Forklift Facts

The Forklift is an essential and necessary piece equipment for a modern materials handling. There is a common misconception that there is only one or two types of forklifts that will do a job. This is not the case. There are many different forklifts and attachments to suit each industry and application.

The Name

A forklift has many names which include “Forklift Truck”, “Lift Truck”, and “Fork Truck”. Many people ask why is a forklift a truck? The simple answer is that a forklift is a powered industrial truck used to lift and transport materials.


The middle nineteenth century through the early twentieth century saw the developments that led to today's modern forklifts. The Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906 introduced battery powered platform trucks for moving luggage at their Altoona, Pennsylvania train station. World War I saw the development of different types of material handling equipment in the United Kingdom by Ransomes, Sims and Jeffries of Ipswich. This was in part due to the labour shortages caused by the war. In 1917 Clark in the United States began developing and using powered tractor and powered lift tractors in their factories. In 1919 the Towmotor Company and Yale & Towne Manufacturing in 1920 entered the lift truck market in the United States.

Continuing development and expanded use of the forklift continued through the 1920s and 1930s. World War II, like World War I before, spurred the use of forklift trucks in the war effort. Following the war, more efficient methods for storing products in warehouses were being implemented. Warehouses needed more manoeuvrable forklift trucks that could reach greater heights. New forklift models were made that filled this need. In 1956 Toyota introduced its first lift truck model, the Model LA, in Japan and sold its first forklift in the United States in 1967. (Wikipedia)

Forklift Components

Whilst there are many different types of forklifts which have a variety of components, most of the forklifts have similar components. For example, a typical counterbalanced forklift contains the following components:

  • Truck Frame - is the base of the machine to which the mast, axles, wheels, counterweight, overhead guard and power source are attached. The frame may have fuel and hydraulic fluid tanks constructed as part of the frame assembly.
  • Counterweight - is a mass attached to the rear of the forklift truck frame. The purpose of the counterweight is to counterbalance the load being lifted. In an electric forklift the large lead-acid battery itself may serve as part of the counterweight.
  • Cab- is the area that contains a seat for the operator along with the control pedals, steering wheel, levers, switches and a dashboard containing operator readouts. The cab area may be open air or enclosed, but it is covered by the cage-like overhead guard assembly. The 'Cab' can also be equipped with a Cab Heater for cold climate countries. The modern cab is comprised of a Roll Over Protection Structure (ROPS) which is designed to protect operators from injuries.
  • Overhead Guard - is a metal roof supported by posts at each corner of the cab that helps protect the operator from any falling objects. On some forklifts, the overhead guard is an integrated part of the frame assembly.
  • Power Source - may consist of an internal combustion engine that can be powered by LP gas, CNG gas, gasoline or diesel fuel. Electric forklifts are powered by either a battery or fuel cells that provide power to the electric motors. The electric motors used on a forklift may be either DC or AC types. For forklift LPG bottles or rentals, please contact our sales team on (02) 9604 3955 or email so that we may assist you.
  • Tilt Cylinders - are hydraulic cylinders that are mounted to the truck frame and the mast. The tilt cylinders pivot the mast backward or forward to assist in engaging a load.
  • Mast - is the vertical assembly that does the work of raising and lowering the load. It is made up of interlocking rails that also provide lateral stability. The interlocking rails may either have rollers or bushings as guides. The mast is driven hydraulically, and operated by one or more hydraulic cylinders directly or using chains from the cylinder/s. It may be mounted to the front axle or the frame of the forklift.
  • Carriage - is the component to which the forks or other attachments mount. It is mounted into and moves up and down the mast rails by means of chains or by being directly attached to the hydraulic cylinder. Like the mast, the carriage may have either rollers or bushings to guide it in the interlocking mast rails.
  • Load Back Rest - is a rack-like extension that is either bolted or welded to the carriage in order to prevent the load from shifting backward when the carriage is lifted to full height. This may also be known as a load guard.
  • Attachments - may consist of a mechanism which is attached to the carriage, either permanently or temporarily, to help in proper engagement of the load. A variety of materials handling attachments are available. Some attachments include side shifters, slip-sheet attachments, carton clamps, multipurpose clamps, rotators, fork positioner’s, carpet poles, pole handlers, container handlers and roll clamps. For a list of available attachments, please see our attachment section
  • Tyres - either solid for indoor use, or pneumatic for outside use.


A pallet sometimes inaccurately called a skid (a skid has no bottom deck boards), is a flat transport structure that supports goods in a stable fashion while being lifted by a forklift, pallet jack, front loader, work saver or other jacking device. A pallet is the structural foundation of a unit load which allows handling and storage efficiencies. Goods or shipping containers are often placed on a pallet secured with strapping, stretch wrap or shrink wrap and shipped.

While most pallets are wooden, pallets also are made of plastic, metal, and paper. Each material has advantages and disadvantages relative to the others.

Well-known and utilised Australian Pallet manufacturers include Chep, which is an Australian company that is found all over the globe, utilising the local standard sizes of pallets; Loscam, which is a subsidiary of the giant General Electric Corporation from the United States; Pink Pallets and Palletmasters, which are privately owned businesses based in South East Queensland. Chep and Loscam primarily hire out pallets – the client is charged per pallet per day. Pink Pallets and Palletmasters are manufacturers of standard and non standard pallets for industry and Pink Pallets also recycle used pallets for the environmentally conscious user. Pink Pallets and Palletmasters sell their products rather than hiring them.