7 Different Types of Forklifts

May 30, 2023 | From: Jiangsu Kinlift Equipment.,Ltd. | Number of visits :6

The 7 Different Types Of Forklifts 


If you’re looking at forklifts for sale, you may have seen descriptions such as: counterbalanced lift trucks (class 4) or electric-powered rider trucks (class 1) and wondered, “what the heck?”


OSHA’s classifications don’t always match the everyday terms we use. For example, what OSHA calls “class 4,” most people know as an internal combustion forklift with cushion tires.


Forklifts are essential tools in many industries and workplaces, but not all forklifts are the same. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes seven different types of forklifts, each with its own unique capabilities and uses.


Understanding the various types of forklifts is crucial when it comes to selecting the right one for a specific job or application. Each type has its own unique features, specifications, and capabilities. 


In this article, we will discuss each type of forklift recognized by OSHA, their specifications, and their best uses to help you make informed decisions about which type of forklift is best suited for your workplace needs.

Electric forklift manufacturer:Kinlift Forklifts




OSHA’s forklift classification system includes forklifts and other powered lifting equipment such as:


Battery-powered (electric) forklifts

Internal combustion (IC) forklifts

Powered pallet jacks

Order pickers

Reach trucks

Tow Tractors

High-capacity forklifts

Rough terrain forklifts


But OSHA doesn’t use the descriptions above to classify forklifts. For example, IC-powered forklifts are divided into two different classes, one for cushion tires and one for pneumatic. Electric forklifts are also broken into two classes but not based upon tire type.




Forklifts play a crucial role in various industries, allowing for efficient material handling and streamlining operations. However, operating a forklift comes with inherent risks, which is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established a comprehensive classification system for forklifts. Understanding the OSHA forklift classifications is vital for both operators and employers to ensure safety, efficiency, and compliance with regulations.




Operating a forklift requires specific skills and knowledge, and OSHA forklift classifications help categorize different types of forklifts based on their characteristics and capabilities. By classifying forklifts into distinct classes, OSHA provides guidelines for training, certification, and safety requirements. Let's explore the seven OSHA forklift classifications and gain a deeper understanding of each class.


Class I: Electric Motor Rider Trucks


Class I forklifts are electric motor rider trucks designed for applications that require indoor use, such as warehouses and manufacturing facilities. These forklifts are powered by industrial batteries and offer emission-free operation, making them ideal for environments where air quality is a concern. Class I forklifts come in various subtypes, including counterbalanced sit-down riders, stand-up riders, and three-wheel electric forklifts.


Electric motor rider trucks provide excellent maneuverability, stability, and lifting capacities, making them suitable for handling heavy loads. Their electric power source ensures quiet operation and reduces maintenance requirements. Class I forklifts are highly versatile and can handle a wide range of materials, making them a popular choice in many industries.


Class II: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks


Class II forklifts, also known as electric motor narrow aisle trucks, are specifically designed for operating in tight spaces and narrow aisles. These forklifts are commonly used in warehouses with high-density storage systems. Class II forklifts are known for their maneuverability and ability to navigate narrow aisles while maintaining stability.


Electric motor narrow aisle trucks often feature specialized features like articulated steering or rotating masts, allowing operators to access materials in confined spaces with ease. These forklifts are typically operated by standing on a platform or utilizing a small cabin. Class II forklifts help maximize storage space utilization and enable efficient material handling in compact environments.


Class III: Electric Motor Hand Trucks or Hand/Rider Trucks


Class III forklifts are electric motor hand trucks or hand/rider trucks, commonly referred to as pallet jacks or pallet trucks. These forklifts are primarily used for horizontal transportation of loads, typically on pallets. Class III forklifts are operated by walking behind or standing on the vehicle while controlling its movement.


Electric motor hand trucks offer increased productivity and reduced physical strain for operators. They are widely utilized in retail, distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities for tasks such as loading and unloading trucks, transporting goods, and organizing inventory. Class III forklifts are available in both manual and electric-powered variants, providing flexibility to match specific operational requirements.


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


Class IV forklifts are internal combustion engine trucks equipped with solid or cushion tires. These forklifts are designed for indoor use on smooth, paved surfaces. The solid or cushion tires eliminate the risk of punctures and provide better stability on even floors, making them suitable for warehouses and manufacturing facilities.


Internal combustion engine trucks with solid/cushion tires are available in various configurations, including sit-down riders and stand-up riders. They are powered by gasoline, propane, or diesel engines, providing higher lifting capacities compared to electric forklifts. Class IV forklifts are commonly used for loading and unloading materials from trucks and transporting loads within indoor facilities.


