January 29, 2018

Forklift Operation

Forklift operations is not difficult to learn but requires in person training to fully understand. This guide compiled by ForkliftLicenseHQ gives the basics to forklift operations. Using our guide you will gain a good understanding of how forklifts are operated. Using this knowledge it will make on the job training a much easier process. Our guide breaks down forklift operation into 6 different categories.

Starting Forklift Truck

When Starting a Forklift Truck make sure the truck is in neutral. Forklift trucks will not start unless they are in neutral and the brake is applied. Once you have the forklift in neutral and are applying the brake, turn the key to start the forklift.

Forklift Won't Start?

Forklift won’t start but makes loud clicking noise?

Possible solution: The propane tank on the forklift may be empty causing the forklift to not start.

Forklift does not make any noise at all when started?

Possible solution: This may be because the forklift battery is dead causing the forklift truck to not make any noise at all.

Forklift Controls

Forklifts have numerous controls that at first may appear confusing. It is very important to have a basic understanding of the controls before going out and learning to operation a forklift truck. The picture below shows where all of these different controls are located on a typical forklift. The video below shows what each one of the controls does.

Steering Wheel – Used to steer a forklift.
Lift Lever – Used to move fork up and down.
Tilt Lever – Used to tilt the forks to increase load stability.
Side Lever – Moves the forks left or right.
Emergency Brake – Insures truck will not move.
Horn – Used to alert others of your presence.
Inching Pedal – Used to slowly move the forklift truck.
Clutch – Used to switch to a higher or lower gear

If you want to see these controls in action watch the video below. It offers a view of a person using these controls at the workplace.


Driving a forklift is pretty similar to driving a vehicle but with a few different rules. While you are not required to have a driver’s license to become forklift certified you must follow the rules of the road. When operating a forklift make sure to:

  • Drive on designated roadways
  • Follow worksite speed limits.
  • Operate truck in a safe manner
  • Watch for pedestrians
  • Wear the appropriate equipment

A more complete list of forklift rules can be seen here.


When operating a forklift there are certain situations where you will want to operate the forklift in reverse.  One example of this is when carrying a load down a ramp. In order to keep the load stable it is advised to tilt the forks and drive backwards slowly down the ramp. When doing this have a spotter make sure that pedestrians or object are not obstructing the roadway.

Another important aspect of operating a forklift in reverse is the forklifts backup alarm. OSHA mandates that all industrial trucks have a backup alarm equipped. This is used in order to maintain a safe working environment.


Line of Sight

Line of sight is one of the most important safety elements in operating a forklift truck. Never operate a forklift without a clear line of sight. Never assume people or objects are not in the way.

If you have a load or are traveling in reverse and your line of sight is blocked ask for a spotter. Most worksites will insist that you do this instead of risking potential harm to people or objects.

It is also very important to not assume that everyone will pay attention to your backup alarm. Most people are busy and after hearing backup alarms all day, they begin to tune noises like that out. Because of this it is essential to double check that there are not people behind your truck when traveling in reverse.


There are two very important rules when parking a forklift.

  1. Apply the emergency brake.
  2. Remove the key.

When you are refueling a forklift truck there is another step that you must take. The truck ignition must be switched to off. Although this does not seem like a big deal, if left running, your forklift could catch fire. It is very important and required by worksites to switch the ignition to off when refueling.


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