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How to buy the right forklift for your needs

By: Grant King - IndustrySearch Writer
25 June, 2015

They lift heavy things, they carry heavy things, and they put heavy things on high shelves. End of story, right? Far from it. Buying a forklift is like buying a suit; if it doesn't fit, you'll look pretty stupid.

A forklift has to be tailored to your space, environment and usage. So here's how to make sure you buy the right one.

What's your warehouse like?

Is it a slalom course of narrow corridors? Is it a vast cavernous place with long, straight carrying routes? And what are the surfaces like – flat and smooth or undulating and rough? Answer these questions and you'll have a clear idea of your forklift size and manoeuvrability requirements, as well as its ability to deal with rough terrain.

As a general rule, electric forklifts are smaller and more agile, while gas and diesel models offer more power, strength and durability on bumpy ground, but can be cumbersome beasts in confined spaces.  

What's your maximum load?

Give your warehouse the once over and work out the average weights your forklift is going to be carrying each day. If there's nothing over 600kg, chances are an electric model will do the trick. If your general load capacity needs to be more than that, go for gas or diesel – the strongest diesel machines can carry a whopping 60 tons at a time.

What's your maximum height?

If it's less than 2.5 metres you don't need a diesel-powered monster; a small, lightweight unit will do perfectly fine as long as your weights don't exceed 600kg. If however your racks are six metres high and beyond, the size and strength of your forklift become much bigger factors.

What will you be lifting?

Pallets? Tall loads? Wide loads? Tricky loads? Your forklift can be fitted with a special attachment – clamps for appliances, paper rolls, cartons and so on. Some units even come with a side shift device so you can move loads left and right on the hoist for easy placement.

How long is your forklift's shift?

Electric forklifts need to be plugged in and recharged and that can be a time consuming process. So if your forklift is going to be on the job day and night, chances are electric won't be practical. Both gas and diesel can work around the clock so long as you have a ready fuel supply.

Are fumes an issue?

They will be if you're operating in a closed space with poor ventilation. If fumes from a gas or diesel forklift are going to accumulate rather than be whisked away, the health of your workers is at risk. In these circumstances only go with an electric forklift wherever possible. Gas and diesel are fine outdoors and in open areas with adequate air flow.

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