In a Class of Their Own: an Overview of Lift Truck Classification


A review of the 7 forklift classifications.

Class 4 forklift internal combustion

Wikimedia Commons

 

forklift history,history of lift truck

By 1927, forklifts had evolved to include back tilt. Source: Palletizer Magazine.

These days, forklift trucks are integral to material handling in manufacturing plants, distribution centers, and other operations. The first ever lift trucks were developed in the early 1900s. In fact, early models didn’t have forks at all. They had a single lift plate. As such, the earliest skids did not have a center stringer to accommodate the early lift truck. But forklifts have improved significantly over the years. Those in use today have evolved tremendously from those early beginnings.

Modern day forklifts have many different power options including electrical battery, liquid propane gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG), gasoline, and diesel. There are many different types of lift trucks suited to different lift operations. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  classifies lift trucks into 7 different types based on their power options and purpose of uses. Following are those 7 different classes of lift trucks:

Class I- Electric Motor Rider Trucks

Used in versatile applications, electric motor rider trucks are equipped with either pneumatic tires or cushions. The pneumatic-tired lift trucks are good fits for use in dry outdoor applications. On the other hand, the cushion-tired motor rider trucks are made for indoor use on smooth surfaces.

Powered by electric batteries, these lift trucks use transistor motor controllers to move and hoist functions. Air quality factors are important considerations when choosing an electric motor rider truck for indoor use. These lift vehicles are mostly used in storage facilities and loading docks.

Most of these lift trucks are counterbalanced rider type. Three Wheel Electric Trucks also fall under this category.

Class II – Narrow Aisle Electric Motor Trucks

Class 2 forklift

Wikipedia Commons

Made for use in narrow aisle operations, narrow aisle trucks allow operators to maximize their use of storage space. Because they can operate efficiently in narrow passageways, storage racks can be set closer together than they could be in a conventional facility, providing greater storage capacity. Reach type outriggers, order pickers, side loaders and turret trucks are examples of narrow aisle electric motor trucks.

Class III – Hand-Rider or Electric Motor Hand Trucks

These are comparatively smaller capacity lift trucks that run on industrial electric batteries. As the name suggests, this kind of truck is hand controlled. The lift controls of the truck are mounted on top of the tiller and the operator moves the tiller side to side to navigate the truck. They are frequently used for palletized loads both in low and high lift operations.  

Class IV – Cushion Tired Internal Combustion Engine Trucks

Used indoors on smooth dry surfaces, these lift trucks are used for transporting palletized loads. These forklifts are commonly used in storage and load areas. As cushion-tired lift trucks are lower to the ground than pneumatic-tired lift trucks, cushion tired internal combustion engine trucks are used mainly in low clearance applications.  

Class V- Pneumatic Tired Internal Combustion Engine Trucks

Most commonly used in warehouses, these lift trucks are used both indoors and outdoors for many different types of applications ranging from a single unit load to a 40-foot container. These lift trucks are available for use with compressed natural gas, diesel, gasoline and LPG as well.

Class VI- Internal Combustion and Electric Engine Combo Tractors

Very versatile in operations, these lift trucks have options to power using both internal combustion and electric engines. For indoor use, electric power is preferred. For outdoor use, the powerful internal combustion engine is used.

Class VII- Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

These are quite large lift trucks with huge floatation type tires. These trucks are capable of working on difficult outdoor surfaces. They are quite frequently used in large construction sites for lifting building materials. Auto recyclers and lumber years too frequently use rough terrain forklift trucks.

 

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