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The global market size for material handling equipment was estimated at 27.77 billion in 2019. As demand for this equipment continues to soar, that figure will swell to a staggering 41.18 billion in 2025.
Among the material handling equipment most in demand at the moment are forklifts. Whether you’re looking to move heavy loads in your warehouse or construction material on a worksite, forklifts come in handy.
If you’re in the market for a forklift, one of the first things that’ll strike you is the wide variety of options available. Each of the many types of forklifts on the market has a unique application. Unless you know what exactly you’re looking for, you may end up with the wrong forklift type.
To make things easier for you, we’ve compiled a list of the most common types of forklifts on offer today.
Types of Forklifts
Like most equipment, forklifts come in different varieties, all of which are available as new or used. For those not looking to purchase, there’s the option of forklift rental. But whether you’re buying or renting, you can choose between the following types of forklifts.
Warehouse forklifts are undoubtedly the most recognizable type of lift trucks. These forklifts resemble yellow golf carts with twin forks that extend from the front.
You can see this type of forklift in many facilities that have a large number of items in their inventory. If you’re looking for a lift truck to load and unload pallets in your store or to remove and transport items from delivery trucks, then a warehouse forklift is your ideal choice.
The warehouse forklift has a few subtypes, some of which we’ll discuss below.
Side Loader Forklift
The side loader forklift is one of the subtypes of the warehouse forklift. This equipment is typically found in manufacturing facilities and steel centers with bulky and heavy items.
When operating this machinery, you stand in a compartment on its side as the forklift unloads items on its side. The side loader’s sideways operation means that it can drive alongside racks and load or unload easily. The forklift doesn’t even need to turn.
Side loaders are ideal for maneuvering narrow aisles. They can also handle long loads, including pipes and timber.
The counterbalance forklift is another subtype of the warehouse forklift. It’s one of the most popular types of forklifts and features twin forks attached to the front and a weight at the back of the lift truck to counterbalance the load. Since these forklifts do not have extending arms, they can move to the load directly.
Counterbalance forklifts come in two main variants. There’s the 3-wheel variant that’s perfect for situations that offer easy maneuverability in turns and cycles. There’s also the stand-up variant that allows you to hop on and off between loads.
The industrial forklift is also known as the large capacity forklift. This forklift is designed for lifting much heavier loads compared to most other types of lift trucks.
The forklift can also lift loads higher off the ground compared to a warehouse forklift. However, this forklift’s utility is narrower in scope than the warehouse forklift.
Rough Terrain Forklift
This forklift is also commonly referred to as a straight mast forklift. The equipment is designed for outdoor job sites, particularly on rough and uneven surfaces.
Perhaps the most visible feature of these trucks is their tough pneumatic tires meant for navigating rocky grounds. These special tires are usually oversized and heavily threaded, which gives them better stability and balance when transporting materials.
If you work most of the time indoors, chances are you’ll rarely ever need one. However, if the majority of your applications are outdoors or on construction sites, then a rough terrain forklift is essential.
Also referred to as a pump truck, a pallet jack is a specialized lift truck that fits in tight spaces. Given their small size, these forklifts can’t lift large loads. However, they leave a significantly smaller footprint compared to other forklifts.
Another advantage of pallet jacks is that they have lower renting and acquisition costs.
A walkie stacker has a strange appearance and a specific utility. This forklift doesn’t come with a cab. Instead, the operator walks behind the stacker, steering it by an attached handle.
Walkie stackers are like pallet jacks in that they lack power, speed, and maneuverability. However, this equipment is perfect for situations where a taller pallet jack is needed. Compared to a pallet jack, a walkie stacker can reach higher off the ground.
Order pickers are designed for picking and delivering items from storage. These lift trucks can reach much higher heights than walkie stackers. They help lift the operator up to racks above and can carry individual units.
Order pickers are ideal for customer storage facilities and order warehouses as they can pick just one or two items instead of the full pallet or load. They are versatile and can handle different items of different sizes.
This type of forklift is designed mainly for indoor applications. Its primary ability is to extend its forks and reach into a warehouse rack in a way that other forklifts can’t. The forklift also has an open compartment, allowing greater visibility for the operator.
These forklifts are unsuitable for outdoor applications because of their under-carriage clearance.
Choose the Right Forklift for the Job
As you can see, there are many types of forklifts, each of which has its lift capacity, height, and so on. The type you choose depends on what application you intend for it.
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