Forklift truck

Forklift trucks: essential in warehouse logistics

Industrial trucks such as forklift trucks are part of the absolute basic equipment of a warehouse, especially when it comes to handling goods within the operational boundaries. The steel tine mast enables order pickers to transport pallets and other containers from A to B with ease. Due to the complexity and diversity of storage areas, there are many different types of forklift trucks that are adapted to the requirements.

In the following, proLogistik explains how a forklift truck works, presents important model variants and types as well as classic areas of application in segments such as logistics, retail and others.

Definition of forklift truck: Hydraulically operated and suitable for moving even larger loads

A forklift truck, also known as a lift truck or lift mast truck, is a motorized industrial truck with an integrated mast. This consists of a stationary mast (so-called lifting frame) and a varying number of mobile masts. The necessary lowering or lifting movements can be carried out flexibly on the basis of hydraulic power transmission by means of lifting cylinders that drive the lifting mast.

Advantages of a forklift truck in a nutshell:

  • Forklift trucks are steered via the rear, which in combination with a large steering angle results in a very small turning circle (standard: turning circle = length of the forklift truck).
  • Special tires and ergonomic seats ensure the necessary stability of the implement despite the lack of axle suspension. Some models may also have vibration dampers, which help to soften fluctuations due to their attachment to the rear axle.
  • The oscillating rigid axle inserted between the rear wheels ensures the maneuverability of the forklift truck. The risk of tipping over when the trailer is not loaded can be minimized by using a standing square.
  • Forklift trucks as industrial trucks have a synchronized automatic transmission, which simplifies navigation for the operator. A drive mode separated by the inching pedal (traction drive vs. lift drive) makes it possible to maneuver even at low speeds while simultaneously maximizing the charging energy.

Good to know: As the motor-generated mechanical energy is converted into hydraulics thanks to the hydrostatic drive, very precise adjustment of the mast is possible. The forklift truck operator can therefore carry out clean order picking without having to deal explicitly with potential hazards - provided that they are used correctly.

The steel tines, i.e. the elements on which goods and other cargo are stored, can be easily tilted forwards or backwards thanks to the hydraulic cylinders. This means that the load center can be shifted as required. Appropriately dimensioned counterweights ensure that even goods weighing several tons can be moved by forklift truck.

Types and models: A brief introduction to different types of forklift trucks

Forklift trucks can be adapted to almost any operational conditions, so there is a wide range of forklift truck types to choose from. The basic idea behind it is clear: with a "classic" lift mast truck, the movement sequences and options for action are limited, especially when it comes to economical use. We would therefore like to present selected forklift trucks and their areas of application below in order to illustrate the diversity of the range.

Lift mast truck (also: counterbalanced truck)

This variant is the "workhorse" of forklift trucks and is a universally applicable work tool for trade and industry, commerce and logistics. The lift mast truck can be extended with so-called attachments to cover special tasks. In this way, companies regularly avoid the acquisition costs that would be associated with the purchase of a special forklift truck. Stability is ensured by counterweights.

Reach truck

The counterpart to the mast lift truck, in which the front-mounted wheel arms ensure the necessary stability. As soon as handling goods are picked up, the mast inside the wheel arms moves forward - lowering to the ground is possible. This makes it ideal for transporting pallets in particular, as the design requires only low counterweights and shorter construction methods.

Low lift truck

A form of forklift truck that is operated by foot and is typically tiller-guided. Two forks, rigid load rollers mounted at the front and double swivel castors anchored at the rear, combined with lifting hydraulics, result in a load capacity of up to two tons. Cross-seat pallet trucks, i.e. pallet trucks with their own driver's platform, are also regularly found.

Scissor lift truck

Unlike the typical hand pallet truck, the focus here is on an adapted, extended lifting height. A hydraulic pump can be used to lift goods up to a maximum weight of 1,000 kilograms up to 800 mm.

Container stacker

This forklift truck is designed for handling ISO containers, i.e. transport containers that comply with uniform international standards. They are therefore primarily used in truck logistics and container shipping.

Shelf conveyors

Storage and retrieval machines that are specially designed for handling high-bay warehouses are also known as rack conveyors. They are based on a rail system, which makes it possible to move along the shelf both vertically and horizontally. Depending on the orientation of the warehouse, fully automated processes are possible, for example using RFID or barcode technology.

Sideloader (also: transverse forklift truck)

This forklift truck picks up loads at right angles to the direction of travel using a fork. The driver's seat is arranged accordingly so that the operator always looks to the left or right. In combination with swivel driver's seats and lateral load handling, it is also possible to operate in confined spaces (narrow aisles, etc.).

Telescopic forklift

This type of forklift truck has a telescopic arm that is operated hydraulically and enables lifting and lowering. As two directions of movement can be implemented, which can be superimposed at the same time, precise positioning is guaranteed at all times. As the telescopic arm is positioned relatively far away from the front axle in the middle of the rear of the vehicle, this results in a particularly high load-bearing capacity.

Forklift trucks: concluding remarks

Whether it's Euro pallets, goods handling or the transportation of mesh baskets - they can be handled flexibly and safely with a forklift truck. The adaptation of the technology makes it possible to serve different purposes in a targeted manner. A look at the above selection of forklift truck types makes this clear. Especially with regard to the tasks in intralogistics, it becomes clear how elementary the functionality of different types of forklift trucks is.


Logistik-Lexikon Gabelstapler

Image: Roman Zaiets / Shutterstock

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