Forklift Classes and Types: What You Need to Know

Updated: May 5, 2022

Types of forklift calsses

There are several types of forklift classes, each with its unique applications. There are many reasons why it's important to know what class of forklift you need. The wrong class of forklift can be dangerous. The forklift can be too large, not equipped properly for the application, and you could injure yourself or someone else. A second reason is that using the wrong class of forklift can damage your goods, facility, and your new forklift. Lastly, we want to ensure that we have the right solution for the job at hand, something that can handle the application, but not be over specced, causing many issues, including spending more than you need to.

Class I. Electric Motor Rider Trucks

These can be very similar and in most cases can replace Class IV and V units, but powered by an electric battery vs an internal combustion engine. Traditionally electric forklifts have been ideal for loading and unloading tractor-trailers, moving pallets, and a variety of other tasks in industries including food storage and retail to industrial and general warehousing. With advances in technology, these units can now perform in just about every class IV and V application, and in most cases are superior to their internal combustion siblings. Because class I forklifts run on an electric battery, Class I forklifts are much quieter than regular forklifts and produce no emissions, making them popular choices for indoor use. However, some modern electric forklifts can also be used outdoors. These units can be quite compact too, as the batteries and their weight on Class I forklifts serve as part of the counterweight.

Class II. Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks

Class II electric motor forklifts, also known as narrow aisle forklifts, are designed for use in smaller spaces. They have a narrower turning radius than standard forklifts, making them ideal for navigating tight spaces in warehouses and factories. Like other electric forklifts, Class II models are quiet and produce no emissions, making them popular choices for indoor use. They are also battery-powered.

Class III. Electric Motor Hand or Hand/Rider Trucks

Class III forklifts are electric motor hand or hand/rider trucks. They are similar to Class I and II forklifts, and are designed for use in more confined spaces and at lower heights. Class III forklifts are easy to operate and have a small turning radius, making them perfect for tight spaces. Class III forklifts are commonly used for moving materials around warehouses and other indoor facilities. They can also be used for loading and unloading trucks.

Class IV. Internal Combustion Engine Trucks. Cushion Tires

Class IV forklifts are internal combustion engine cushion tire forklifts. The sit-down forklifts in this category are designed for indoor use. Internal combustion (IC) engines driven by diesel fuel, LP gas, gasoline, or compressed natural gas power Class IV Forklifts. Because the tires are solid and ‘cushioned’ they provide a smooth ride on indoor surfaces and are puncture-proof. They tend to be lower to the ground than their class V counterparts, and though this makes them less than ideal for outside work, they are superior inside, as they can work within tighter spaces due to a smaller footprint and tighter-turn radius.

Class V. Internal Combustion Engine Trucks. Pneumatic Tires

Class V forklifts are internal combustion engine pneumatic tire forklifts. These forklifts are most widely used in warehouses. They may be utilized indoors or outside for a wide variety of applications. Because of the large capacity range of this series of lift-truck, you will find them in applications with light single pallet loads up to 40-foot container loads and bigger. Internal combustion engines power these lift trucks, and they're available with LPG, gasoline, diesel, and compressed natural gas fuel systems.

Class VI. Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors

Class VI tow tractors are used to move heavy loads, often over long distances. They are powered by diesel engines and have a large capacity, making them perfect for moving trailers, boats, and other large objects. Tow tractors are often used in industrial and commercial settings, where they are responsible for moving heavy loads from one place to another.

Class VII. Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks

Class VII forklifts are the largest and most powerful forklifts on the market. They are designed for outdoor use and can handle a variety of terrains, including gravel, dirt, and uneven surfaces. These forklifts are perfect for moving heavy objects over long distances and are often used in construction and industrial settings. Class VII forklifts are powered by diesel engines and can carry loads of varying weights.

Hopefully, this article on the types of forklifts and forklift classes helped you determine which forklift to purchase. If you're shopping for or leasing a forklift or seeking to discover whether a certain class of forklift is suitable for your application, contact your local forklift dealer.