Forklift Training Guide Including License, Costs and Tests Involved

The control system for forklift trucks is in many ways very simple, however when used by inexperienced workers they can be dangerous. For this reason, training is a legal requirement in the UK. In the past this could often be done on site, with an experienced worker guiding the trainee in the finer points of control, and the safety regulations that are part and parcel of the use of these machines.


Forklift-TruckForklifts are an incredibly useful tool, and in many cases are absolutely essential for the transport of goods in storage facilities, warehouses and construction sites. They tend to be fairly simple to operate, especially for people who can drive a car, and they help to lift loads that other readily accessible workplace machine cannot. They are therefore extremely common in a lot of different industries.

However, many people do not realise the amount of training that is necessary before a person can use a forklift. Where this isn’t carried out, forklifts can make the workplace a fairly dangerous environment. They are capable of going at around 20mph, with forks that could be dangerous to pedestrianized workers and a heavy and often unstable frame that’s quite capable of being flipped over by an inexperienced worker, harming passers-by and destroying the very merchandise it’s supposed to be carrying. Forklift truck training prevents a useful tool from becoming a dangerous nuisance. It’s necessary for all forms of forklift driving, and also for forklift hire.

There are various types of machines that all require different skills to operate, view this guide on the different forklift trucks.

Who does the training?Man Driving a forklift at a warehouse

Nowadays there are a number of licensing companies, known as accreditation boards, which can provide forklift drivers with an accredited forklift or flt license, which shows that you are trained in forklift driving and understand safety and repair protocols.

These accreditation committees use a lot of different training companies, which have instructors who do the teaching. The course will have both practical and classroom elements, and at the end there are two tests, the theory and practical tests.

Once you pass these, the trainer will write to the accreditation board, which will then send you your license. In many ways this can seem complicated and strenuous, but the rewards can be great, and once it’s broken down it can take less than a week to get yourself licensed. So, starting with the basics. Who can give you a license?

There are six accreditation bodies in the UK. These boards set the tests, and can actually give you your license. They are the only ones which can provide genuine, accredited licenses that will allow you to prove to employers that you’re safe to handle a forklift. If you’re looking for a course, make sure that it’s accredited by one of these bodies.Forklift training school

The main two well-known accreditation boards are the Road Transport Industry Training Board and the Independent Training Standards Scheme and Register. These are more commonly known by their acronyms, RTITB and ITSSAR. They are the two oldest accreditors, and deal with all kinds of different forklift trucks.

On top of these two boards, there is the Association of Industrial Truck Trainers, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the National Plant Operator’s Registration Scheme (NPORS) and Lantra National Training Organisation. These last four tend to cover heavier plant machinery; they will train rough terrain forklift drivers and heavier weight machines such as telehandlers.

This can all get quite confusing. However, fortunately, they all use the same test system, meaning that, so long as you are accredited by one board to drive a particular type of forklift, your license will cover you for every UK company that you might want to work for.

There is no meaningful difference between the accreditations, so if you see any of these names on a training course website or hand-out, then, assuming it’s genuine, it will get you a license at the end.

In general forklift courses accredited by these bodies will cover a few main areas, which you will need to know about before you can get into a forklift.

General maintenanceForkLift Checklist Diagram

How to look after your forklift is one of the first things you’re taught. This will include keeping your forklift up to scratch, general, simple repairs and ways of looking after it to ensure that it doesn’t break down. Again, for a general construction worker, this is something which is more important for the company than for you. If the forklift breaks down, or if you make a faulty repair, this can cost a lot to replace. It can also be dangerous to other workers. This is therefore emphasised on all courses as a key skill.

Health and Safety

This is absolutely central to all qualifications, and it’s largely why you have to do them in the first place. Forklift trucks really are deceptively dangerous. If they are used with the wrong weights, on unsteady ground, or simply driven too fast, they can be quite easy to flip over, and many forklifts weigh in excess of one tonne. So it’s important that your company is sure that you understand health and safety. This will stop you running someone over, crushing them or simply dropping the company’s expensive cargo.

