A forklift is more likely to tip over and be more difficult to operate than a car, making it more difficult to operate safely. After learning and practicing forklift driving, you will be able to lift and carry heavy loads with ease. Just be sure to check with your country's health and safety department to see if you need a certification before operating a forklift.
Method 1 of 4: Execute Basic Operations
Step 1. Get on the forklift and fasten your seat belt
You must get into the vehicle on the left side. Grab the grab handle near the front of the cab with one hand and the seat back with the other. Place your foot on the step and rise toward the seat. Once you are seated, fasten your seat belt so you are safe.
- Never hold the steering wheel while getting into the cab.
- If you are in a vertical forklift, be sure to put on your safety harnesses once you are inside.
Step 2. Turn the key to start the forklift
Find the gear stick under the left side of the steering wheel. Make sure the lever is in the center position so it is in neutral. Locate the emergency brake lever on the left side of the vehicle, and make sure it is down and engaged. Place the key in the ignition on the right side of the steering column and turn it forward to start the forklift engine.
Step 3. Raise the fork 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) with the control levers
Your forklift should have 1 or 2 black levers that control the height and tilt of the fork located to the right of the steering wheel. Pull the lever to raise both fork tines 2 to 4 inches (5.1 to 10 cm) and prevent them from scraping the ground while riding.
- If you like, you can also tilt the tines back to raise them even higher.
- Each forklift works differently, so you should review the manual before operating any of the levers so you know exactly what they do.
Step 4. Press the brake pedal to the left of the accelerator pedal before releasing the emergency brake
Press the brake pedal with your right foot before pushing the parking brake lever forward. Keep your foot on the brake pedal to prevent the vehicle from moving.
Make sure no one is within 10 feet of you when you start driving
Step 5. Use the gear stick to change the direction you are driving
Push the lever forward to drive or pull it backward if you want to go in reverse. Keep your foot on the brake pedal while shifting to prevent it from moving.
Whenever you stop, return the shift lever to the middle position to shift it to the neutral position
Step 6. Press the accelerator to move
The throttle is located under the steering wheel to your right, just like inside a car. Lightly press the accelerator with your right foot to start moving. Maintain a slow speed at first until you get used to driving the vehicle.
- If you're backing up, be sure to always look behind you so you know where you're going.
- Some forklifts have a pedal to move forward and backward. Check your vehicle's manual to verify the type of forklift you are driving.
Step 7. Honk your horn if you pass through crowded areas
The horn button should be located in the center of the steering wheel, similar to that of a car. If you drive in a narrow area with frequent traffic, you should use your horn to let others know what you are about to pass.
Honk your horn every time you come to an intersection. This way, people crossing will know you are coming
Step 8. Turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go while driving
Grab the knob on the top of the steering wheel for better control. Turn the wheel in the direction you want to turn. If you want to turn at a sharp angle, wait until the back of the tines reaches the corner before starting the turn.
Forklifts make tighter turns when backing up because they are steered by the rear wheels. It begins to turn squarely when the front wheels are within 1 m (3 ft) of the corner.
Method 2 of 4: Load the forklift
Step 1. Stop the forklift when you are within 1 foot (30 cm) of the load
When you are in front of the load you want to lift, press the brake pedal to come to a complete stop. Shift from gear to neutral and engage the parking brake.
Never adjust the fork unless you are in neutral and the parking brake is on
Step 2. Adjust the width of the picks if necessary
Loosen the nuts at the top of each pick by turning it counterclockwise if your forklift has them. Lift the pick and slide it to the left or right to adjust the width. Sets the width of the tines to about half the width of the load. Make sure each pick is located the same distance from the center of the vehicle so the load remains balanced.
Some forklifts have a lever inside the cab to automatically adjust the tines, while others require you to change the width by hand. Check your operator's manual to determine what to do
Step 3. Raise or lower the fork to match the height of the openings on the pallet
Make sure the forklift tines are level before adjusting the height. Use the lever on the right side of the steering column to raise or lower the tines to the height of the load.
- You should only adjust the fork height while the parking brake is on and the forklift is in neutral.
- Make sure the load is stable and has a low center of gravity.
Make sure the load is stable
The heaviest objects should be placed in the bottom of the load.
Heavier objects should be located closer to the cabin of the forklift than the lighter ones.
Stack your items so that they are centered on the pallet.
Step 4. Drive forward until the fork is fully inserted into the pallet
While your foot is on the brake, you should shift forward and release the parking brake. Advance slowly to insert the tines into the openings on the pallet. Continue driving forward until the tines are fully on the pallet. Then, shift back to neutral and engage the parking brake.
Some forklifts have an inching pedal to the left of the steering column to keep the vehicle moving slowly. Press the slow speed pedal instead of the accelerator to give you more control over your movements at low speed
Step 5. Raise the load at least 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) off the ground
While the parking brake is on and the forklift is in neutral, lift or lower the load so that it is close to the ground. This way, you will have less chance of tipping over or losing control.
If you are lifting the load off a shelf, move away from where it is before lowering it. Use your horn whenever you are backing up so others know you are backing up
Step 6. Tilt the mast back until the load is stable
Use the lever to tilt the mast back to reduce the chance of tipping over. If the load is unstable or shifts easily, you can strap it to the pallet.
Avoid tipping the mast forward, unless you need to place the fork under a load
Method 3 of 4: Unload the forklift
Step 1. Place the mast in a vertical position
When you get to the place where you need to drop the load, push the lever that controls the tilt forward to reposition the mast upright. Otherwise, you will lift or place the load lopsided.
Step 2. Lift the load 6 inches (15 cm) above the area where you want to drop it
Make sure you have the parking brake on and the forklift in neutral while adjusting the height. Leave at least 6 inches (15 cm) between the tines and where you will place the load.
If you plan to drop the load on the ground, you don't need to adjust the height as it should be just above the ground
Step 3. Drive the forklift slowly until the load is above where you want to place it
Disengage the parking brake and move the forklift forward. Move slowly until the load is directly over the place where you are going to drop it. When you're in the right place, press the brake pedal to stop and shift to neutral before re-engaging the parking brake.
If you are placing the load on a shelf, be sure to center it on the shelf before placing it
Step 4. Lower the fork until you set the pallet
Use the lever on the right side of the steering column to lower the load. Make sure the pallet has full contact with the surface underneath. You should be able to feel the weight of the load lift off the forks once you place it.
Make sure to lower the load slowly so you don't break or damage anything.
Step 5. Drop the load and step back to remove the tines
You should look behind you to make sure no one is standing there. Put the forklift in reverse, disengage the parking brake, and use the throttle to back slowly and leave the load. Make sure not to twist as you could tip over the load.
Don't forget to lower the fork closer to the ground before you start riding again
Method 4 of 4: Park the forklift
Step 1. Find a clear, level area and stop the vehicle
Park in an area that does not block any exits and is on level ground. Press down on the brake pedal with your left foot to come to a complete stop before shifting from gear to neutral. Pull the lever to activate the parking brake.
Keep your foot on the brake until you fully engage the parking brake
Step 2. Lower the fork so that the ends of the tines touch the ground
Use the levers on the right side of the steering wheel to adjust the fork height. Make sure the spikes are on the ground to prevent someone from tripping.
Adjust the tilt of the mast with the lever if you tilted it back while driving
Step 3. Turn the key to turn off the forklift
Once the fork is fully lowered and the parking brake is on, turn the key towards you to stop the engine. When the vehicle is off, you can get out of the cab.
- Depending on the area where you live, you may need a forklift operating certificate. Check local laws or your country's health and safety administration to see if you require this certificate.
- You should always stay aware of other people around you while carrying a load.