The Ultimate Guide to Forklift Classifications

August 20, 2021 - Last modified: September 24, 2021 @ 4:51 pm

Different types of forklifts in an outdoor garage.

According to OSHA, there are seven forklift classifications. Each one has different key features that suit specific tasks.

Different types of forklifts are intended for different applications. Learning about the forklift classifications will help you narrow down your options. It'll also give you a better understanding of forklift capabilities.

Find everything you need to know about forklift types and classifications here. Learn different forklift names for the same equipment and get a better understanding of material handling equipment. Then, find your next forklift with Forklift Inventory. Let’s get started!

Forklift Classifications

OSHA categorizes forklifts into seven different classifications. Knowing these forklift classifications will help you choose the best equipment for your business. Investing in the right equipment will boost productivity, efficiency, and, in turn, profitability. 

Below is a detailed look at the forklift classifications and their features.

Class I: Electric Motor Rider Trucks

Electric motor rider trucks are the first class of forklifts. 

This forklift type includes both sit-down and stand-up models that run on an electric motor. These machines operate very quietly and produce zero emissions, making them ideal for indoor use. 

Electric motor rider trucks may have three or four wheels. Three-wheel models are typically used for unloading tractor-trailers. Mount a three-wheeled forklift to the back of a semi-truck for easy transportation. Their handling capacity typically ranges between 1,500 and 4,000 pounds.

Four-wheel electric motor rider trucks are typically fitted with cushion tires for indoor use. They can handle larger loads than their three-wheel counterparts. Four-wheel forklifts typically have capacities between 3,000 and 12,000 pounds.

Class II: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks

The second class of forklifts is electric motor narrow aisle trucks. This includes: 

This forklift type is narrower than standard counterbalance forklifts. These machines are ideal for loading and unloading pallets from tall warehouse racking. They can navigate easily through narrow aisles and have a small turning radius, making them easy to maneuver. They’re powered by an electric motor and handle loads between 1,500 and 5,000 pounds. 

They allow warehouses to maximize storage by operating in minimal space. You can generally find these trucks in distribution centers with loaded shelving.

Class III: Electric Motor Hand Trucks

Class III forklift types, or electric motor hand trucks, include:

These trucks come in manual, walk-behind, and ride-on models. 

Designed to lift loads just a few inches off the ground, these machines have capacities between 2,000 and 8,000 pounds, depending on the model.

Operators mainly use these trucks to move loads short distances in small warehouses. They are popular for unloading semi-trailers and moving pallets. Where other equipment moves vertically, these trucks transport loads horizontally. They move pallets and carts up to 9 miles per hour, with minimal operator fatigue.

Class IV: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Solid/Cushion Tires)

Class IV trucks are commonly referred to by their tire type. Designed for indoor use on smooth floors, Class IV trucks use cushion tires. These sit-down trucks handle loads ranging from 3,000 to 15,000 pounds. 

Internal combustion engine (ICE) trucks are powered by internal combustion engines. These engines typically run on liquid propane or fuel. Sometimes they run on diesel, but it’s less common.

As covered above, different types of forklifts suit different applications. While electric trucks are typically used indoors, ICE trucks are typically used outdoors. Propane can be used either inside or outside depending on the model and environment.

Because this class of forklifts is fitted with cushion tires, they are typically used on smooth surfaces. They do not have the traction required for off-road use.

Class IV trucks don’t require recharging. This frees up spaces and minimizes operating time.

Class V: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Pneumatic Tires)

Class IV and V trucks are very similar. However, they’re different types of forklifts for one reason: their tire type. Where a Class IV truck uses cushion tires, a Class V truck uses pneumatic tires.

Pneumatic forklifts have treaded tires. This allows them to work on rougher surfaces outdoors. They’re most popular in lumber yards and construction sites. For example, operators often use them to load and unload large containers. 

Class V trucks can handle a wide variety of jobs. This is because of their impressive lifting capacity, which ranges up to 55,000 pounds. Class V trucks also travel faster than most different types of forklifts. They can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour!

Class VI: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors

Electric and internal combustion engine tractors are Class VI forklifts. This includes tow tractors and tuggers. 

As the name implies, these trucks have an electric or internal combustion engine. The models with an internal combustion engine are for outdoor use. The quieter, battery-powered electric motors are for indoor use.

Operators use Class VI forklifts for a wide variety of jobs. These machines can pull upward of 55,000 lbs. In addition to towing carts full of luggage, you can also find these trucks at assembly lines.

Class VII: Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

The last class of forklifts is Class VII, or rough terrain, forklifts. Equipped with massive tires, these forklifts are common in lumberyards and construction sites. They help operators lift building materials to various site locations. 

Some rough terrain forklifts have a telescoping mast or other application-specific modifications. They have a huge size and capacity, with special large floating tires. These tractor-style tires allow them to operate on difficult surfaces. However, these trucks also require special training.

Different types of forklifts from Forklift Inventory in an outdoor warehouse.

Forklift Inventory

Now you have an idea of the best forklift classification for your business. Once you decide on a forklift type, the hard part’s over. Forklift Inventory makes it easy to compare options online. 

Forklift Inventory partners with a number of industry-leading dealers. We carry the largest inventory of equipment nationwide. All of our dealers are pre-screened to ensure quality. We'll send you pricing on forklifts for sale in your area for free. All we need to know is what you’re looking for.

Help us put the right equipment in front of you by filling out this short form. Once Forklift Inventory receives your specifications, we’ll put them to good use. 

We only send you quotes on equipment that fit your selections. Compare pricing on forklifts that meet your needs to save time and money.

You’ll receive free quotes on multiple forklifts. Control what you see and browse from the comfort of your own living room.

Use Forklift Inventory to get the best deal on your own terms.

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