When it comes to choosing a new forklift, you are not short of options. There are reach trucks, side-lifts, counterbalanced forklifts – and that’s before we get to the power options available which include diesel, electric, gas and even hybrid.
So how do you choose the best option for your needs? With every application and project having different requirements, this can be a challenging task. So in this guide, we are going to walk you through the different forklift options available and what kind of jobs they are most suitable for.
By the end of this guide, you should have a good idea what configuration of truck you need and which power option is the most suitable.
The counterbalance truck is the most popular type of forklift and is the machine most people think of when they think of forklifts. Counterbalanced trucks get their name from the large weight hanging over the rear wheels which helps to offset the weight being lifted at the front.
Configuration wise, counterbalanced trucks have dual forks which are attached directly to the mast, allowing the truck to be driven up to the load before lifting. This removes the need for a reach facility and allows for straightforward operation.
The standard configuration is four wheels, with the steering wheels at the back. However, three wheel versions are also available which provide more manoeuvrability in tight spaces, albeit at the expense of lifting capacity.
Counterbalanced trucks can be powered by diesel, electric and gas propulsion systems. Typically, diesel is used for outdoor work, gas is suitable for a combination of interior and outdoor work and electric propulsion is used for interior work.
Suitable for: A general purpose machine which is commonly used in warehouse operations where a combination of indoor and outdoor work is required.
Not suitable for: They are not suitable for sites with uneven ground. The limited steering makes them unsuitable for warehouses with tight racking. The limited reach of the forks also makes them unsuitable for high bay warehousing.
The reach truck is specifically designed for use with high bay warehouse racking. Typically, these machines have excellent manoeuvrability which allows them to navigate the tight aisles of high-density warehouses with ease.
Another advantage of the reach truck is that the forks can reach out beyond the stabilizer legs, allowing pallets to be collected from deep inside the racking. This enables much safer operation compared to conventional forklifts because the operator can remain a safe distance from the racking itself.
Reach trucks are typically powered by electric motors.
Suitable for: Most suited to indoor warehouse work in high-density warehouses with high bay racking.
Not suitable for: The low chassis height and small wheels makes them unsuitable for outdoor work or areas with uneven ground.
The side loader is designed for working in high-capacity warehouses with narrow aisles. The forks are mounted on the side of the truck which enables them to reach into the racking to pick up pallets without having to steer the truck into position.
Indoor and outdoor versions are available to suit most applications. Multi-way versions can also be specified, allowing the wheels to rotate by 90° and enabling pallets to be removed in any direction. This can greatly enhance productivity in high-capacity warehouses.
Suitable for: Side loaders are popular in the timber industry due to their ability to lift long and heavy loads down narrow aisles. They are also suitable for lifting pipe and tubing in the oil and gas industry.
Not suitable for: The low ground clearance of these machines makes them unsuitable for work on uneven ground.
The teletruck or telescopic handler is a heavy lifting truck which has more in common with a small crane than a forklift. They typically consist of an extendable boom with forks attached to the end. Many manufacturers allow for other attachments to be fitted to the boom including lift tables, buckets and muck grabbers. This adaptability makes them suitable for a range of applications.
Typically used for outdoor work, they are fitted with diesel power units and come with a range of reach heights and power outputs. This allows the operator to choose a machine that is tailored to the application at hand.
Suitable for: The adaptability of teletrucks makes them suitable for both construction and agricultural applications. In fact, they have superceded specialist rough terrain forklifts in both industries due to their increased flexibility.
Not suitable for: Due to their size and lack of manoeuvrability, teletrucks are not suitable for indoor use or areas with limited space.
If you need help choosing the right forklift truck for your application, get in touch with the lifting experts at Hitec. We have been supplying and maintaining forklift trucks to all types of industries across the UK since 1986. So no matter what you need to lift or where you need to lift it, we can supply a truck that meets your requirements.