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Different Types Of Forklifts Throughout HistoryIt’s hard to imagine a world without forklifts, but this essential piece of equipment has been around barely 100 years. Today’s article gives a short history of forklifts and describes the different types of forklifts available today. We’ll also discuss what forklifts might be like in the not too distant future.

Forklifts: The Early Days
The Tructractor, invented in 1917, is generally regarded as the very first forklift. The machine, basically a tractor with an attachment, bore only a minor resemblance to modern lift trucks. But by the 1920’s, lift truck manufacturers added hydraulics and a vertical lifting mast.

Forklifts in the 1950’s and 1960’s
By the 1950’s and 1960’s, forklifts could lift loads up to 50 feet, and additional operator safety features were added. Specialized forklifts, such as those designed to work in narrow-aisles became available along with battery-powered lift trucks.

Different Types Of Forklifts Throughout HistoryThis 1972 Toyota FB7 is a battery-powered electric forklift with a capacity of 1,500 pounds.  Toyota started selling forklifts in the US in 1967, and Perin Company (now Total Industries) was one of the first dealerships. You can see this piece of forklift history at our Livermore showroom

The modern forklift can be powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), diesel, an electric battery, gasoline, or liquid propane (LPG). Lift trucks also use different tires: cushion for primarily indoor use, and pneumatic for outdoor applications. To organize all of these options, forklifts are classified into one of seven different types.


Different Types of Forklifts

A forklift’s class is based on fuel type and how the lift is used. Each forklift operator must be certified to use whatever class of forklift that they operate.

Class 1 – Electric Motor Rider Trucks
Class 2 – Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks
Class 3 – Electric Motor Hand Trucks/Hand-Rider Trucks
Class 4 – Internal Combustion Engine Trucks – Cushion Tires
Class 5 – Internal Combustion Engine Trucks – Pneumatic Tires
Class 6 – Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors
Class 7 – Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks


The Future of Forklifts

Forklifts and other material handling equipment are becoming increasing efficient and environmentally-friendly. In the last ten years, the majority of new forklifts purchased were electric forklifts (according to the Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association).

Automated material handling equipment is another innovation gaining momentum in our industry. Forklifts, tuggers, etc. use computerized guidance systems to move through a warehouse without human assistance. These machines can pick up objects and deliver loads using magnetic sensors, a wire and antenna system, or laser guidance. Learn more about Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and Manufacturing Automation.

Forklifts powered by lithium-ion batteries are also increasing in popularity, especially in high throughput and cold storage applications. Learn why leading cold supply chain logistics provider Dreisbach converted to an all lithium-ion fleet.

Learn more about the benefits of using lithium-ion forklift batteries and get the answers to frequently asked questions. You can also contact us online, or by phone:

East Bay – Livermore (510) 675-0500
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091

Further Reading:
Different Types of Forklifts 
Toyota Forklift Comparison Tool
Forklfit Tires: What You Need to Know