Driving and working with a forkliftLarge forklift

This is probably the most important part of the qualification for the majority of operators – actually learning to handle a forklift. This part of the qualification will deal with the day to day handling, general controls, turning circles and speeds. This is something that is in many ways self-explanatory to any driver, but testing it ensures that you haven’t picked up any bad habits, and that you know exactly what each control should and should not be used for.

The basics of forklift courses

Obtaining a forklift license can be a complicated process. However, in general it can be split into two sections. These are theory and practical portions. There will be teaching on both parts, and at the end of each portion, there will be a test. If you pass both these tests, you receive your forklift driving qualification. All things considered, this usually takes less than a week.

The forklift Theory Test With Example

View a Printable forklift theory test example paper:

View the Example paper

The forklift theory test is sat before the practical test, as it is in cars. The first thing that will happen on any full course is a classroom element. Here, an instructor-teacher will teach you everything you need to know to pass the theory test. This will typically happen over two to three days, and will involve health and safety aspects, the correct loading and unloading procedure, and the weights that forklifts can take, amongst other topics.

Forklift Theory Test ExampleIt will also cover the theoretical basis behind driving a forklift and the general practice in the repair of faults. Effectively, the instructor should teach you all the theory that you need to safely get behind the wheel of a forklift. The information that you’re given here is what the theory test will be based on. If you remember this information, you will pass your test. However there is often a lot to take in. Consider taking notes, or even bringing a dictaphone to the classroom elements. This will make sure that you can check back over what you learned, before you sit the test.

The test itself is composed of five short answer sections, which will give a question, for instance

In what situation does a hard hat NOT need to be worn when operating a forklift?

You then write the answer out. After the five ‘open’ questions, there will be twenty multiple choice questions, for instance

The lift truck’s rated capacity will be increased when?

  • a) the load centre is increased     
  • b) the load centre is decreased
  • c) the load restricts the operator’s view’.

You select the answer you think correct, and get points depending on how many you answer correctly. The pass mark stands at 80%.

For people who are not confident in their reading ability, or for whom English is not their first language, the theory test can often be taken orally, so that the examiner will read the questions aloud, and you then answer them.

The questions will cover all three of the main areas. Health and safety will be covered extensively, likely going through individual safety protocols on a step by step basis. Maintenance will also come up, perhaps asking how you would repair certain faults. Normal driving of the forklift is more difficult to cover here, so expect questions like safe places to park forklifts, and other questions about their day to day use.

Preparing for the forklift theory testStudying for forklift test

The theory test is the easier of the two tests to prepare for, because everything you need to know has been told to you. If you memorised all the facts you were told, you will pass. So the best way to prepare for it is to go over everything you were told in the classroom section. This will be much easier if you’ve taken notes, which you can read over, or recorded the sessions with a dictaphone. If you go over the material from each day in the evening, you should be fine. Another option is practice tests.

There are several of these tests available on the internet, and they set you test questions which you can use to see how much you remember and what you need to read up on. Bear in mind that the questions chosen for the test vary every year. There is no good way of cheating for this test, and if you’re caught trying you will lose your qualification. If you put in some effort and hard work, you will get the results.

Forklift Practical Test

The practical test deals a lot more with the operation of the forklift than the theory does. It is taken afterwards, and on courses this is usually within a couple of days. The teaching for this portion of the test will be hands-on. It will typically start with the maintenance of forklifts. This will involve simple repairs, the replacements of batteries or gas canisters, engine checks and how to perform tests to ensure that your truck is functioning properly.

Proper forklift operation will also be taught. This will involve driving a forklift truck and performing simple tasks, watched by a supervisor. These tasks, combined with the theoretical knowledge you should have obtained during the classroom section, provide you with the basics of safe forklift operation. This is checked in the practical test.

The test itself will typically involve checking over a forklift for malfunctions, perhaps repairing errors, and then safely completing tasks set by the examiner. It has a negative marking ‘penalty point’ system. Every time a mistake is made, you will be given points. The worse the mistake, the higher the points you will receive. At the end of the test, these points are added up, and a score of over 40 will result in a fail.

