How to Know the Forklift Controls

Danny Waldo

Walk into any warehouse, and one piece of equipment you are sure to see is a forklift. A forklift is a vehicle with a pronged device that is capable of lifting and hauling heavy objects. Forklifts are capable of maneuvering in small spaces and lifting objects into high up, hard to reach places.

Walk into any warehouse, and one piece of equipment you are sure to see is a forklift.

Although forklifts are capable of doing many jobs, they are also dangerous and must be safely operated. Because of their design, forklifts can tip over easily, and they can crush or gouge people or objects if the controls are not handled properly.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the controls by first reading the owner's manual. Note the location of each control and its specific function. Most forklifts have two levers to control the forks. The first lever controls the height of the forks. You pull back on the lever to make the forks go up, and you push forward to make the forks go down. The second lever controls the tilt of the forks, allowing for better weight distribution, keeping objects from falling off while driving and helping items slide off when unloading. You tilt the forks forward by pushing the lever forward, and you tilt the forks back by pulling the lever back. Some forklift models have a third lever that controls the width of the forks. Each of the levers is located just to the right of the operator's seat.

  2. Sit in the forklift and go over the controls with a trained coworker while the forklift is off and not operational. Ask questions if you are unsure of something.

  3. Observe a coworker as he demonstrates the function of each of the controls. Pay close attention to the individual controls and functions. Watching is often the best way to learn a new skill. Notice that on hydrostatic forklifts to make the machine go, you push on the gas; to make it stop, you release the gas pedal. There is no brake. Some hydrostatic models have battery powered engines that shut off when the gas pedal is released and start up again when the gas pedal is pushed again. Hydrostatic forklifts have two gas pedals as well, one for going forward and one for going in reverse. No need to shift into gears; just alternate the gas pedals.

  4. Practice using the controls in an open area without any cargo on the lifts. Before beginning the task of lifting real objects, get a feel for the controls and how they operate by practicing in an area that is free of objects and people. Understand that the back wheels are what steer the forklift, which can make it feel like you are driving backwards and will take some getting used to.