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Cars and forklifts are different in a lot of ways. The average passenger car weighs between 3,000 and 4,000. But industrial forklifts can weigh 9,000 pounds or higher.
Forklifts also have a much different center of gravity than passenger cars. On a forklift, the center of gravity tends to be much higher than that of a car. Plus, a forklift’s center of gravity will shift whenever the lift truck picks up a load.
The forklift’s higher weight has a lot to do with this. But so does the fact that forklifts touch the ground in three places — where each of its wheels meets the road — while cars have four touch points.
The Stability Triangle
A forklift’s three-point suspension system resembles a triangle, as opposed to a car’s square. Support points exist at both ends of the forklift’s front axle, as well as the center of the rear axle, creating the “stability triangle”.
Operators need to ensure that the forklift’s center of gravity stays within this stability triangle any time the vehicle is in motion. If not, the vehicle will easily tip over, spilling its load and possibly injuring its driver or even nearby pedestrians.
There are a number of factors that can cause a forklift’s center of gravity to move beyond its stability triangle, including:
- Unstable loads
- Heavy loads
- Extra loads
- Raised loads
- Fast starts or stops
- Turning too quickly
- Rough terrain
Any single factor, or a combination of multiple factors, can result in disaster.
Preventing Tip-Over Accidents
Keeping the forklift’s center of gravity within the vehicle’s stability triangle is essential to safe operations. There are several steps drivers can take to avoid tip-over accidents.
First, before moving any load, drivers should make sure the load is completely stable and secured on the vehicle’s forks.
While moving, the load should be kept as low to the ground as is practical. The higher the forks are raised, the higher the vehicle’s center of gravity.
Operating Forklifts Safely
While driving up an incline, the load should be in the front of the forklift. But while driving down a ramp, the load should be at the back of the forklift so that the vehicle’s cabin is always between the lower ground and the load.
In wet or slippery conditions, it’s critical to slow down. Similarly, when taking turns, drivers should decrease speed as well as honk the horn prior to encountering other vehicles of people.
Respecting the forklift’s triangle of stability will help prevent accidents, preventing damage to property, and potentially saving lives.