachment enables the operator to pick up 2 pallets side by side by spreading the forks out.

The forks are one of the important parts of the truck, so make sure you or your operator is using the correct ones and that they are in good condition for the intended application for the safety aspect of operating the forklift.


The mast is the tall vertical hydraulic assembly at the front of the truck that is primarily used to tilt, lower or raise the forks as needed by the operator.
The carriage is attached to the mast, while the forks are attached to the carriage. These three work in conjunction to lift load to a certain height.
If you have the intention to purchase or rent a forklift, it is one of the considerations to take into account. What type do you need for your truck?

There are common types of masts.

2 stage mast is made up of 2 sections, as its name implies. The 2-stage mast offers better operator visibility as there aren’t many mechanisms at the front hindering the forward view. On the other hand, the 3-stage mast offers less visibility as there is one more section as well as the lift cylinder that block the forward view of the operator. The 3-stage mast can reach a higher elevation compared to the 2-stage mast.

The collapsed height of the 2-stage mast stretches further to the top of the cabin of the truck. The 2-stage mast also called a container mast because it fits inside a container; its collapsed height is equal to the top of the cabin allowing the truck to fit inside a standard-size container and other limited spaces where the truck can operate.


The carriage is an important part as it serves as a platform to connect the forks, backrest or attachment to the mast of the forklift.
It is also important to note that there are several classes of carriage. See the table below.

Class   Carriage Height   Lifting Capacity
 Class 1    13 inches  2,200 pounds
 Class 2  16 inches  2,200 – 5,500 pounds
 Class 3    20 inches  5,500 - 10,998 pounds
 Class 4    25 inches  11,000 - 17,600 pounds
 Class 5   28.66 inches  17,602 - 24,198 pounds

Whether you’re purchasing or renting a truck, knowing these different carriage classes is significant as it gives you a vital understanding of what forks and the weight of the load the forklift must be equipped and carried with.

Lift Cylinder

The lift cylinder is one of the parts of the forklift that is powered by hydraulics as a matter of fact the lift cylinder receives the most volume of fluid (GPM) in order to function properly. To lower or raise the load, the lift cylinder works with the chain, pulley, mast and other mechanisms in order to do those operations.
Since this cylinder is put to high dynamic and extreme weight of the loads, it needs to be engineered to withstand the day-to-day heavy-duty operations.

Tilt Cylinder

To pick up a load and it securely, the carriage has to be tilted and the forks have to be angled. This action is performed by the tilt cylinder.
Unlike the lift cylinder, the tilt cylinder is double-acting, which basically means it can pull or push the load. In a specific model of truck, you may see two tilt cylinders.

Load backrest

It is always required for a forklift to be equipped with a load backrest as it is designed to prevent the load to fall forward to the operator. As its name implies, this part of the forklift allows the load to rest making the loading and unloading operations safe and secure.

Data plate

Also known as capacity load plate, nameplate or data tag. It is very important to know the details of the forklift you will be using such as lifting capacity, the weight of the truck, type of mast, fuel type, back tilt degree, attachment of the forks, size and type of tires and other information. These can be found on the data plate of the forklift. For more information about the data plate, please follow this article.

You or your operators must read the data plate first prior to operation to know the limitations and capabilities of the forklift.

Operator Controls

  • Hydraulic Lift Knobs – a standard forklift has three (3) hydraulic lift knobs. One that lowers or raises the forks, the second performs the tilting of the forks to secure the load for transport, and the third one moves the load from side to side.

  • Directional Controls – it controls the forward and backward movement of the truck, and if you want to put it in the neutral position.

  • Accelerator Pedal – this pedal similarly works with the gas pedal of a car that gives boost and speed.

  • Brake Pedal – It is pretty much self-explanatory.

  • Inching Pedal – If your truck is gasoline or gas-powered, it probably has an inching pedal. It is used to give an extra boost in the engine power while maneuvering in tight and confined space.

  • Parking Brake – When not in use, the parking brake has to be engaged to remain the truck firmly in place.

Tires and Wheels

The tires are the most common part of the forklift that wear easily hence maintenance and inspection are needed to keep the operation safe. They require immediate replacement if cracks and other issues such as bald are found.

The tires should be able to support the load being lifted or carried by the truck.

There are three types of forklift tires namely: solid rubber is common and can be used in indoor or outdoor applications; if your truck is electric it may be equipped with a polyurethane type of wheel and ideal for indoor use; if the forklift is going to use in rough terrain environment and other rugged applications, the pneumatic tires are what suited for the application. 


To ensure that the forklift doesn’t tip over the counterweights are used. Its purpose is to offset the weight of the load being carried by the forklift. This makes the truck stable while traveling or lifting.

The forklift counterweight can be a bulk-type or a stack-type. If your truck is internal combustion, the location of the counterweight is at the back. If you are using an electric type forklift, its batteries act as the counterweight.

Operator Cabin also called as Enclosure

As its name implies, the cabin protects the operator from the environment, dust and even noise pollution and gives comfort to the driver. 

Now That You Know the Different Parts, Are You Read to Learn to Drive the Forklift?

Here’s a video explaining everything you need to know to operate a forklift:

To take formal training, contact a local training provider also called a trade school nearest you and enroll in their course. To find one, we’ve prepared the directory of schools in each state, follow this to see the directory. You can also learn to drive a forklift in a rental company or dealer if they provide such a course.

Before You Put Your Hands on the Controls, You Need to Be Certified

To get certified, you have to take a training course. The training can be done online or through the face-to-face setup. The training course is composed of formal training, in-the-seat or hands-on operation and performance evaluation. These three (3) contents are what OSHA requires.

It only takes a day or two to complete the course depending on the type of truck you wish to be certified. The cost of taking the training is also minimal, just prepare around $100-$200 and off you go.

If you are presently employed, it is your employer who is responsible to give you the training. The best approach is to conduct the training onsite so that the instructor can modify the course to match up with the current condition of the workplace and the behavior of the workers.

Now that we are facing a different situation brought by this menace pandemic, the best solution to get certified is through an online course. If you are looking for an online training provider, here’s what we recommend, follow this link.

Online training is ideal if you want to get trained fast and especially now that face-to-face learning is limited.

At the end of the course, you will receive an operator card and/or certificate of completion. These are the proofs you can present to an employer proving that you are properly trained.

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