Understanding Common Types of Forklifts and Their Applications

Forklifts also known as forklift trucks, industrial trucks, or lift trucks are used in many industries to move heavy loads. These machines help the operator lift and move objects safely in the workplace. They come in various models and styles that give the buyer many options to select from. However, it can be challenging to select the most suitable forklift for your project if you don’t have a clear picture of these industrial trucks. This article will share common forklift types along with their applications that surely will benefit you when you decide to buy or rent one.

  1. Warehouse Forklift

The warehouse forklift is the most common lift truck type. They resemble golf carts with two forks at the front end. These used forklift trucks for sale offer a loading capacity between 1 to 5 tons and are ideal for transporting loads between smaller distances. Moreover, they are often used for loading and unloading heavy objects from one place to another in the warehouse. Hyster 36-38T, Toyota 3-wheel e-forklift, and Komatsu BX50 Hyster rank as some of the most popular lift trucks. Standard-size forklifts can lift 5,000 lb. weight, while there are some powerful industrial truck variants that can even lift 25,000 lb. weight.

  1. Counterbalance Forklift

The counterbalance forklift is a subtype of a warehouse forklift. This type of lift truck features forks at the front end and a weight at the back to counterbalance the load weight and keep the equipment stable. It also offers 360-degree rotations making them great maneuvers. They don’t have extended arms which makes it easier for the operator to move directly to the load. Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Crown are some of the popular manufacturers of this industrial truck. Counterbalance forklifts also come in different variants. A stand-up lift truck lets the operator flexibly hop on and off between loads while a 3-wheel is ideal when the operator needs to turn and maneuver frequently in circles.

  1. Side Loader

The side loader forklift loads and unloads from the sides, making it suitable for operating in compact spaces and carrying bulky loads. It is another subtype of warehouse forklift. This type of lift truck has a sideways compartment for the operator to stand and unload heavy objects. As this industrial truck operates sideways, it can drive up easily alongside racks to load and unload pallets without turning. Toyota, Hyundai, Raymond, and Yale are the market leaders in terms of delivering top-quality side loader forklifts.

  1. Heavy-Duty Forklift

The heavy-duty lift truck is a combination of a warehouse lift truck and a telescopic forklift. Also known as a large-capacity forklift, this industrial truck is ideal for lifting and moving extremely heavy loads across the worksite. Even though this type of forklift features telehandler qualities it faces difficulty in reaching narrow areas or complex angles. However, it can lift much heavier loads easily in comparison to the warehouse lift truck. Smaller-size heavy-duty forklifts can handle 50,000 lb. loads while the bigger industrial trucks can lift up to 100,00 lb. loads. Mitsubishi and NACCO Industries are some of the popular heavy-duty lift truck producers.

  1. Telescopic Forklift

The telescopic forklift also known as a telehandler or reach forklift combines two heavy equipment (cranes and forklift) qualities in one industrial machine. It offers an extendable arm and an articulating boom to lift heavy objects to high elevations. Standard-size telehandler can raise 5,500 lb. weight up to 19 feet on the job site. This type of lift truck is ideal for operating in narrow aisles. Caterpillar, JCB, Bobcat, Haulotte, and Genie rank among the high-quality telescopic forklift manufacturers.

  1. Straight Mast Forklift

Straight mast forklifts also known as rough terrain lift trucks are ideal for outdoor works. This heavy equipment features oversized tires and a reinforced cab so the operator can safely lift and transport heavy loads on rocky grounds, which makes them a must-have industrial truck for outdoor or construction site jobs. They can lift around 6,000 to 8,000 lb. loads easily on challenging terrains. Case and JCB stand out in delivering top-quality straight mast lift trucks.

  1. Reach Fork Truck

Reach forklifts extend their forks forward that reach the warehouse racks and lift the pallets precisely. They feature an open compartment for providing better visibility to the operator during work. This type of lift truck is ideal for indoor activities. Clark Materials, Yale, and UniCarriers rank among the high-quality reach fork truck manufacturers.

  1. Walkie Stacker Forklift

Walkie stackers as the name suggests require the operator to walk behind the lift truck and steer it using its attached handle. They appear unique in design as they don’t feature a cab. They may lack power, speed, and maneuverability, but can reach higher off the ground to lift or put down pallets in the rack. Toyota, Hyster, and Jungheinrich are some of the best-quality walkie-stacker manufacturers in the world.

  1. Order Picker

Order picket lift truck is a subtype of walkie stacker forklift that helps the operator lift and deliver objects from the storage. They are used in warehouse inventory applications as they reach up to 32 feet carrying individual units. Additionally, order pickers work well in storage work facilities and customer order warehouses because they can lift individual units without the need to bring down the entire pallet.


Forklifts play a significant role in many industries to load, unload, and transport heavy objects or pallets from one place to another. Every lift truck comes with different features and is suitable for specific types of industrial jobs. Warehouse forklift ranks as the most common lift truck due to their versatility while heavy-duty forklift ranks as the most powerful industrial truck with 100,000 lb. lift capacity. To achieve the best efficiency during work, always consider your project needs when choosing a lift truck. 

Christiana Antiga

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