Forklift Capacity – How Much Do You Need?

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Forklift Capacity - How Much Do You Need?If the data plate on your forklift says its rated capacity is 10,000 lbs, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can lift any load weighing less than 10,000 lbs. The load dimensions, placement, weight distribution of the load and any forklift attachments affect your lift truck’s true maximum capacity.

Today’s blog post will answer the questions:
– What is rated capacity vs. net/payload capacity
– How much can a forklift actually lift?
– What is load center?
– How to choose a forklift with the right capacity

 Understanding Forklift Load Capacity

Load capacity, rated capacity and net capacity all describe the maximum weight a lift truck can safely raise at a specified load center. If the load is not centered, the forklift cannot lift to its maximum capacity. 

What is a load center?
A load center is the horizontal distance from the vertical face of the forks to the center of gravity of the load. As a general rule, load center is 24″ from the face of the forks (the center point of standard 48” x 48” pallet).

Understanding a forklift’s rated capacity
Forklift Capacity - How Much Do You Need?Forklift capacities range from about 3,000 lbs up to more than 70,000+ lbs. You can find the rated capacity of a forklift on its data plate. 

OSHA requires “only loads within the rated capacity of a truck shall be handled.”  It’s easy to think the rated capacity is the same as maximum capacity, but it’s not that simple.

Forklift Capacity - How Much Do You Need?

The basic capacity of a forklift is based on the model.  According to the sample data plate this machine will have a true rated capacity of 4,950 lbs at a 24” load center  (48” overall), or 4,400 lbs at a 30” load center (60” overall) at fully raised height.  The down-rated capacity takes into consideration the maximum fork height, the sideshifter, and any attachment that the forklift is using. In addition the length of the load dictates where the center of the load is. When a forklift is used with multiple attachments they must have multiple data plates as well to note the rating with each attachment.

Another factor affecting capacity is the distribution on the pallet. If the load is oddly shaped and is heavier on one end then the load center is altered towards the heavy end. This altered load center must be taken into consideration as well.

Read more about forklift capacity and load safety from OSHA

Forklift attachments and capacity
Adding a forklift attachment reduces the lifting capacity of the truck due to the additional weight of the attachment itself and because an attachment typically moves the truck’s load center farther forward. As the center of gravity moves forward, the maximum load weight must decrease to prevent tipovers.Forklift Capacity - How Much Do You Need?

Our friends at Cascade made an online capacity calculator to determine the approximate capacity of a forklift with attachments. To be on the safe side, it’s always good to speak with a knowledgeable product expert before adding an attachment to your forklift.

 Forklift Rated Capacity Versus Net Capacity 
The net capacity of a forklift reflects the true capability of the forklift and accounts for any attachments, the forklift’s mast type and any other modifications. Net capacity is also referred to as payload capacity.

What Forklift Capacity Do You Need?

Here are a few questions to ask:
– How heavy is my typical load?
– How high do I need to lift my loads?
– What length is my largest load?
– What type of attachments will the lift truck utilize?

At TMH we sell forklifts with capacities ranging from 3,000 lbs for the stand-up rider or 3-wheel electric, up to 40,000 lbs (high-capacity electric) and 72,000 (high-capacity ICE). Our product experts are available to answer any questions you may have. Contact us online, or by phone:

San Francisco Bay Area (510) 473-8151
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091

Further Reading
Guide to Common Forklift Attachments 
Anatomy of a Forklift 
How to Understand a  Forklift Data Plate