Class V: Internal Combustion Engine Trucks (Pneumatic Tires)


Class V forklifts are internal combustion engine trucks equipped with pneumatic tires. Unlike Class IV forklifts, which are designed for indoor use, Class V forklifts are suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications. The pneumatic tires provide excellent traction and shock absorption, enabling these forklifts to operate on uneven or rough terrain.


Internal combustion engine trucks with pneumatic tires offer higher ground clearance and enhanced stability on outdoor surfaces. They are commonly utilized in construction sites, lumber yards, and other outdoor environments where rough terrain is present. Class V forklifts are available in various configurations, including sit-down riders and stand-up riders, providing versatility for different applications.


Class VI: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors


Class VI forklifts encompass electric and internal combustion engine tractors used primarily for towing and pulling heavy loads. These forklifts are designed to transport trailers, cargo, or other heavy equipment within facilities or across short distances. Class VI forklifts are available in both electric and internal combustion engine variants.


Electric and internal combustion engine tractors offer powerful towing capabilities, enabling efficient movement of heavy loads. They are commonly used in shipping yards, airports, and manufacturing plants. Class VI forklifts are equipped with features like fifth-wheel attachments or tow bars, allowing operators to connect and transport trailers safely.


Class VII: Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks


Class VII forklifts, known as rough terrain forklift trucks, are specifically designed for outdoor applications on rough and uneven terrain. These forklifts are commonly used in construction sites, lumber yards, and agricultural settings. Class VII forklifts excel in handling heavy loads in challenging environments.


Rough terrain forklift trucks are equipped with oversized, aggressive tires that provide excellent traction on unpaved surfaces. They also have a higher ground clearance to navigate uneven terrain comfortably. Class VII forklifts feature robust construction and powerful engines to handle demanding outdoor tasks, such as lifting construction materials, loading and unloading cargo from trucks, and transporting equipment.


Electric forklift manufacturer:Kinlift Forklifts



Understanding the seven OSHA forklift classifications is crucial for maintaining safety, ensuring compliance, and optimizing efficiency in material handling operations. Each class of forklifts serves specific purposes and comes with distinct capabilities. Employers must provide appropriate training and certification to forklift operators based on the specific class of forklift they will be operating.


By adhering to OSHA guidelines and ensuring operators are properly trained, employers can mitigate the risks associated with forklift operations and create a safer work environment. It is vital to prioritize the safety of both operators and those working in close proximity to forklifts.


Remember, proper training and certification, routine inspections, and adherence to safety protocols are key elements in preventing accidents and maintaining a productive workplace.




What is the primary purpose of OSHA forklift classifications?


OSHA forklift classifications serve to categorize different types of forklifts based on their characteristics and capabilities. This classification system helps establish guidelines for training, certification, and safety requirements, ensuring proper handling and operation of forklifts.


Can forklift operators use the same certification for different classes of forklifts?


No, each class of forklift requires specific training and certification. Operators must receive training and certification for the particular class of forklift they will be operating to ensure they are knowledgeable about the specific requirements and safety considerations associated with that class.


Are there any age restrictions for operating certain forklift classes?


OSHA does not specify age restrictions for operating forklifts. However, employers must comply with applicable federal, state, and local regulations regarding the minimum age requirements for operating industrial equipment, including forklifts.


How often should forklift operators receive training and certification updates?


Forklift operators should receive training and certification updates at regular intervals, typically every three years or as required by OSHA regulations. Additionally, operators should receive refresher training if they are involved in an accident or observed operating a forklift unsafely.


Are there any specific safety guidelines for each forklift classification?

Yes, OSHA provides specific safety guidelines for each forklift classification. These guidelines address factors such as load capacity, stability, maintenance, operational limitations, and proper use of safety features. Employers and operators should familiarize themselves with these guidelines to ensure safe operation of forklifts.




Whether you’re buying your first forklift or just want to quickly narrow down your options, our experienced forklift experts are here to help.


If you’re not ready to connect with an equipment expert, start with our free guide: How To Choose the Best Forklift for Your Needs and Budget. Save time and buy with confidence when you know:


Key questions to help you avoid buying the wrong forklift

When to choose an electric vs. internal combustion forklift

What tires and attachments you may need

How to get the maximum forklift for your money

Important questions buyers forget to ask


Further Reading:


When To Buy an Electric vs. LP Gas Forklift

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