It is important to remember during the test that speed is not important. Examiners are looking for candidates who carefully complete tasks assigned to them, fully and safely. They are not looking for time efficiency. The practical test checks that you know the correct way of doing things, not your speed in doing it. That largely comes with experience.

Sometimes, in courses which qualify you for multiple forklift types, the test may be divided between two forklift subtypes. This will all depend on the size of the testing company involved and the machinery they have available. The important point here is to focus on what you were taught. If you remember the basics, you will be equipped to use these machines.

Preparing for the practical testPractical forklift test study

It is very difficult to prepare for the practice test. It is usually done shortly after the hands on training, not giving you much time to prepare. However, the good thing is that it doesn’t really need it. If you have experience on a construction site, you will likely be prepared. Even if you don’t, just remembering the basics, and the health and safety protocols, will help you to pass.

If you really want to get prepared, consider talking to a qualified forklift driver before the course. Check what they found most difficult, and get any tips you can. If you can’t do this, don’t worry. As long as you’re patient and careful, you should pass the practical exam with flying colours.

Extra Potential Tests

The written and practical tests will be used for all accreditation boards. However, for some qualifications, there may be extra tests which you will need to complete to get your qualification, to maintain it or renew it. These are not found on standard courses; however for more advanced qualifications they may be necessary.

Health and Safety test

Some courses may ask you to complete a separate health and safety test prior to your forklift training theory test. This will typically involve a format a lot like the theory test, with multiple choice questions and a classroom component. This will be found on qualifications for larger machines, such as telehandler training.

On the job monitoring

Some qualifications may also require on the job monitoring. This will typically be in larger companies where there are on-site examiners. It will usually follow the practical test. The examiner will watch you while you work, and ensure that you maintain health and safety guidelines and proper maintenance procedures.

Renewing and Converting Your Forklift License
Forklift licence classes

Once you have your forklift license, you will be covered to drive any truck types that were covered on your course. However, it will usually be necessary to take forklift refresher training after a certain period of time, typically three years, which will let you renew your license.

Also, if you want to add to your license, to be able to drive other forklift types, you will need to take a conversion course. This will get you a license for the new kind of forklift, and expand your employability and usefulness to your company. This is typically reserved for experienced forklift drivers. Both these courses have their own lengths and requirements.

Refresher courses

Every few years, you are likely to take a refresher course. This is not technically a legal requirement; however the vast majority of companies will make you do it. If you are involved in an accident, the investigators are going to want to know when you last took a course, and it’s your employer that will look shoddy if you haven’t been taught health and safety for twenty years.

The good news is that these refresher courses are nowhere near as difficult as the original test. The entire course is usually completed in a single day. Essentially they will boil down everything you were taught in the initial course, taking out the bits that you will definitely know, and reminding you of things that may come up less often, but that you should still understand. At the end of the course, you take the two tests, as in the main course. If you pass, you receive your renewed license.                          

Conversion Courses

Conversion courses are designed to allow workers with experience in one type of forklift to move into another, without having to be re-taught what they already know. You will be taught your way around the forklift truck you want to learn to drive, the things that make it different to other trucks, and quirks in handling and health and safety that you have to remember, which may not have come up in your other general work.

The examination will be a lot like that used for the other courses. The length of course will depend somewhat on the truck in question. A telehandler is more complex than a pallet truck, and the conversion course times will reflect this. However, the average course will take two days or less.

Forklift License and Training Costsrefresher forklift course

There are a number of different ways of getting onto a forklift driving qualification course. Some will cost you, others are free. Which you decide to take will largely depend on why you want your license, whether you are working, and the amount of finance you have.

