Whether you’re new to the forklift industry or you’re interested in learning more about how forklifts operate, there are many important hardware, software, systems, and procedural terms to know about. To make the learning process as easy as possible, we’ve compiled a list of all the top forklift terminology into one easy-to-understand article.
Any complementary device for a truck that is not considered an attachment. Examples include battery pullers and battery stands as CAT forklift accessories.
Acid is generally in the form of sulfuric acid. When diluted with water, acid becomes the battery electrolyte.
The number of transactions as measured by the number of picks in line items, the amount shipped in dollars, and so on.
In a given period, an Activity Report is a report of the movement of product.
To direct a flow of material, an ID is given to an exact location within a facility.
A blend of two or more metals as a solution, mixture, or a compound.
Abbreviated as AC, the Alternating Current occurs when the positive and negative polarities alternate—otherwise known as a cycle. Overseas, the average number of cycles is 50 per minute. In the U.S., the average number of cycles is 60 per minute.
Ambient Temperature usually refers to the room or air temperature. This refers to the temperature of the surrounding cooling medium.
Abbreviated as AH, Ampere Hour refers to the volume of electricity that can be drawn from a battery.
Bale Clamp attachments for forklifts handle any non-palletized products such as cotton or aluminum cans. Bale Clamp attachments contain two sliding arms that easily pick up the bales from the ends for easy transport and storage.
Industrial traction batteries of 12v, 24v, 34v, 48v, 72v, and 80v are used by an electric forklift. Industrial traction batteries are available in two types: Sealed or flooded. Flooded batteries require the regular addition of water to maintain electrolyte levels in the battery, and sealed batteries are generally maintenance-free since they do not require the addition of water. Sealed batteries use chemical reactions to maintain appropriate battery fluid levels.
Battery Capacity measures the ability to maintain power over a set period. Forklift voltages are commonly 12, 24, 36, 48, and 72 DC.
Battery Chargers should match the specific type of battery being charged.
The allotted space of forklift lifting devices that house a battery.
A housing unit that joins the power unit of a lift truck to the vehicle’s battery. Battery Connectors are most commonly 175 and 350 Amp and are color coded to help users identify various battery voltages. They come in two settings: Small 175 Amp and larger 350 Amp.
Battery Connector Colors
Battery Connector Colors typically use red for 24v batteries, 36v for grey, and 48v for blue. Other colors may also be available to use.
Battery Connector Types
Two types of Battery Connectors are available: SB and SBX. SB are used for both the 175 Amp and 350 Amp ratings, while SBX connectors contain added contacts for using with auxiliary circuits on the forklift. Forklifts imported from Europe may come with a DIN connector and will not work with SB connectors.
Battery Discharge Indicator
Abbreviate BDI, the Battery Discharge Indicator is a meter or gauge used on forklift trucks. The BDI indicates the charge of the battery.
Battery Lead Length
Battery Lead Length attaches a battery to the lift truck’s motor.
Battery Lead Termination
The position of the exterior plug-in connection that connects to a battery charger.
For optimal Battery Life, the battery should be kept clean, and flooded batteries should be maintained with proper fluid levels. Batteries should be charged and have eight hours to rest before being used again.
Battery Model Identification
The Battery Model Identification is made up of three sets of numbers that are expressed per cell. Example Format: Voltage - Amps - Positive Plates.
Bin Retainer Forklift Truck Accessories
As a specialty forklift attachment, Bin Retainers are used to hold wooden or plastic bins to the forks when inverted using a rotator.
Battery Weight (Minimum)
The minimum recommended weight of a battery for forklift lifting devices.
As a specialty forklift attachment, forklift boom attachments assist with the handling of steel coils or carpet rolls.
When the brakes of the forklift are engaged.
Powered by hydraulics, air, or electricity, which activates the primary brake.
A rating given to forklift lifting devices which indicates the amount of weight that the truck can lift.
As attachments for forklifts, Carton Clamps allow for the easy warehousing of larger items including electronics and appliances. By eliminating the need for pallets, additional space is saved.
Carriage (Forklift Carriage)
There are four sizes of forklift carriages available: Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, and Class 4.
Class 1 Carriage: Can hold loads of up to 2,000 lbs. Carriage bar spacing is 13 inches.
Class 2 Carriage: Can hold loads of up to 5,500 lbs. Carriage bar spacing is 16 inches.
Class 3 Carriage: Can hold loads of up to 10,000 lbs. Carriage bar spacing is 20 inches.
Class 4 Carriage: Can hold loads of up to 15,500 lbs. Carriage bar spacing is 25 inches.
Classifications (Forklift Lifting Devices)
Class 1 - Electric Motor Rider Forklifts: Stand-Up Rider, Sit-Down Rider Cushion Tire, Sit-Down Rider Pneumatic Tire, or Three-Wheel Rider Electric.
