Operating a forklift for the first time – If you have been considering switching careers, a job as a forklift operator may be just the right path to take to enter a rewarding profession. Not only is industry demand expected to grow for the next ten years per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but wages continue to rise, perks and benefits remain great, and the profession is stable. 

To become a forklift operator, however, you must first complete forklift training and then obtain your forklift certification – which you can do here at American Forklift Training Centers, Inc.

If you’ve never stepped foot on a forklift before, you may be curious as to how it all works.

First off, it must be pointed out that operating a forklift for the first time requires practical training under the supervision of a forklift instructor. That’s one reason we stress the importance of receiving hands-on forklift training. 

Next, if you’ll be operating a forklift for the first time, take note – begin with the engine off and inspect the equipment. Check to make sure the forklift’s fluid levels (i.e. oil and water) are at optimal levels and the tires appear healthy. Additionally, check the hydraulics – which power the forks to lift heavy loads – ensuring they appear in working order without any hydraulic fluid leaks. 

Furthermore, given that it may be your first time on a forklift, familiarize yourself with how to work the levers, controls, switches, warning lights, and steering wheel from your instructor. A few of the operational controls include: 

  • Directional control – Depending on the forklift, the directional control can be steering mounted or foot operated. Either way, it allows the operator to select which direction they wish to go (i.e. forward or reverse).
  • Acceleration pedal – When the acceleration pedal is pressed, it acts similar to the accelerator of a car.
  • Brake pedal – This too, functions similar to the brakes on a car.
  • Forks’ control lever – When pulled back, this lever raises the forks, when pushed forward, it lowers them.
  • Tilt lever – This lever controls the angle of the forks. When pulling the lever, the forks tilt backward. When pushing it forward, the forks tilt forward. This helps with stabilizing the loads, particularly when traveling.
  • Parking brake – The parking brake allows a forklift to remain in a stable, stationery position, particularly when parked on an incline.

Once you’ve got the prerequisites out of the way, start the forklift and test the controls and levers, lifting the forks up and down, and moving forward and in reverse.

To take it up a notch, if training on a counterbalance forklift, try picking up an empty pallet. To do this, position the forks in line with the pallet. Then, approach the pallet until the forks are in place. Finally, raise the forks five to ten centimeters from the ground to stabilize the load. Once lifted, tilt the mast backward, which is the mechanical structure on the front of the forklift that allows the forklift to raise the load to the necessary height.

Afterwards, carry the load to a desired location and set it down by slowly lowering the forks, followed by moving the forklift in reverse.

All in all, we can’t recommend enough, if you’re learning to operate a forklift for the first time, make sure to receive hands-on, practical training. To learn how to operate a forklift with hands-on training, call American Forklift Training Centers, Inc. today.