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Forklift Capacities: How To Choose The Right Truck For The Job

With so many truck options out there, choosing the correct truck for the application can seem like a daunting task.  To enhance productivity, as well as promoting safety, selecting the appropriate truck for your operation can affect multiple layers of your supply chain.  Below we discuss tips to consider in choosing the right truck for the job.

Understanding Lift Capacity

When considering a forklift for your application, you must first look at lift capacity.  Trucks can range anywhere from 3,000 to 70,000 lbs. and offer a multitude of designs to aide in efficiency.  Each forklift has its own data plate where you can find the rated capacity.  Depending on the way the load is carried, and the weight is distributed, will change the amount of weight the forklift can safely carry. 

Knowing a trucks lift capacity does not necessarily equate to matching product in pounds. For instance, if a forklift’s data plate specifies a lift capacity of 5,000 lbs. that does not necessarily mean the truck can carry any load of 5,000 lbs. Understanding the weight, size, and position of the load will better determine the type of truck needed. 

Some questions to consider when deciding on specific truck capacity needs:

  • Where will my forklift be used (indoors or outdoors)?
  • How heavy is my typical load?
  • What is the shape of my typical load?
  • What aisle clearance do I have in the warehouse?
  • How high do my loads need to be lifted?
  • How often will my forklift be used?

Factors that affect Lift Capacity

Center of Gravity

Most counterbalanced trucks have what is called a stability triangle.  The stability triangle is a three- point suspension system that incorporates two front wheels and the center of the steer axle that supports the truck.  When the truck is at rest, the center of gravity is within the stability triangle, however, when the truck is in motion (braking, accelerating and making turns) the center of gravity shifts. It is also important to understand that an unloaded truck can tip with the counterbalance weight as well as a truck transporting a load.  According to OSHA, “the load center is the distance from the face of the forks to the load’s center of gravityMany forklifts are rated using a 24-inch load center, which means that the load’s center of gravity must be 24 inches or less from the face of the forks.”  Additional issues that can affect the center of gravity is damaged product or loads un-securely mounted, loads that are off-center, and loads that are exceeding capacity. OSHA:  Load Handling

Attachments

Warehouse operations will often add forklift attachments to aid the needs of their operation.  However, before adding any attachment, operators must consider the affect adding an attachment will have on the trucks center of gravity.  The additional weight is not the only concern, as considering the horizontal and vertical center of gravities can also affect the overall lifting.  To ensure trucks are transporting loads safely, locating the forklift attachment’s data plate will assist in determining proper lift capacity.

Tires

Choosing a forklift, based on lift capacities, involves many more factors than what the data plate states.  Each part of the truck offers their own lift capacities and can directly affect the load you intend to carry.  For example, the type of tires on the truck will help determine lift abilities.  If the truck has small or larger tires, those details will come into play on calculating load size and may require a recalculation of center of gravity. 

There are plenty of other areas to consider and address when determining the appropriate truck options for your supply chain. Calculating lift capacities and considering additional attachments, can negatively affect center of gravity, and can be overwhelming for the operator to navigate.  That’s why our dealer partners are ready to help you find the right truck for the job. Contact any of our dealer partners today at a location near you!  KION NA Dealer Network

Identifying Forklift Wear and Tear

Forklifts are designed to last, but wear and tear inevitably occurs with use of the machine. Similar to cars, forklifts require regular service and maintenance, so you want to avoid reckless driving and handle your machine with care. But no matter how careful you are, forklifts will wear down over time.

It’s crucial to know if your machine needs to be repaired or removed from service to get as much life as possible out of the lift. Here are five places to look out for signs of forklift wear and tear.

1. Tires

Forklift tires are built to withstand a lot of weight, but like your car’s tires, will need to be replaced at some point. There are a few ways to tell when it’s time to replace a tire or two on your lift:

  • Worn low: Most tires have a defined line to let you know when it’s time to switch them out, sometimes referred to as the 50% wear line. If this line has been breached, it’s time to change the tire.
  • Chunking: Chunking refers to losing pieces of the tire rubber peeling away from the tire. Not only is chunking unsafe, but also renders the wheel useless, and the tire should be replaced immediately.
  • Flattening: Flattening occurs as a result of misalignment the forklift coming to a sharp halt. Change the tire if you notice it has any bald spots.

2. Forks

To get the most out of a forklift, the forks must be in good condition. Forks that are bent or cracked from picking up, transporting or unloading pallets cannot successfully transfer a load. As soon as you notice any of these issues, stop using the lift and take it for servicing immediately.

3. Chain

When properly lubricated, forklift chains can perform up to 6,000 hours of work. However, if you notice protruding or turned pins, plate cracking, misalignment, broken links, rust, or erosion, the chain needs to be replaced. Prevent these issues by keeping the chain lubricated.

4. Mast

The mast is the vertical assembly on the front of the forklift that’s responsible for raising, lowering, and tilting a load. One sign of wear and tear on the mast is metal on metal contact. Grinding sounds during operation, or visible scrape marks, are the result of metal of metal contact and serve as a sign to replace the mast.

5. Oil

Keeping proper levels of oil and immediately repairing oil leaks will protect your machine, as well as your facility as a whole. Oil lubricates the forklift’s mast when it is extended, and too little oil can result in increased friction and temperature that will most likely destroy other parts of the machine. Not to mention, an oil leak is hazardous to operators and pedestrians.

If you notice any of these signs of wear and tear on your forklift, you need to call for service. It’s important to catch these signs early in order to get as much life as possible out of your machine. At KION North America, we ensure quick delivery of parts and a range of services designed to fit your needs. Contact your local authorized dealer if you have any further questions about forklift maintenance.