Class 2 - Electric Narrow Aisle Forklift Lifting Devices: High-Lift Straddle-Type, Narrow Aisle Single Reach, Narrow Aisle Double Reach, Narrow Aisle Swing Reach, Counterbalanced Order Picker, Straddle Order Picker, or Turret Trucks.
Class 3 - Electric Hand Trucks: Walkie Low-Lift Pallet, Walkie/Ride Low-Lift Pallet, Walkie/Ride Reach Pallet, Walkie/Ride Straddle Pallet, Walkie/Ride High-Lift Counterbalanced.
Class 4 - Internal Combustion Cushion Tire Forklift Lifting Devices
Class 5 - Internal Combustion Pneumatic Tire Forklift Lifting Devices
A type of technology that controls the mechanical and electrical functionality of a unit.
A valve used to control the flow direction of hydraulic fluid.
To counterbalance a load against the center line of the drive wheels, a forklift must utilize weight in its chassis.
Cushion Tires are smooth and solid, containing a tread that is bonded to a steel ring to form the tire.
A metal tag stamped to show the model and serial number of a unit.
A meter displaying the state-of-charge of a forklift’s battery.
The pulling force at the hitch of a lift vehicle.
The drum grabber forklift attachment was created to transport one to four 55-gallon drums. Drum Clamps may also be equipped with a rotator to assist with emptying drums.
Dumper Forklift Truck Accessories
As a specialty forklift attachment, Dumpers are also referred to as Hoppers. Dumpers or Hoppers are manually or hydraulically powered and are used to handle bulk materials.
Electric Forklift Labelling
Electric trucks meet fire and electrical hazards and are labelled with an E, ES, EE, or EX.
- Forklift trucks labelled with an E meet minimum standards for electrical and fire hazards. These trucks cannot be used in hazardous settings.
- Forklift trucks labelled with an ES meet all standards for electrical and fire hazards. These trucks also contain additional functionalities that prevent the release of sparks. However, not often are ES electric forklifts for sale.
- Forklift trucks labelled EE meet all type E and ES requirements. They also enclose all electrical motors and spark-producing electrical components. EE trucks may be used in hazardous environments.
- Forklift trucks labelled EX are designed to be used specifically in hazardous environments, including atmospheres with flammable vapors, fibers, or dust. EX trucks are designed with protective measures and are not built with any spark-producing components.
The nomenclature of the forklift’s engine. Many forklift manufacturers do not manufacture their own forklift engines.
Important features and specifications of a forklift model.
(F)Fire and Electrical Hazard Labels
Forklift trucks are appropriately labelled to show users whether they are acceptable to use in hazardous situations or not. Electric forklifts meet fire and electrical hazards and are labelled with an E, ES, EE, or EX. IC Engine Powered Forklifts are labelled per the fuel used to power the forklift. IC Engine Powered Forklifts are labelled with a G, GS, LP, LPS, G/LP, GS/LPS, D, DS, or DY.
Fixed Fork Spreader
As a forklift material handling attachment, Fixed Fork Spreaders were created to assist with the handling of larger loads such as rebar, pipe, and trusses. The Fixed Fork Spreader containers two additional forks that help to provide extra stability.
When using Flooded Batteries, water must be added to the battery after the battery has already been charged.
Fork Carriage Width
The maximum width of the forklift carriage, which is designed to raise and lower in front of the mast.
Available in two styles: Pin type and hook type. Hooks are found on trucks of up to 14,000 lbs. capacity. Pin forks are found on larger capacity forklifts.
The dimensions of lift trucks. Example Format: Thickness x width x length
The maximum distance that the forklift may be positioned. Measured from the outer edge of the lift truck.
Four Directions of Travel
Also known as 4-D, this type of truck is capable of traveling in four different directions, including left, right, forward, and reverse.
The vertical distance that a fork may be raised before the mast starts to telescope.
Preparing the forklift to operate in cold environments. May include the use of hydraulic oils, components, and special paint.
Fuel Tank Capacity
The fuel tank’s maximum capacity.
Full Free Lift
This takes place when the fork carriage moves to the top of the inner mast before the inner mast starts to rise.
The forklift’s maximum slope percentage while carrying a capacity load.
Guidance Systems may be used by warehouses to guide forklift trucks as they travel up and down the aisles. Typically, Orderpickers and Turret trucks use Guidance Systems since they do not normally turn to face the rack while working with loads. While rare, there are some situations where four-wheeled forklifts may use a Guidance System. Guidance Systems are available in Rail Guidance systems and Wire Guidance Systems.
Hook Type Forklift Forks
Found on forklift trucks of up to 14,000 lbs.
Hours Per Year
How many hours the forklift is expected to operate in a given year.
Measured in pounds per inch, Hydraulic Pressure is the standard pressure of hydraulic fluid used in a lift truck model.
