Towing with a Forklift: Is it Acceptable?

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Think Twice Before Using Your Forklift for Towing.

It makes intuitive sense that towing with a forklift is not safe practice. After all, it is for this reason that tow trucks exist. At the same time, those who do not have access to a tow truck might be tempted to try towing objects with their forklift truck. This may appear particularly tempting in light of the fact that many forklifts actually have a tow bar (or related hook) attached to their forklift. However, regardless of the temptation, forklifts should not be used for towing. In this post, we review some of the reasons why this is the case.

Forklifts are unstable vehicles

Even without towing an unwieldy object, the forklift is relatively unstable. The majority of forklift accidents are caused by the vehicle tipping over, and this danger becomes even more pronounced when you attach an object at the end. While it is true that there is often a hook at the end, this should only be used to tow the forklift itself in the event that an emergency occurs. Further, the fact that forklifts have rear wheel steering and braking also prevents them from being acceptable towing mechanisms. Towing an object would cause damage to the fork and result in it becoming uneven.

Are there scenarios where a forklift can tow?

There are extenuating circumstances where a forklift can be used to tow an object without suffering drastic consequences. First, (although it is not the safest approach and should be discouraged) it is not uncommon for forklift operators to briefly push or nudge an object. However, using a forklift to actually tow should only be done if a towing hitch is available. If one is, be sure to use tow bars and not wire rope when securing the load. Every measure must be taken to ensure that the load is as stable as possible.

In the end, it is a good rule of thumb to discourage all manner of towing with a forklift. The forklift is unstable enough as it is, and attempting to tow can result in a serious accident.

The worst thing a forklift operator can do when his forklift begins to tip over is attempt to jump away from the vehicle, but that is often exactly what his instinctive reaction will be to do. His seat belt will prevent him from doing this. Discover more Forklift Accessories for Workplace Safety on the Resources pages of our main site.

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