Forklifts are industrial vehicles used in applications such as warehouse storing and distribution for the lifting, moving and loading of heavy products, materials and packaged pallets. Forklifts, or forklift trucks, typically have a power operated moving forked platform attached to the front of the vehicle. This is designed to be inserted under loads and raised in order to move the load to a desired location. Almost every industry which handles heavy items and large quantities of materials or goods utilizes industrial trucks or pallet trucks. They are particularly useful in storerooms, construction sites and loading docks where efficiency is improved by the addition of mechanical power.
Forklift trucks also enable a facility owner to maximize vertical storage space by enabling loads to be stacked as high as the lift trucks can reach. They are used in both indoor and outdoor applications and can be designed to meet a number of specific requirements with the different types of fork lifts. Heavy duty applications often require sideloaders, while warehouses with high shelves utilize reach trucks or order picker trucks to access products and equipment. Particularly compact warehouses use forklifts called narrow aisle forklifts which are designed to maneuver in small spaces. Pallet trucks are a type of lift truck designed specifically for the lifting of loaded pallets. Forklifts either have seats in the control section or are stand up forklifts, where the driver must remain standing while operating the truck. Indoor walkie forklifts are electric forklifts which are designed for inside use on smooth concrete. Using a forklift in most industrial or commercial situations improves storage potential, reduces risk of injury and cuts stocking time. Companies that sell and manufacture forklifts may also offer used forklifts for sale and forklift repair services which include emergency repair or routine maintenance in order to extend the lifespan of the vehicle.
Hydraulic systems are used for lifting power in most forklifts, although some companies have developed electric actuator controlled lifts. The lifting platforms are typically attached to the front of the forklift, except in the case of sideloaders in which the lifting mechanism extends from the side rather than the front or back. They are used in heavy duty applications and those in which there is not much space to maneuver. For extremely heavy loads, reinforced stabilizing bars can be used to provide extra support for the safe raising and lowering of loads. Reach trucks are equipped with hydraulic lifting systems capable of raising their platforms to reach pallets and items on high warehouse shelves. Other forklifts are designed to maneuver safely down very narrow aisles. Straddle trucks are a type of forklift which have wider bases in order to lift a heavy load higher than normal forklifts can, while turret forklift trucks can rotate a high load up to a 90 degree angle. Platform trucks are a material handling vehicle composed of a simple wheeled flat bed with either a bar handle for manual transportation or a motor, steering wheel and seat. Although not technically lift trucks, platform trucks are used in applications similar to forklift trucks to handle material transportation.
A few common forklift features include tilting and rotating frames and wheels to increase the vehicles’ overall maneuverability and efficiency. The forks themselves are adjustable in relation to their intended use. For example, pallet truck forks have specific dimensions which fit a variety of standard pallet designs, or reach trucks can be designed with double extended forks for deep reaching applications. Fork lifts are constructed with either internal combustion engines or electric motors. With new stricter emission standards in facilities, electric forklifts are frequently chosen over fuel or gas powered vehicles. Wheels may be fitted with stabilizing outriggers and the tires themselves may be either solid cushion tires or pneumatic tires. The forklifts may have safety rails installed around the lifting fork to minimize the risk of a load sliding or falling off, or an overhead guard to protect from falling objects. Safety features, such as flashing lights or audible sirens, are common features which help keep co-workers aware of the vehicles’ movement and presence in order to avoid injury and product loss. Safety around load handling equipment is an imperative element of a manufacturing or construction facility. Negligence could result in serious accidents or equipment damage from collisions or forklifts tipping over.
Narrow aisle forklifts are specifically designed to operate in constricted and congested areas. They are able to maneuver down isles 8 to 10 feet wide, while standard models need at least 11 feet to make turns. The forks are at a right angle to the truck’s body, and are therefore able to pick up loads to the side without turning.
Narrow aisle forklift trucks are commonly used in warehouse applications in constricted or constrained areas in which space conservation is an important factor. They are specifically designed to be used for offloading, material handling and storing within narrow aisles and as a result increase the amount of available storage within a space. Versatile models of narrow trucks are able to perform a variety of functions thus reducing the need for multiple forklift trucks and further saving costs. Maneuverability, visibility and stability are all important considerations for choosing forklift trucks and will depend on the specifics of the application for which they are intended in terms of load size and weight and required motor power. Standard models of forklifts require approximately an 11 foot width to make turns, whereas narrow forklift trucks are able to complete turns in as little as 8 feet. VNA forklifts, or very narrow aisle forklifts, are manufactured for spaces which are even smaller and these trucks have a potential turning circle of as little as 5 feet. More and more storage spaces such as manufacturing facilities, factories, storage warehouses and more are increasing space density by reducing aisle width, and forklift sizes follow accordingly.
Guidance systems in the form of laser measuring or computer technology assistance are often used to combat the mistakes made by narrow forklift drivers, or to effectively maneuver around the layout of the area. The reduction of working spaces makes industrial trucks more prone to collisions or errors. In order to avoid this, optical lines and wires can be used which run the length of the aisles and help keep the forklift on a consistent and straight path. On many models of narrow truck, the forks are on the side of the truck’s body, allowing the loads to be moved without the truck having to turn around in small spaces, therefore further reducing the possibility of collision. Employee safety is imperative and therefore forklift truck operators should be well trained in the operation and maneuvering of the vehicles. Further safety precautions may include an overhead guard, good seating and bumper pads on the truck itself. Tire choice also plays a role in the comfort of the operator and affects whether or not a forklift truck may be used both indoors and outdoors. Traditionally, engine-operated forklift trucks were most common, but today, electric forklift trucks are becoming more popular, especially in accordance with new emission standards.
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