Equipment and Solutions

Guide to Forklift Terminology

Forklift being used in a warehouse

Knowing the primary parts and essential functions of a forklift is critical in maximizing the performance, efficiency, and overall safety of your machine fleet. The more your employees know about the equipment they’re operating, the more your company will benefit. Understanding the different parts and functions of a device can be a perfect starting point for new operator training. 

In addition, learning about a machine’s components, terminology, and basic operational facts is beneficial when preparing for forklift certification. 

Forklift Definitions and Glossary Terms

While there are conceivably hundreds of words and designations surrounding a lift truck’s operation, here is a list of some of the most common terms and definitions regarding forklifts:

  • Battery: Unlike internal combustion forklifts that use fuel, electrical forklifts require batteries for power. Depending on the lift model, batteries come in a wide range of voltages and amp ratings.
  • Cab: This is the compartment where the forklift operator sits and controls the device’s movements. Many of a lift’s most critical controlling mechanisms are in the cab. 
  • Carriage: A carriage is a platform on the front of the machine that houses the components controlled by the mast. These include the load backrest, the forks and other attachments that directly contact materials.
  • Chassis: A chassis is a frame along the bottom of a lift that attaches to many of a device’s components, including the wheels, axle, mast, engine and counterweight.
  • Charger: A charger recharges a forklift battery by feeding it an electric current. Typically, most lift batteries take around eight hours to charge fully.
  • Classification: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) categorizes forklifts into seven classes related to lifting applications, fuel types and other mechanical features. 
  • Counterweight: A forklift counterweight provides stability and balance to the rear of a device when lifting heavy loads.
  • Equalization: This process happens at the end of a battery charging cycle to ensure that all battery cells have equal amounts of voltage.
  • Forks: Forks, also known as tynes, directly contact and hold the load. Forks come in many different types, shapes and sizes and are often interchangeable.
  • Free lift: A machine’s free lift is the maximum height the forks can achieve without changing the mast height.
  • Fuel tank: Lifts that use internal combustion engines require fuel for power. These machines run on various fuels, including propane, gasoline, diesel fuel and liquid petroleum gas. Fuel tanks are typically near the device’s rear and are available in multiple volume capacities. 
  • Lift cylinder: A lift cylinder provides a machine’s vertical movement by using hydraulics to raise the mast and carriage.
  • Load backrest: A load backrest prevents a load from shifting backward when the carriage elevates. It allows materials to rest against a secure, flat surface that makes transporting them safer.
  • Load capacity: A forklift’s load capacity is the maximum weight a machine can safely carry at a specified load center. The data plate specifies the maximum load capacity a machine can lift safely at various mast angles and with different attachments.
  • Mast: A machine’s mast, also called a vertical, serves to lift, lower or position the carriage and forks. There are various mast types available, each of which has its own unique set of features and advantages.
  • Maximum lift height: A device’s maximum lift height is the height forks can achieve when the mast is at its highest point.
  • Operator controls: Several examples of a forklift’s operator controls include forward and reverse directional controls, hydraulic lift levers, pedals and parking brakes. 
  • Overhead guard: The primary purpose of an overhead guard is to protect the machine’s operator from falling objects. It is a cagelike structure that connects to the forklift’s frame.
  • Rating plate: A rating plate shows how much weight a forklift can lift safely. It will also tell you the load center — the distance from the fork’s heel to the load’s center of gravity.
  • Service weight: A forklift’s service weight is the combined weight of the machine itself and any attachments it contains. Most standard lifts have a service weight of up to twice their rated lift capacity.
  • Tilt cylinder: Like a lift cylinder, a tilt cylinder moves using hydraulics. The primary difference is that a tilt cylinder generates the tilt movement of the carriage and the angle of the forks relative to the ground.
  • Tires: Forklift tires typically come in two varieties — cushion and pneumatic. Cushion tires consist of smooth, solid rubber and are ideal for uniform indoor conditions, while pneumatic tires provide high performance outdoors thanks to their durable construction and treads.
  • Watering: In lead-acid batteries for most electric forklifts, water fills individual cells to ensure a functional mix of electrolytes and chemicals that power the machine. If the water levels fall too low, it can damage your equipment.

Get in Touch With RAKA Today

RAKA is the industry leader for material handling solutions throughout the Midwest. Whether you need a new or used forklift for purchase or rent, our comprehensive inventory has you covered. Contact us today to learn how our superior products and services can benefit your business.