Company funded training schemes

This is probably the most common method of getting your license. This is because it is very rare that a large construction firm can’t use more forklift drivers. It means that they have more options if someone calls in sick; they also have more versatility in the work force, and backup workers for larger jobs. Many companies therefore fund their workers to go on these courses. If you are working for a large company, it may well be worthwhile checking if they have these opportunities available. This could save you money, and also stop you having to take unplanned time off work.

Jobseekers free forklift training for unemployed workershard hats

In many ways, the best time to learn to drive a forklift is when you are unemployed. When looking for a job, it gives you an advantage over other, not so pro-active, workers, which would need training once they were hired. You look sure in what you’re doing, as you’ve made the effort to go out and get certified and, best of all, in many cases it’s possible to get free forklift training for unemployed workers.

As part of many free to learn and government backed ‘back to work’ schemes, companies are subsidised to allow you to take the forklift certification. This applies both to online courses, which mainly suit people who already have experience with forklifts but want new certification, and to in person courses, which will train you from scratch, with everything from workplace safety to ‘which button makes it go?’. This free training makes it more likely that you can find a job, and makes employers more confident in hiring you. If you’re serious about a career in construction or warehouse work, this may well be the place to start.

Self-funded training

his is the most expensive type of training, and it is wise to check the other options before pursuing it. For this option, you will take a course as described above, but pay for it yourself. This will have all the benefits of the other courses, but it can be expensive. The forklift license cost will depend on the type of course you take.

  • The basic forklift course costs around £600.
  • Refresher courses cost more like £125.
  • Conversion course costs will depend on the truck type, however for this form of training prices tend to start at around £500-600.

This is a large financial investment, and it is worth thinking about whether it is worth the expenditure to you. If you choose to go for this option, check your company’s recommendations for training facilities. If there aren’t any recommended, then it is wise to look over a lot of different companies. Avoid those that charge a lot more than usual, or who suggest a long course. Typically it should take less than a week.

Firms that offer longer courses are often tacking on unnecessary extras, so make sure you know what you’re paying for. The benefits to these courses can be great, but if you’re paying for yourself there can be a hefty financial responsibility added on.

Online forklift driver trainingsuccess in training

A final option is an online course. This differs from the other kinds in that you won’t attend a training school. Instead, all the teaching is done online. Online courses can be a very positive way of starting to learn for your forklift license.

They are offered by the majority of training boards, as well as a large number of smaller companies. They reduce the cost to you, typically they will cost around £200, and they can even be free. Because they are online they can also be completed anytime, anywhere.

Typically they will provide you with everything that you would receive from the classroom section of the forklift licensing course. However, it is important to recognise that they cannot teach for the practical test. They will therefore not get you your full license. Some lead directly onto the theory test, meaning that you will have passed this portion of the qualification, however some will not do this, and free courses never will. It is usually best to go directly to the accreditor’s websites for the best online courses.

Online training can be a good step in getting your forklift license; however they will not get you the full license. If you are working and don’t want to have to take time off, this may be perfect. The course will help you to get your theory test, and should begin to equip you for the practical test, without time off. The next step will likely be to take the practical test elsewhere.

Finding a Training Centre

There are many different centres which will allow you to take your training. There will be local training centres near you, particularly if you live near the larger cities. Forklift training London, Birmingham and Manchester centres are some of the easiest areas.

A quick online search will show you your nearest accredited centre. In many cases your current employer can direct you to ones that they recommend. A final option is on-site training. This involves a trainer coming to your work place and teaching you on the job, using the machinery you will be driving. However, this will be set up by your employer. It is not possible to do this kind of testing as an individual.

It can also be extremely fun to drive one. Here is an example of a company using forklifts as part of a competition.

Getting a licence and being able to drive one safely opens up many new career opportunities. Even if you are already employed working in a related field such as if you work in construction, warehouse or loading bays obtaining this extra skill can be extremely valuable. In the future you may be able to move up or gain extra responsibilities that lead to an increase in wages. If you happen to lose your job or are made redundant you will have more opportunities for employment.
However in the past few years the governing bodies have tightened this regulation. If companies use workers who haven’t attended an official course, they can be prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act, which is designed to protect other workers.