Forklift Classifications

Written by keith allen
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Forklift Classifications
Forklifts fall into six different classifications, according to the Occupational and Health Administration. (forklift image by Michael Cornelius from

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration identifies seven classifications of powered industrial trucks. Six of these classifications include machines described as forklifts. Each classification has its own safe operation standards and requirements. By definition a forklift is an industrial vehicle using a power operated platform, usually forked, on the front for the lifting moving of materials. Of the seven classifications, Class VI is not a forklift but a ride-on vehicle for pulling carts of materials.

Class I: Electric Motor Rider Trucks

The electric motor rider truck is the classic forklift powered by an electric engine. The vehicle provides seating for one person, the operator, with the movable fork mounted on the front. All Class I Industrial Trucks are equipped with a roll cage and overhead protection for protecting the operator from falling materials.

Class II: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks

Electric-powered narrow aisle trucks may have seating for the operator, or the operator's position may be standing. The forklift may be oriented to the front or at a right angle for handling materials on shelves in a warehouse situation with narrow aisles.

Class III: Electric Motor Hand Trucks

Electrically powered pallet jacks fall into this category. The operator walks behind the truck. Controls are usually mounted on a yoke or handle affixed on a lever. In some cases the truck can be pulled, or the forks raised or lowered manually if the electric charge has been depleted.

Class IV: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks, Solid Tires

Class IV trucks are similar to Class I trucks in they offer seating for the operator with the forks mounted on the front. The internal combustion engine of a Class IV truck can be powered by gasoline, diesel fuel or LP gas. The truck is mounted on solid rubber tires.

Class V: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks, Pneumatic Tires

Identical in specifications to Class IV but mounted on pneumatic tires.

Class VII: Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

Rough terrain forklift trucks are often used in situations where the terrain is rough such as unimproved construction sites. The vehicles can come in many designs including some that resemble large Class V trucks with a wider wheelbase and higher ground clearance for stabiltiy. Others resemble a farm tractor with the fork assembly on the back of the tractor and the operator position facing backwards. Specialised Class VII trucks can have telescoping booms to deliver the material carried on the fork assembly to high levels in construction projects.

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