7 Different Types of Forklift Trucks to Be Aware Of

Electric Forklift, Singapore Electric Forklift

Forklift trucks make lifting and moving heavy loads a lot easier for many industries, such as for businesses who manage operations in construction sites, warehouses, manufacturing units, and so on.

However, this isn’t the only purpose of electric forklift trucks as they can be used to carry out a variety of other tasks. For instance, they are used for stacking materials – comprising both massive and small ones which are found in places which are not easily accessed by operators. Additionally, forklifts can similarly be used for transporting materials for recycling to their respective sorting bays.

Within the market, there’s a whole range of forklift trucks for a business, and the choice of which depends on what you plan to achieve. Hence, it’s important that you know the different types of forklifts available, as this will help you know the one that suits your needs.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of forklift trucks to be aware of.

1. Four-wheel Counterbalance Forklift Trucks

Out of the many variants in the market, they are known to be the most common types of forklift trucks. They are available in different forms – including diesel, electric, and gas-powered models. The forklift trucks are counterbalanced using counterweight in order for the weight of the cargo at the front to be carried easily.

For this particular truck, there are no supporting legs, and the forks protrude from the front, allowing the equipment to be easily driven up to the cargo, without requiring a reach facility.

The advantage of the four-wheel counterbalance forklift trucks is that they are a general all-rounder, where they can operate on both smooth and gravel grounds. They are particularly well known for lifting heavier loads – up to 10,000kg. However, they take up a large aisle width of 3.5-4.5m and have limited capacities to lift a higher height.

2. Three-wheel Counterbalance Forklift Trucks

A three-wheel counterbalance forklift truck has a rear-wheel found in the centre for extra maneuverability and smaller turning radius. The single rear wheel can lock round to 90 degrees allowing the truck to turn in a radius equal to the wheel base thus reducing aisle widths down to 3-3.5m. However, the truck cannot lift as much weight and it is not as good on a rough yard as its 4-wheel predecessor.

They are ideal for areas with limited spaces (3.2m-3.5m).

3. Seat Down Reach Trucks

Reach trucks were developed to save space, the load is drawn into the body of the machine and the distance that they move are saved in the working aisle. Reach trucks can work in aisles as small as 2.5m but are typically 2.8m wide.

However, as well as the saving made by moving the load the chassis has been designed to save space too. The reach truck is much taller than a counterbalance and has a smaller footprint. This effect adds to its aisles efficiency but would be less stable if it was fitted with soft tyres like a counterbalance forklift. Reach trucks need to be fitted with hard/solid tyres that are not suited for outside use. The momentum caused by the moving mast and load would cause instability if not controlled by slower movements, this then affects productivity.

If a counterbalance can move “x” number of pallets in an amount of time, then the reach truck is generally considered to be able to shift 50-60% of x in the same time. Also, the reach legs obstruct the pallet from being withdrawn at ground level with non-Euro pallets, so the load has to be raised above the reach legs, wasting vertical space at ground level.

4. Double Deep-reach truck

With a pantograph mechanism equipped, the double deep-reach truck is able to place and move pallets. While similar to the standard stand-up trucks, this type of forklift truck has longer telescopic forks for enhanced product throughput and load capacity. Meanwhile, the straddle truck is known for its superior flexibility and versatility.

5. Narrow Aisle Trucks

VNA or Turret machines were built to handle loads in 15-2m aisles and that is their only “plus”.

All the rest are disadvantages. As the truck is in such a narrow aisle and it fills up that aisle; there is little room for wiggling around in it either by steering or the top of the truck wobbling around because of an uneven floor.

The turret rack ends up being 250/450mm longer than the pallet stacking in depth i.e. 1000mm deep pallet requires a 1450 mm wide rack/truck chassis. This truck would be expected to work in a 1800mm aisle. This would leave a clearance gap at either side of the chassis of 225mm (8”). Moreover, as these trucks can lift up to 13m worth of pallets, any unevenness of the floor would move the mast at height and eat up the clearance causing damage. This will affect the business bottom line as repairing flat floors is expensive.

Because of the narrowness of the aisle compared to the width of the truck, it would be impossible to drive a VNA machine down a VNA aisle; hence the need for guidance. As you’ve learnt earlier, Translift were instrumental to the introduction of low profile guide rails, allowing pallets to be placed on the floor. Prior to this, a guide rail was up to 100mm tall and required a platform or additional ground level beams to operate the bottom pallet.

