How to drive a fork lift truck

Written by steven w. easley
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How to drive a fork lift truck
Forklift operations and precautions (forklift safety image by Greg Pickens from

Fork lifts are an essential tool in modern manufacturing plants and shipping docks. They are used extensively in the movement of freight and supplies, and the safe operating of these trucks is paramount to maintaining a safer work environment. Driving a fork lift can be dangerous: Some potential hazards include tipover, loss of load, and collision with pedestrians and obstacles. Serious personal injury and damage can be result from the improper operation of a fork lift.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Mounting and dismounting a fork lift requires some caution to avoid injury. An operator can potentially hit his head on the overhead cage or can slip and fall off the step. Always maintain a three-point stance when mounting a fork truck and never use the steering wheel as a handhold. There are handholds located on the cage enclosure and on the seat to allow an operator to mount and dismount safely. Operators should make certain the hands and the handholds are clean and grease-free when climbing onto or off of the fork lift. Always wear proper footwear to help avoid slipping on the step and to protect your toes.

  2. 2

    Conduct a pre-operation inspection prior to starting a fork lift and then follow up with an operational check. Once you're ready to begin working and moving the fork truck, sound the horn to warn others, and if your vision is obstructed, use a spotter. Always look in the direction of travel and watch for blind spots. When stopping apply the brake slowly and ensure there is adequate stopping distance. If you're parking the fork lift, neutralise the controls, set the brake and turn off the ignition.

  3. 3

    When travelling move at a speed that allows you to stop in a safe manner. Be watchful for pedestrians and other obstacles. Be aware of any potential hazards along your intended travel path. Slow down on wet or slippery floors and avoid driving over loose items in your path.

  4. 4

    Avoid a possible tip-over by slowing down so that you can steer the forklift smoothly and by not making turns too sharply. Be aware of anything that might be in your path as you make your turn. When moving between rooms or into areas where people may be walking or working sound your horn to warn others of your approach.

  5. 5

    Driving up inclines with a loaded forklift maintaining a clear line of sight. Loads should be carried low to the floor to avoid tipping the fork lift over. When descending an incline, back down with the load close to the floor and watch your direction of travel. Empty fork lifts should be driven up and down inclines with the forks facing the downgrade.

Tips and warnings

  • Travel with your limbs within the confines of the cage and always look in the direction of travel, but pay attention to any potential blind spots and allow space for pedestrians.
  • Operating a fork lift too fast can result in a tip-over or the loss of the load and prevent the operator from stopping in a safe distance.

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