How to Drive a Forklift: The Basics Explained

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how to drive a forklift

Forklifts weigh 3 times more than the average family car at 9,000 pounds. They can also travel at more than 18mph. Together this combination can be deadly if in the wrong hands!

You must understand how to drive a forklift safely so that you can avoid one of the 34,000 serious forklift accidents that occur every year.

Take a look at our short guide on how to drive a forklift with care and make sure that you are best equipped to stay safe when on the job.

Table of Contents

Dress for Success

Before you start driving a forklift, you need to make sure you are wearing the right gear. Specifically, you need to be dressed in safety gear from top to bottom.

Put on steel-capped boots to avoid any crushes from dropped products. Make sure you are wearing long sleeves and trousers, so your skin is protected. Wear a high visibility jacket at all times when operating the forklift so everyone can see you easily.

Clear A Path

You should already be aware of the route you will be driving with your forklift, so now is the time to double-check for obstacles. Move them out of the way before you start your shift.

Trying to move anything unplanned midtrip with your machine is a guaranteed way to have a forklift accident. Take the time to prep your route and stay safe.

Check Your Machine

Preoperation checks are essential to pinpoint any forklift problems before you start the job. You need to check the steering, brakes, and major controls are all in working condition. If not, you need to get your machine into forklift repair.

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Look at the oil levels, check your tires, and assess the condition of your fork before you get in and drive. Many forklift accidents are caused by a machine being in a poor state of repair before attempting to start a job.

Know Your Controls

Let’s be clear; you need to be fully certified to be a forklift driver. So, you should already know what controls do what. But there are different forklifts, so you may find the controls differ from machine to machine.

There are two main controls that all machines should have: hydraulic lift control and direction control. The directional controls should be very similar to a car with forward, reverse and park levers.

The hydraulic controls may differ depending on the type of machine you are driving. All should have up, down, and a tilt for the fork. However, some of the best forklifts may also include options to change the width of the fork.

Smooth Is Fast

Speed is not your friend when driving a forklift. Everyone is in a hurry and wants to get the job done fast. But, driving fast or trying to cut corners in maneuvers is where accidents will happen.

Take your time. As the military quote states, ” Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Take your time and do it right the first time. This is how you get the best job done.

How To Drive A Forklift

Hopefully, this guide has given you some insights into how to drive a forklift in the safest and most reliable way. Remember, certification is essential to becoming a forklift driver and an OSHA requirement.

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So go out, get trained, and feel confident about driving your forklift.

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