There are a wide variety of forklift truck types, and the majority will need some form of training before they can be routinely operated.
Examples of trucks covered under this heading, which will be covered during this article, include:
Counterbalance and 3-Wheel Counterbalance trucks – this is your standard forklift style, usually powered by electric batteries or gas canisters. They have two forks protruding from the front of the truck which can be angled up and down, enabling them to be wheeled directly up to pallets. Rough terrain forklifts are also covered under this heading.
Powered and Non-Powered Pallet Trucks – These machines operate on smaller loads, carrying them over flat ground and short distances. Non powered pallet trucks operate by compressing a paddle. Powered paddle trucks use an electric motor and are therefore considered small, unsophisticated forklifts.
Sideloaders – These load from the side and are capable of handling long loads such as timbers, without the instability of a standard forklift trucks.
Tele handlers – These are probably the most complex form of forklift. They operate using a boom to lift materials upwards, somewhat like a crane. They require entirely their own form of training to cope with the extra risks and precautions this involves.
Forklift subtypes and their training
There are several different subtypes of machinery with a similar function to a forklift. They often share the basic training procedures and regulations which traditional forklifts have, however there will be some differences, and these are handled here.
A telescopic handler is in many ways more complicated than your traditional forklift. It has a telescopic arm attached to its fork, allowing it to reach upwards as well as forwards, to lift items from a height, and to transport them to hard to reach places.
In many ways it is more of a modified crane than a forklift. Its training procedures reflect this added complexity. Because of the added dangers of falling objects, damaged roofs and power line snags, this is a machine that is covered in training regulations and complicated procedures, for the driver’s safety, other workers, and the public in general. Training for a telehandler will usually come after a course in traditional forklift maintenance. In many cases you will have to have an in date health and safety qualification before you can apply.
The training follows the basics of general forklift truck safety, including loading regulations, pallet types, routine servicing and the effect of ground consistency on loads, which you will already know through your basic forklift course. However, this will be adapted for the differences involved in operating a telescopic handler.
There will be practical and safety training for lifting loads safely and securely, and the instructor will show you the alterations you need to make in your work to use these machines. Courses typically last around five days, and should not be too challenging for professional forklift operators.
The training for these machines is typically run by the non-traditional boards, such as CITP. These offer separate qualifications, such as CITP’s Red, Blue and Black card CPCS system. This is a well-known scheme which you may come across.
The red card, also known as the trained operator card, is the least challenging qualification. In order to get this, you must pass a health and safety, theory and practical test. The card will then be issued to you. However this only lasts two years, excusing some exceptions, and is non-renewable.
To continue to be covered, you must then move on to the blue, competent operator, card. To achieve this, you will need further qualifications, with a certain number of units appropriate to forklift work.
When these have been completed and ongoing health and safety understanding has been shown, you will be handed your blue card. It will allow you to renew your card and therefore be accredited for some time to come.
The final step is the black, trainer, card. This is designed for people who wish to go into forklift teaching. For this qualification, there are a lot of strenuous tests that must be taken, mainly in health and safety and teaching, as well as more advanced theory and practical tests.
For this reason, and since it is not necessary to have this card to work in construction at any level, the vast majority of workers stick with their blue card.
There are other telescopic handler training courses, however they will all largely follow this system. When handling such large machinery, it is important that you have taken more strenuous tests, and this leads to systems like this. Telescopic handler training is therefore typically left to more experienced forklift drivers.
View a practical test in the Video below:
Reach Truck training
Reach trucks are particularly specialised for indoor use, typically warehouse operations. They have a very low slung carriage, resting close to the floor, are extremely manoeuvrable, and are fitted with high reaching, vertical raising, forks.
They are typically used for lifting items onto or off of high warehouse shelving. They are in many ways less dangerous than other forklifts, more easily controlled, and with less capacity for random damage. However, when lifting heavy loads into the air, there is always a danger, and therefore training is necessary for the operation of these machines.
Testing for reach trucks is largely the same as that for the counterbalance forklift training. It has the same test styles, and in many cases it is possible to test both on the same course. However, if you are moving from general counterbalance work to reach trucks, you must check that your license covers you.
If you haven’t taken reach truck training in the past, you will have to take a course, just like the one for the counterbalance trucks. In this case it will be a conversion course, which will take less time than a full course, typically two days. It is also possible to take pure reach truck training, for novices, which will take five days and will not cover any other forklift types.
Rough terrain forklifts
Rough terrain forklifts are in many ways the same as standard counterbalance forklifts, but they are designed for harsher conditions. Typically they have a stronger engine, usually powered by internal combustion rather than the weaker battery powered forklifts. They have higher stability, as well as heavier tyres with a deeper tread.
They are designed to cope with hills and loose ground, and are typically used in more trying conditions, such as logging, dock work, and special events. These extra capabilities require some extra training; however for qualified forklift drivers this will typically only require a single day’s conversion course, covering the differences in health and safety and load protocols for rough terrain, and the differences in maintenance procedures associated with changing to heavier treads and more powerful engines.
Sideloaders largely do what they say on the tin – they load from the side. This allows them to carry much longer loads, as they are running parallel to the body of the truck, and sideloaders are therefore designed for stability with these long loads.
Training for these forklifts is fairly straightforward, as many of the protocols are the same as those for counterbalance trucks. Many teaching centres offer only on-site training for these machines, because of the size of the loads they carry, however there are many teaching centres which offer sideloader training in house. This will usually involve a two day conversion course, as most operators move into sideloaders after they receive their counterbalance training; however there are also novice courses available.
Pallet trucks are a smaller, typically unpowered, version of the forklift. The pallet is positioned on the forks, and a pump is compressed to raise them. These carry smaller loads, and have a lot of limitations compared to the traditional forklift, but they don’t usually require specialist training, because of the ease associated with their use. If you have to work with these, you will usually be trained on the job.