IC Engine Powered Vehicle Labelling
IC Engine Powered Forklifts are labelled per the fuel used to power the forklift. IC Engine Powered Forklifts are labelled with a G, GS, LP, LPS, G/LP, GS/LPS, D, DS, or DY.
- Gasoline-fueled forklift trucks labelled with a G label meet minimum standards for fire hazards. These trucks cannot be used in hazardous settings.
- Gasoline-fueled forklift trucks labelled with a GS label meet all standards for fire hazards. These trucks have additional functionalities installed to allow them to be used in certain hazardous settings. GS trucks are used in similar situations as type EE electric forklifts.
- LPG-fueled forklift trucks labelled with an LP label meet minimum standards for fire hazards. These trucks cannot be used in hazardous settings.
- LPG-fueled forklift trucks labelled with an LPS label meet all standards for fire hazards. These trucks have additional functionalities installed to allow them to be used in certain hazardous settings. LPS trucks are used in similar situations as type GS and EE electric forklifts.
- Duel-fueled forklift trucks labelled with a G/LP label meet minimum standards for electrical and fire hazards. These trucks cannot be used in hazardous settings.
- Duel-fueled forklift trucks labelled with a GS/LPS label meet all standards for fire hazards. These trucks have additional functionalities installed to allow them to be used in certain hazardous settings. GS/LPS trucks are used in similar situations as type GS, LPS, and type EE electric forklifts.
- Diesel-fueled forklift trucks labelled with a D label meet minimum standards for electrical and fire hazards. These trucks cannot be used in hazardous settings.
- Diesel-fueled forklift trucks labelled with a DS label meet all standards for fire hazards. These trucks have additional functionalities installed to allow them to be used in certain hazardous settings. DS trucks are used in similar situations as GS, LPS, and type EE electric forklifts.
- Diesel-fueled forklift trucks labelled with a DY label meet minimum standards for electrical and fire hazards. These trucks cannot be used in hazardous settings. DY trucks are used in similar situations as type EE electric forklifts.
Also referred to as inch braking and inch control, Inching is the process of slowly moving a forklift while the engine is operating at full speed. Inching allows slow and controlled movement of the forklift.
As a specialty attachment for forklifts, Jib Cranes are carriage mounted or fork mounted.
The load center is the distance from the front (or face) of the forks to the load’s center of gravity. Higher forklift capacities are needed to handle the same weight when the load is closer to the tips of the forks.
Length of Rear to Vertical Fork Face
Fork lift length calculated from the back of the truck to the vertical exterior.
The Lift Speed of an empty forklift truck is the highest speed a forklift may operate with no load.
The Lift Speed of a loaded forklift truck is the highest speed a forklift may operate with a full weight.
Also referred to as Limited Free Lift, the weight the forklift may raise until the mast begins to rise.
Loading Backrest Guard
Connects to the carriage which prevents the backwards descending of loads.
Maximum capacity a forklift can carry or lift.
As a specialty forklift attachment, the Load Extender allows the forklift carriage to extend hydraulically for greater range.
The location of the wheels on the forklift’s loading end.
Lower Forklift Speed
On an empty forklift truck, Lower Speed refers to the downward speed a forklift may travel with no load.
Lower Forklift Speed
In a full forklift truck, Lower Speed refers to the downward speed a forklift may travel with a full load.
Load Stabilizer Lift Truck Attachments
As attachments for forklifts, Load Stabilizers are used to haul unstable loads such as empty containers, bottled water, soft drinks, and beverages. Load Stabilizers secure the palletized load to allow for faster operating.
A Manual Transmission is manually-shifted by the user. The forklift comes with a clutch.
Masts are specified by four different types: the type of mast, lowered height of the mast, the lift height, and the freelift of the mast.
Mast of Forklift
A forklift’s two-stage mast contains two sections. The outer section of the mast connects to the lift truck and the inner section telescopes within the outer section.
Mast (Triple Mast)
A mast with three sections. The outer section of the mast connects to the lift truck, the middle section telescopes within the outer section, and the inner section telescopes within the middle section.
Mast (Quad Stage)
A mast with four sections. The outer section of the mast connects to the lift truck. The first of the middle sections telescopes within the outer section and the second of the middle sections telescopes within the first of the middle sections. The inner section telescopes within the second of the middle sections. Then, the middle sections and the inner sections extend as the forklift’s cylinders extend.
A lift that is not electrical.
Maximum Fork Height
Abbreviated as MFH, the Maximum Fork Height is reached when a forklift reaches its full extension.
Containing the control and processing elements of a microcomputer, a Microprocessor is in the form of an integrated circuit.
Narrow Aisle Truck
Forklifts specifically designed for travelling down narrow aisles of 7 to 9 feet wide.
