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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