Equipment and Solutions


different types of forklifts and their uses

Warehouses and construction sites regularly use forklifts to improve productivity and move materials. As forklifts have expanded in their capabilities, more of them have been developed for specific uses. Since there are a variety of forklifts available to businesses, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has classified seven primary types.

If you’re in the market for new forklifts, you should be aware of the different classes of forklifts and how they can benefit a company.


Those interested in adding new forklifts to their business will likely run across the different forklift classes as they look for the perfect machine for their needs. Each class of industrial forklifts offers something different that may be suitable for different applications. Check out the seven classes of forklifts below to find which may align best with your projects:


Class I forklifts refer to electric motor rider trucks. These forklifts are usually designed to be used while sitting, but they sometimes offer vertical operation models. A defining feature of Class I forklifts is that they’re counterbalanced, which means the forklift uses its battery to act as a counterweight for greater stability. A counterbalance forklift’s weight capacity typically ranges from 3,000 pounds to 8,000 pounds.

One of the major pros of this type of forklift is how quiet it is due to its electrical power. The electric battery also means there are no emissions, making these forklifts great for environmentally conscious companies or indoor applications. Like other electric-powered forklifts, you have to allocate warehouse space for battery-charging stations and may have to wait for them to recharge.


Class II forklifts are electric motor narrow aisle trucks. Since the machines are designed to be operated in narrow aisles, they’re one of the most maneuverable forklift classes. Most Class II forklifts come in a stand-up form, but some come in sit-down models. Their weight capacity is typically between 3,000 pounds and 5,000 pounds.

They’re some of the best forklifts when you’re trying to expand your warehouse’s storage capabilities with greater racking space. Instead of having to increase the size of your warehouse, you can set up more narrow aisles since Class II forklifts can fit in small spaces. Usually, Class II trucks are designed to pick up and put away items in tight spaces.


Otherwise known as electric motor hand trucks, Class III forklifts are designed to lift heavy loads only a few inches. They come in both walk-behind and rider models, with both featuring tight maneuverability. They’re primarily used when people need to unload tractor-trailers quickly and transport loads to staging areas where other equipment can handle them. These electric motor hand trucks will weigh up to 8,000 pounds and are battery powered.

Their maneuverability and easy operation make them best for times when you need to transport inventory short distances or in smaller warehouses. One downside for some of the most basic Class III forklifts is the inability to raise products more than a few inches. However, Class III stackers come in both straddle legs and counterbalanced forklift units, which can lift items to greater heights that match other forklifts’ capabilities.


Class IV forklifts refer to machines with an internal combustion engine and cushion tires. Since they run on an internal combustion engine, they’re powered with gas or diesel. Class IV forklifts are often used indoors to move items from storage areas to loading docks and vice versa. Typically, their weight capacity ranges from 3,000 pounds to 15,500 pounds, but they sometimes go as high as 80,000 pounds.

forklift with cushion tires infographic

One of the advantages of this type of forklift is that its cushion tires usually ride closer to the ground than forklifts with pneumatic tires, making them a great choice for low-clearance areas. Since they’re powered by LP gas or diesel, you can refuel them faster than it would take to recharge a battery-powered forklift, and you won’t have to allocate space for a battery charging station. However, you will have to take into account emissions in your facilities and fuel costs.


Class V forklifts are internal combustion engine trucks with pneumatic tires. These forklifts are typically used outdoors, but they’re sometimes found indoors in larger warehouses. They have a weight capacity ranging from 3,000 pounds to 55,000 pounds and are powered by gas.

The Class V forklifts are a very versatile forklift type, as they can come with single wheel or dual back wheel models. Additionally, an internal combustion engine truck can switch out its regular pneumatic tires to solid pneumatic tires for rougher work environments, where the chance of puncture is higher.


Class VI forklifts are also known as electric and internal combustion engine tractors. They’re nicknamed tuggers since they’re used to pull loads from one location to another. You can find tuggers powered by a battery and by fuel, depending on their engine type. You’ll often see these forklifts in airports transporting luggage and in assembly line sections of warehouses.


Class VII forklifts refer to rough terrain forklift trucks. These are one of the main types of forklifts used in construction due to their length and ability to handle tough terrain. As rough terrain forklifts, they’re almost always used outdoors and are powered by diesel engines. They also come with giant tires like those you might see on a tractor, giving drivers greater traction and a greater ability to navigate rough outdoor job sites. These forklifts come in either two-wheel or four-wheel drive.

They can be equipped with a straight mast, but this can be swapped out for a telescoping mast to turn into a reach forklift. Class VII forklifts are commonly used in construction sites or lumberyards, as they’re ideal for jobs that need to transport heavy materials to high locations. The weight capacity of these forklifts ranges from 6,000 pounds to 12,000 pounds.


At RAKA, we have a variety of forklift types available. We’re proud to provide forklifts from the most trusted names in the industry. For example, you can purchase or rent Cat®lift trucks or Mitsubishi forklifts — some of the most trusted names in the industry. Besides our extensive product offerings, we also have a knowledgeable sales staff ready to help you find the perfect forklift for your needs.

Find your local RAKA location today to get set up with the best equipment on the market. Have any questions? Feel free to contact us.

Choose RAKA for your forklift needs