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Understanding Different Types of Forklifts

There are seven different Classes of powered industrial trucks or forklifts. Today more than ever companies have a wide range of choices when it comes to ordering a forklift. The choice between electric and internal combustion (which includes diesel, L/P, and gas powered trucks), and choices between stand up, sit down, 3 wheel, 4 wheel, order pickers, and pallet jacks (powered or manual) give someone a lot to consider when choosing the piece of equipment that is right for your business. Below we will go over the different classes of forklifts and talk a little bit about the best application for each, and as always if you are not sure what you might need reach out to one of our experienced Sales Staff who would be happy to assist you!

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So what are the different types of forklifts?

  • Class I: Electric Motor Rider Trucks
  • Class II: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks
  • Class III: Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks
  • Class IV: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Solid/Cushion Tires)
  • Class V: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Pneumatic Tires)
  • Class VI: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors
  • Class VII: Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

Class 1: Electric Motor Rider Trucks

Electric Motor rider trucks use batteries and have electric motors. They are great to use where air quality and fumes can be cause for concern. Because they are battery powered they are quieter than IC trucks and create no emissions. They are most often used in indoor applications with smooth tires.

Class I forklifts come in a wide variety from stand up riders, to 3 Wheeled Electric trucks, to counter balanced sit down rider trucks with either cushion or pneumatic tires. The Class I can range in lift capacity from 3,000 to 40,000 lbs with the electrical systems ranging from 24 volt to 80 volt.

Class 2: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks

Narrow Aisle Forklifts are used for what the name states- narrow aisles. They need minimal space to operate and they are also battery powered with electric motors, so they have the same advantages of the Class I trucks, with no emissions, and quiet operations. These trucks are great for picking and putting away inventory and they can allow you to add racking space without expanding your facilities footprint.

See a Class II Forklift

Class II Used Forklift

Class 3: Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks

Hand trucks and pallet jacks are designed to lift just a few inches off the ground, they come in walkie (walk behind) and ride on models. These types of trucks can be great for moving loads to an area where other fork trucks can pick them up from there. This category of Trucks includes Electric pallet jacks and stackers.

See a Class III Forklift

Class III Used Forklift

Class 4: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Solid/Cushion Tires)

Internal Combustion (IC) forklifts use solid cushion tires to provide a smooth ride on indoor surfaces, therefore these sit down rider trucks are designed for indoor applications. They are powered by Internal Combustion (IC) Engines and run on diesel, L/P, or gas. They are often used in warehousing, distribution, retail, and automotive. With a wide range of these trucks being made they can handle loads from 3,000lbs to 15,500 lbs!

Electric forklifts are becoming increasingly more popular for indoor settings, but these IC trucks would be used where space for charging stations, or limited time to recharge might be a problem.

Class 5: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Pneumatic Tires)

Forklifts in this class are very similar to Class IV, but they use a different tire type (pneumatic) which make them ideal for outdoor use. These trucks are tough and are ideal for lumberyards, construction sites, and other outdoor applications. They also come in a wide variety of lifting capacities, from 3,000-125,000 lbs.

See a Class V Forklift

Class V Used Forklift

Class 6: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors

These machines are commonly used for towing loads rather than lifting loads, like the other classes. You would most often see these units at airports, but they can also be used in a warehouse where there is an assembly line set up. They can have Electric or IC engines and they can be used indoors or outdoors.

See a Class VI Forklift

Class VI Used Forklift

Class 7: Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

This class of forklift is for Rough Terrain. These trucks feature larger tractor style tires and they are mostly powered by diesel engines for use outdoors in rough terrain. You would most often see this type of truck at a lumber yard or on a construction site, or in an agriculture setting like a farm.

Because of this class of trucks size, and the option to be outfitted with a telescoping mast, special training is required to operate a Class VII forklift. W.D. Matthews has our own Trainor who can make sure your operators have the proper training for this type of lift: For More Information on the Trainings we offer or to set up a training Contact Us Now!

Further Reading: OSHA Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklifts) Forklifts Classifications