What is a Forklift?

Forklifts have come a long way since their initial debut in the late 1800’s. Clark Transmission Manufacturing Company is credited with developing a forklift which was able to move its own heavy automobile parts. Back in 1917 the forerunner of the seated counterbalanced truck was called the “truck tractor”. Since such time, forklifts have continued to play a part in easing the manual labor needed in lifting and transporting heavy items.

The forklift is the backbone of the material handling and equipment industry and could unquestionably be one of the most well-known pieces of equipment the industry uses. Forklift trucks get their name from the forklike mechanism on the front end which picks up heavy pallets and transports such to any desired location. The ability of one forklift to lift tons of material at any given time makes the forklift indispensable for industrial use.

The Forklift’s Evolution

Initially the forklift was nothing more than hoists comprised of chains and winches. That design gave way to platform trucks which then gave way to platform trucks with electronic motors and batteries. All these early models were simple in design. It was a great achievement when the forks lifted a load just a few inches off the ground.

Enter World War II

Forklifts were really able to fill a demand during the years when World War II was in full swing. There was a short supply of man-power but no labor shortage thanks to the forklift. After the war was over the forklift continued to improve and maintain its popularity.

The 1950’s

By the 1950’s a new demand for forklifts was created as the need to store items began to take off. Warehouses were in huge demand and as warehouses began storing more and more material vertically; bigger and better forklifts with the ability to stretch high into the sky were marketed. Forklifts could now reach fifty feet above the ground and this ability helped to revolutionize the warehousing industry.

Narrow Aisle Reach Trucks

Stacking and moving items as quickly and safely as possible was imperative to warehousing success. Early in 1950 Raymond Corporation introduced the first narrow aisle reach truck, which was able to travel down very narrow aisles more efficiently than ever before. Now commonplace, back in the 1950’s these sleeker trucks were revolutionary.

Rounding out the modernization observed in the 1950’s was the first battery powered warehouse and pallet trucks courtesy of Lewis-Sheppard and Crown Equipment. Names that would become synonymous with the forklift were growing during those prosperous times.

1960 through 1980

A needed improvement to these industrial trucks became necessary as lifting heights increased. The name of the game became safety and standardization. Electronic controls, and standardized safety design helped avert many accidents that would have occurred if forklifts remained unbalanced thus tipping uncontrollably.

The 1970’s brought refinements in engine and motor controls. Followed by the 1980’s and the influx of foreign manufacturers:

Toyota
Nisan
Daewoo of Korea
Industry Leaders

Other big names and industry leaders in the modernization and safety of forklift trucks include: Toyota Material Handling, Yale Materials Handling Corporation, Arnold Machinery Company, and the Hyster Company.

Special mention should be made of the Cascade Corporation for developing the barrel clamp forklift in 1960. Carrying barrels more quickly and safely was an obvious advantage to this particular lifting device.

Forklifts Go Green

Presently, green eco-friendly forklifts are on the horizon. The hydrogen fuel cell powered forklift is in the design phase. Toyota contributed the first electric forklift in 1974. Forklifts can be found using varied power sources:

Battery powered
Electric
Propane
Compressed natural gas
Forklifts of 2012

Today the forklift is ergonomically designed and styled for the workforce that depends on it. Compared to the old tractor lift platform models, the current models are a far cry from the original concept. Interfacing with cargo management systems routinely takes place with the modern forklift and its high-tech capabilities.

Forklifts have come a long way and are safer and more energy efficient than ever before. As the main power supply behind the need to lift and store heavy items, forklifts are here to stay. As long as our society needs space for shipping, storing, or transporting material, forklift operators will be in demand. For forklift certification check following site.

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