Forklift Mast Terminology Explained

Just like a 2-door car can also be described as a coupe, the most common forklift mast types have interchangeable names. Before you buy or rent a forklift, it’s important to know the various names for different types of forklift masts.

Already an experienced forklift buyer? Feel free to scroll past the first part of this article and test your knowledge of forklift mast terminology.

Forklift Mast Types: Know Before You Buy

Before choosing a forklift mast, you’ll need to answer some key questions:

  • Does the forklift need to pass through a space with height restrictions (such as a garage door)?
  • Will the forklift operate in a container, truck trailer or rail car?
  • How tall is the highest shelf the forklift will need to reach?
  • What is the weight of the heaviest load the forklift will transport?

You can collect this data yourself or schedule a free site survey with one of our friendly forklift consultants.

Simplex, 2-Stage, 3-Stage and Quad Forklift Masts

There are four common types of forklift masts (also known as uprights). 

  • Simplex
  • 2-stage (V and FV)
  • 3-stage (FSV)
  • 4-stage (QFV)

What separates one mast type from another is the number of stages and the mast’s freelift.

Stage = a section of the forklift mast. You can think of stages like railroad tracks. The more you have, the farther the mast can go.

 Freelift = how high the forks can lift a load before the mast starts to extend.

  • A mast with zero freelift means the upright rises along with the forks. If you have height restrictions, a zero freelift mast might not be a good choice.
  • With a full freelift mast, the forks can be raised to the top of the mast’s inner channel without the forklift getting any taller.

Simplex (V) Single-Stage Mast

A single-stage forklift mast, often called a simplex mast, has zero free lift. Forklifts using this type of mast are typically used outdoors or in applications where overhead clearance is not a concern.

Because a “V” forklift mast has only one stage, its maximum lifting height (also known as MFH) is limited. If you need to raise loads up to 157″ (13 feet), choose a 2-stage mast.

2-Stage Forklift Mast (FV and V)

Also known as a duplex or double, the 2-stage forklift mast comes in three flavors.

  1. FV (with freelift)
  2. V (without freelift)
  3. Trucker’s mast (shortened 2-stage without freelift)

In case you’re wondering, “What do V and FV stand for?” A “V” forklift mast means view and “FV” means freelift view.

The FV Mast is the second most popular forklift mast with customers here in northern California. You get a greater maximum lift height than with a simplex (because there are two stages) and the ability to operate in spaces with height restrictions, such as inside trailers. Most FV forklift masts can lift a load 50” before the mast extends. This type of forklift mast can also be called an FFL or HiLo mast.

The Trucker’s mast is designed for stacking inside a trailer.  It has a short mast and the maximum lift height is about 60″ (5 feet).

Pictured below: FV (2-stage mast) on the left, FSV (3-stage) mast on the right.

Forklift Mast Terminology Explained

FSV 3-Stage Forklift Mast

Also known as a triplex, triple or TSU forklift mast, the 3-stage forklift mast is the most popular forklift mast here in northern California, especially with warehouse operations. 

Forklift Mast Terminology Explained

Toyota offers two types of 3-stage forklift masts, one with a central lift cylinder and another with side cylinders for a better forward view (see image above). The maximum fork height tops out around 131-189” depending on the forklift. 

QSV 4-Stage Forklift Mast

The freelift on a quad mast forklift is similar to an FSV, but it can lift loads even higher – up to 240” (20 feet). There are two drawbacks to this type of mast.

  • Because there are four nested rails, a quad mast forklift has limited forward visibility compared to a duplex or side-cylinder 3-stage forklift mast.
  • The very high lifting height also limits capacity. For example, the capacity on a 5000 lb. forklift is almost cut in half when using a QSV mast.

Custom Forklift Masts and Free Consultations

The four mast types listed above are the most common, but you can also get a custom forklift mast tailored to a specific application or task. Watch the video below to learn more, or just give us a call and let us know what you have in mind.

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

Our material handling experts have spent years learning what equipment works best for various industries and applications. We promise we won’t sell you equipment you don’t need and will work hard to earn your business. Contact us online or by phone to schedule a free forklift demo or onsite consultation.

Further Reading:
How to Choose the Right Type of Forklift Mast
Selecting the Right Toyota Forklift Mast 
Forklift FAQs – Your Most Common Questions Answered