Forklift trucks: essential in warehouse logistics

Industrial trucks such as forklifts are part of the absolute basic equipment of a warehouse, especially when it comes to handling goods within the operational boundaries. With the mast consisting of steel tines, order pickers can easily transport pallets and other containers from A to B. Due to the complexity and diversity of storage areas, there are many different types of forklift trucks, which are adapted to the requirements accordingly.

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, trade and co.

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 motor-driven industrial truck with an integrated lift mast. This consists of a standing mast (so-called lifting frame) and a varying number of driving masts. Based on hydraulic power transmission by means of lifting cylinders driving the lifting mast, the necessary lowering or lifting movements can be carried out flexibly.

Advantages of a forklift truck in a nutshell:

  • Forklifts are steered via the rear, which in combination with a large turn-in results in a very small turning circle (standard: turning circle = length of the forklift).
  • Special tires and ergonomic seats ensure the necessary stability of the work equipment despite the lack of axle suspension. Some models may also have vibration dampers, which help to mitigate 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 in the absence of a load can be minimized by using a standing square.
  • Lift trucks as industrial trucks have synchronous automatic transmission, which simplifies navigation for the operator. A form of drive separated by the inching pedal (travel drive vs. lift drive) makes it possible for even slow maneuvering to be possible while at the same time maximizing the charging energy.

Good to know: Since the motor-generated mechanical energy is converted into hydraulics due to the hydrostatic drive, very precise adjustment of the mast is possible. The forklift operator can thus pick cleanly without explicitly entering possible hazards - assuming correct use.

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

Types and models: different types of forklift trucks briefly presented

Forklifts can be adapted almost at will to the operational conditions, so there is a wide range of forklift types to choose from. The basic idea behind this is clear: With a "classic" lift mast truck, the movement sequences and options for action are limited, especially in terms of economic use. We would therefore like to present selected forklifts and their areas of application below to illustrate the diversity of the range.

Lift mast truck (also: counterbalance truck)

This variant represents the "draught horse" of the forklift trucks, it is a universally applicable work tool for trade and industry, commerce and logistics. The lift mast truck can be extended by so-called attachments, so that special task areas are covered. In this way, companies regularly avoid the acquisition costs that would be associated with the purchase of a special forklift. The stability is ensured by counterweights.

Reach truck

The counterpart to the lift mast forklift, in which the front-mounted wheel arms ensure the necessary stability. As soon as cargo is picked up, the mast located inside the wheel arms pushes forward - lowering down to the ground is possible. This makes it ideal for transporting pallets in particular, as the design requires only low counterweights as well as shorter designs.

Low lift truck

A form of forklift truck that is operated by foot and is typically tiller-guided. Two forks, front-mounted rigid load rollers, and rear-anchored dual swivel casters combine with lifting hydraulics to provide a load capacity of up to two tons. Cross-seated pallet trucks, i.e. low-lift 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. By means of a hydraulic pump, cargo up to a maximum weight of 1,000 kilograms can be lifted up to 800 mm.

Container stacker

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

Shelf conveyor

Storage and retrieval machines that are specially designed for handling high-bay warehouses are also called 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 with the help of RFID or barcode technology.

Sideloader (also: transverse forklift)

This forklift picks up loads by means of forks transverse to the direction of travel. The driver's seat is arranged accordingly, so that the operator always looks to the left or right. In combination with swiveling driver's seats as well as lateral load pick-up, it is possible to operate appropriately even in confined spaces (narrow aisles, etc.).

Telescopic forklift

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

Forklift truck: concluding remarks

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


Logistik-Lexikon Gabelstapler

Image: Roman Zaiets / Shutterstock

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