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Forklift Classifications

What Does Forklift Classifications Mean?

Forklifts are divided into seven classes based on their features, applications, and fuel type.

Classifying forklifts allows companies to decide which type will best meet the demands of the job being done, the work environment, and the terrain.

Safeopedia Explains Forklift Classifications

Forklift operators must be aware of the truck specifications on the nameplate and what they mean. They must also be trained and certified to specifically use the class of forklift they will operate.

The 7 Classes of Forklift Trucks

The Industrial Truck Association (ITA) classifies forklifts into seven categories, which are recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Class I – Electric Motor Rider Forklifts

These forklifts are ideal for loading and unloading tractor-trailers, handling pallets, and other industrial applications like food storage, retail, factory, and general warehousing. Since they are electric, they do not cause emissions and are quiet, making them ideal for indoor applications.

Class II – Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Forklifts (Reach Trucks, Order Pickers)

These forklifts are designed with maneuverability in mind to allow operation in tight spaces like narrow aisles. It is ideal for picking and putting away inventory.

Class III – Electric Pallet Jacks, Stackers and Tow Tractors

This type of forklift is ideal for unloading deliveries and moving loads to a staging area to be handled by other forklift types. They come in walk-behind and rider models and are designed to lift loads only a few inches off the ground. Ideal for short distances and small warehouses.

Class IV – Internal Combustion (IC) Cushion Tire Forklifts

These forklifts are powered by internal combustion engines that run on diesel, liquid petroleum gas, gasoline, or compressed natural gas. They are designed for indoor use, with solid cushioned tires that are puncture-proof and provide a smooth ride on indoor surfaces.

Class V – Internal Combustion (IC) Pneumatic Tire Forklifts

These forklifts are similar to Class IV but designed for outdoor environments like construction sites and lumberyards. They are equipped with pneumatic tires designed for use on rough surfaces.

Class VI – Electric/IC Engine Tow Tractors

These forklifts are used for towing loads rather than lifting them, making them useful for assembly lines and airports.

Class VII – Rough Terrain Forklifts

These forklifts feature large, tractor-style tires and are powered by diesel. They are suitable for outdoor terrain and commonly used on construction sites and in lumberyards to lift material to a higher level.


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