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What are the Different Types of Forklifts?

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

A forklift (lift truck) is used to help move heavy loads across your warehouse, storage facility, or any worksite. There are different types of forklifts to choose from, making it overwhelming to know which is right for your work environment. It is important to know those types for making an informed decision.

Don’t worry.

Here is a rundown of different types of forklifts to help you choose the right one.

Manual Pallet Truck:

If you are looking for the simplest and most cost-effective type of forklift, a manual pallet truck is at your service. Composed of a steel machine with a hydraulic pump, it is operated by pumping the handle up and down. The forks are positioned under the pallet to raise it off the floor through the jack. It is then steered with the handle to take the load to its desired destination. The drawback to the manual “hand truck” is that it is a floor to floor move because they typically only lift high enough to bring the pallet high enough off of the floor to move it around and limited to the strength of the person operating it.

Power Pallet Truck:

A power pallet truck is an electric type of pallet jack that is also called a pump truck. It facilitates maneuvering pallets or other heavy loads quickly and easily within a warehouse. The battery-operated hand truck is fast becoming a more popular niche item because they are more tailor-made to their applications in today’s market. For example, UNICARRIERS offers many variations of their trucks including walkie and rider variations as well as single and double pallet sizes, and even versions with a vertical mast that can be used to install pallets on racks.

Counterbalance Forklift:

Considered one of the most common forklifts on the market, this forklift can be configured in a multitude of ways catering to very specific niches from the smallest load applications like moving bread in a bakery, to carrying 100,000 pounds oilfield pieces. It would be impossible to cover this in its entirety with just a few paragraphs, so we will delve further into this topic in a later blog. Here are a few examples of each configuration and application they would fit. The most popular machine, based on our customer preferences and the markets that we cater to, is the 5,000 lb LPG powered, three-stage mast with at minimum a third hydraulic function with a side shift. This configuration is the most versatile when working with palletized loads. Typically, freight companies will not handle pallets larger than 48” x 48” especially if they are close to 5,000 lbs because that’s what they run as their dock trucks.

In that capacity, you can also utilize a clamp attachment, a single double (it’s an attachment with forks that split and can hydraulically open to become two sets of forks on one carriage), or a few other attachments that can be used effectively on a smaller chassis. You will see larger counter-balanced trucks in locations where pipe and steel are sold. The most popular trucks you will see there are 15-22,000 lbs capacity trucks with dual drive tires and, depending on the condition of the yard and the nature of the business, you will typically see a solid pneumatic configuration or a foam-filled “air” tire.

You can acquire a counterbalanced lift truck in gasoline power, diesel power, LPG (Liquified Petroleum Gas), CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), and electric. There are other offerings that come about from time to time, but the technology is not there yet.

3-Wheel Electric Counterbalance:

This is the “3-wheel counterpart” of 4-wheel counterbalance forklifts.

The difference provides an improved turning ability as the back wheels are installed together in the center of the frame. This is useful in smaller spaces or those with narrow aisle.

Industrial Reach Forklift Trucks:

These trucks are renowned for their extended lift height, making them ideal in any construction situation. These machines are ideal for high setups. The reach truck capacities vary from 5,500 lb to 15,000 lb or larger, but typically 12,000 lb is large enough for most applications. They are generally used in construction, crane installations, any oilfield application that needs both a larger forklift and the occasional high lift. Basically, this truck is preferred over a crane when applicable because it is more cost-effective and more versatile than a crane.


Stackers are like power pallet trucks but with a mast, allowing the ability to lift pallets to a maximum height of 17 ft. They are easy to use and are an ideal choice for small warehouses. You can also get them in a rider and walkie configuration.

Order Pickers:

Order pickers are meant for handpicking rather than moving full pallets. They let you quickly and efficiently pick orders in a warehouse. The basic model will raise the platform to the second row of racking 3-6 ft. They can pick the worker to a height of over 30 ft to give them easy access to the things kept in higher positions.

Side Loader Forklift:

It is a subtype of the warehouse forklift. They are usually found in steel service centers and manufacturing facilities with heavy and bulky items. The operator stands in a sideways compartment and the side loader unloads objects on its side.

Due to its sideways position, operation side load forklifts can easily drive up alongside racks and load and unload without having to turn. This makes them suitable for navigating narrow aisles and handling long loads like timber and pipes.

Articulated Forklift:

Articulated forklifts are suitable for constrained narrow aisles about 6 ft wide. Their mast can get into both sides of the racking, meaning that they don’t have to right angle stack.

Rough Terrain Forklifts:

Rough terrain forklifts, as the name suggests, are designed to work in challenging conditions such as sand and muddy surfaces. It does not come with a suspension, instead, it relies on flotation-type tires on the drive axle that is lacked by a conventional forklift. This allows the tires to soak up some of the imperfections on the surface being traversed and provides much-needed traction while keeping the drive tires from digging and burying into the surface. These units have a vertical mast and typically have a higher-than-normal lift height of 20 plus feet. The other unit that can classify as a rough terrain lift would be the afore mentioned reach truck more commonly referred to as a “boom-lift” or a telescopic lift. These units have four large all-terrain tires and three different steering modes to help overcome the larger footprint of the machine.

So these are some different types of forklifts. It will help you choose the right forklift according to your operation. Give us a call at Permian Machinery to help see which one best suits your needs today!


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