The maximum horsepower of a forklift truck, with intake and exhaust systems in place.
The weight of a working machine.
The specified operator position of a forklift, including standing, sitting, or walking.
A forklift with controls that raise and lower the forklift forks.
On a straight mast forklift, the Outriggers I.D. is the distance between the inside portion of the outriggers.
Outriggers O.D. (Maximum)
The distance measured on the outer surface of the outriggers.
Overall Height Lowered
The height of the mast when collapsed.
Overall Height Raised
When the mast is completely extended, the Overall Height Raised is the maximum height of the top of the load backrest.
The distance between the widest section of a forklift.
A framework above the forklift operator’s head which protectors the operator from danger.
Overall Guard Height
The distance of the highest point of the overhead guard to the distance from the floor.
Pin Type Hooks
Found on larger capacity forklift trucks.
Power Shift Transmission
A Power Shift Transmission comes in one, two, or three different speeds. Speeds depend on the size of the forklift truck.
The forklift’s mode of energy, whether an electric forklift, gasoline, or diesel truck.
An inflatable tire for using in outdoor or rough environments. Pneumatic Tires are available in a variety of tread patterns and are mounted to multi-piece rims.
Rail Guidance System
Guidance systems are sometimes used to guide forklifts down the aisle of a warehouse. Rail Guidance Systems involve the bolting of 3 x 3 angle iron rails to each side of an aisle.
Forklifts with pantograph-type reach mechanisms that allow trucks to extend out further.
Reach Forklift Extensions
The maximum distance that a forklift carriage may be extended forward or horizontally.
A device which impedes the flow and provides resistance to electrical currents.
Speed control that utilizes resistors to lessen the voltage to a motor.
Forklifts operated by standing or sitting on forklift seats.
Right Angle Stack
Right Angle Stack refers to forklifts being able to turn 90 degrees in an aisle.
Forklift attachments that may be added to a truck. A Rotator allows for a 360-degree rotation of the carriage attachment or forks.
Silicon Controlled Rectifier
An electronic switch that allows currents to pass through in one way. The switch may be turned on or off very quickly.
The weight of a configured forklift truck.
Sideshift Lift Truck Attachments
Forklift attachments used to move the forklift forks horizontally to the right or left. Sideshift is meant to position the forks when picking up or leaving a load. Sideshift is used to center and correctly place a load without having to reposition the actual forklift.
Sideshift Carriages are available for more forklifts. They can either be part of the original operating equipment or added on later. They are available in a wide range of side-to-side movements.
Includes a valve, sideshift hardware, and a hydraulic hose group.
An electromagnetic device made up of a coil and a movable core which is designed to perform a mechanical action.
Solid Pneumatic Tires (Pneumatic Shaped Solid)
These solid tires are molded in the shape of a pneumatic tire, containing a soft rubber inner core that provides a similar ride to a pneumatic tire. The tire also provides the puncture resistance of a solid tire. Solid Pneumatic Tires are often used to replace pneumatic tires in different types of applications.
The imaginary triangular area on a forklift created by the front tires and the rear axle where the center of gravity needs to remain to keep the truck stable and prevent tipping. This area shifts as the truck moves empty as well as loaded.
Forklifts designed to be operated while standing rather than sitting on forklift seats.
Positioning a load between the outriggers of a forklift.
A forklift truck with outriggers on either side of a load.
The steering system included in a standard forklift.
The distance a mast can tilt forward and backwards.
The forklift’s tires—typically the driving tires.
The rear tires of a forklift.
Cushion and pneumatic tires are most commonly used. Solid pneumatic or pneumatic shaped solid tires are also available.
Referenced as Front and Back, the Transmission Speed is the number of speeds that a transmission has.
The assembly of gears and associated forklift parts powered by the engine. Transmission types include: manual, power shift, and hydrostatic transmissions.
A speed controller used to operate the forklift.
The radius of a circle created when the operator turns the steering wheel to the tightest turning point.
Under Clearance (Frame)
The smallest distance between the wheelbase of a forklift and the floor surface.
Under Clearance (Minimum)
The smallest distance between the forklift truck and the floor surface.
Valves refer to hydraulic devices that control fluid flow rate, pressure, and direction.
Measurements of the force that cause the electrical current of a conductor to flow. Example voltages include: 24, 36, 48, 72, and 80.
A motorized walk-behind forklift that is operated by a control handle.
A motorized walk-behind or riding forklift that is operated by a control handle.
Most commonly a forklift with cushion tires.
The distance between the forklift’s front axle and rear axle.
Wire Guidance Systems
Guidance systems are sometimes used to guide forklifts down the aisle of a warehouse. With a Wire Guidance System, a wire is buried in the center of the storage aisle, just below the surface of the warehouse floor. Electric current runs through the wire and produces a magnetic field to help guide the forklift in the correct direction.