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Preparing your fleet for various environments

by Charlie Buelow | Mon, Nov 26, 2018

Whether your forklifts are used strictly indoors or driven over bumpy pavement, it's important to make sure your fleet is prepared to handle its terrain. 

Employee training

All forklift drivers must go through specific training before they can operate a lift truck on the job, but they're permitted to use only the class of vehicle on which they were trained.

There are seven classes of powered industrial trucks, as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

  • Class I: Electric motor rider trucks.
  • Class II: Electric motor narrow aisle trucks.
  • Class III: Electric motor hand trucks or hand/rider trucks.
  • Class IV: Internal combustion engine trucks (solid/cushion tires).
  • Class V: Internal combustion engine trucks (pneumatic tires).
  • Class VI: Electric and internal combustion engine tractors.
  • Class VII: Rough terrain forklift trucks.

These distinctions between forklift classes, including the differences between tires and terrain, underscore the importance of understanding the various distinct styles of these vehicles and how you can prepare your fleet for any terrain.

What is rough terrain?

Rough terrain includes natural terrain that hasn't been developed or smoothed over, as well as construction sites, according to OSHA.

Tire style

Before choosing a tire style, make sure it fits the purpose of the vehicle.

Pneumatic tires are one of the most popular styles. They can either be solid or filled with air. Though specified in Class V forklifts, they're used on other classes as well, including Class VII. Solid pneumatic tires are ideal for rough terrain because there's little chance for a stray nail or sharp rock to deflate the tire.

Cushion tires are another commonly used style, but they are geared more toward indoor work or use in smooth areas. These are inflated and made of rubber, which means they're more likely to go flat in rough terrain.

Other types of tires, such as cold-prepped and fiberglass tires, are designed for more specific uses. Cold-prepped tires work well in cold, low-traction environments. Fiberglass tires resist high heat. 

Optimize conditions

Regardless of environment, there are a few forklift safety precautions that always apply. Increasing visibility as much as possible can reduce the risk of accidents. Lights, back-up alarms and horns all work to improve visibility.

Tending the ground or floor in your work environment can also help prevent injury and costly repairs. If your floor or parking lot has potholes, fill them in to level out the surface. 

Additionally, knowing how to properly rack and lift a load can go a long way toward avoiding harmful mistakes. In rough terrain, it's especially important for operators to ensure the forklift is stable before attempting to lift the load.

Is your fleet prepared to handle the various types of environments at your jobsite? Work with National Maintenance Services to ensure your forklifts are in the best condition for the job. A dedicated on-site technician has the skills and expertise to perform forklift maintenance as well as identify areas of improvement at your facility.

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