And on the other hand, there are pros and cons for guide rails – they’re more tolerant of uneven floors compared to wire, has a standard profile more so than low, but it still comprises added expense and operationally, it means that ground level pallets cannot be accessed by HPT’s.

A rail does allow HPT ground level access but is more expensive, requires super flat floors but is less reliable. This is illustrated by the fact that a rail application can be 100mm narrower than an equivalent wire. This extra 100mm width would equate to 1 or 2m extra braking distance when this system recognises that it is off the wire and does an emergency stop before hitting the racks.

If a Reach is slower than CB, then VNA is slower than Reach. Mainly due to travel speed at height, slow traverse speeds and reduced sideways thrust, end of aisle protection and stop and transfer speeds from aisle to aisle, couple this with double pallet handling and it’s easy to see why.

A VNA does not travel slightly to the left or right hand side of the aisle, it is guided exactly down the middle of the aisle and the racking is always exactly the same distance away from the truck. Therefore, the traverse mechanism has to perform the same movement every time to ensure that the pallet does not fall short or go too far onto the beams in the location. If a 200 mm wider than usual pallet got into the system than the truck was built for, then that 200mm would stick out at one side, not 100mm either side of the centre line; this would reduce the side clearance in most cases to an unworkable dimension. If and when the pallet was attempted to be stacked away, the pallet would stick out either at the back or at the front of the location by 200mm. If a smaller pallet than normal is required it is possible that, a) spacer pads equivalent to the difference in pallet size is added to the forks, b) the pallet racking location is decked or has pallet support beam to stop the pallet from dropping through the gap needed for the bigger pallet.

VNA trucks are longer than normal machines by up to 2m. This means the operator is further back from the stacking location and often needs CCTV.

VNA masts are subject to side thrust not normally associated with lift trucks, which is why the mast is so different. These side thrusts are best explained with a ruler. If you attempt to bend a ruler along the thin edge, it will not bend, but if you apply the school boy paper flicking approach it bends like a good ‘en. The VNA mast is subject to both of these forces at once which is why it is more solid, less see-through, like a draft man’s triangular scale rule to keep the simile going.

This extra truck length creates a longer turning circle. The truck is designed to achieve state-of-the-art performance when it is in the aisle, but when it’s out it can take up to 5-6m to swap from aisle to aisle compared to a reach of only 2m. Within a 40m warehouse that wasted transfer space, it could represent 15% waste compared to the 5% with a reach truck. In addition, the VNA system needs a collection point for load to be “Picked up” or “Dropped”, and these P&D stations also require room of approx 1.5m taking the 15% to 17.5% of the warehouse being wasted. As the VNA is slower than whatever truck is feeding it, there is a need for a holding area; normally called the marshalling area. This can also take up to 5-10m at ground level.

The VNA is a machine that is designed as a highbred space saver that has so many quirks that sometimes it can be no more space efficient than a reach truck overall.

As the VNA machines are tailor made to suit pallet overhang, weight, height, building configuration, and floor conditions it’s unlikely that someone will have a machine available that will fit if you require a backup or rental machine.

6. Man-Up Very Narrow Aisles (VNA)

Everything the same as the Man-Down but the advantage is that the operator can now see his load, and pick an order.In addition to the Man-Down’s disadvantages there is added cost of the truck, a need for a flatter floor and greater safety precautions which translate into slower productivity.

7. Articulated Trucks

The major difference compared to VNA is that there is no need to have P&D positions, a large transfer aisle or a stock handling area, the racking can continue to within 2.1m of the goods throughout the warehouse.

The articulated truck or more commonly known as the Aisle-Master will either allow more to be stored in a given area or allow the given storage area to be smaller. Below are the 10 advantages of why you should invest in an articulated truck:

  • Aisles as narrow as 180mm
  • Lifts up to 15m
  • Double deep option
  • No bottom beams required
  • Drives indoor and outdoor
  • Can operate in cold room warehouses
  • No rail or wire guidance required
  • European built quality
  • 5 years or 5000 hours warranty, whichever comes first
  • Parts locally sourced

Be it for road construction or transportation of goods; forklifts are particularly handy for multiple uses. Once you’ve identified the specific purpose of using such equipment, get in touch with a forklift provider like us, PAVES, as we’ll help in supplying a range of machinery for your business needs.