Trucks and Forklifts Are Similar, Yet Different

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In most industrial settings, many different types of vehicles are used. Two of the most common are trucks and forklifts.

While these two vehicles are similar, they are not interchangeable. Somebody qualified to drive a truck couldn’t necessarily jump into a forklift and drive it, and vice versa. For one thing, driving a large commercial truck often requires special licensing from the state while operating a forklift needs special training and certification from the employer.

Driver’s Licenses and Forklifts

In many jurisdictions, a person doesn’t need a driver’s license to operate a forklift. As long as they have the proper training — and their employer can prove that they have been tested and certified in the safe operation of the lift truck — they are often qualified to drive a forklift on the employer’s property.

Still, having a driver’s license is a good first step because it ensures that the operator at least has a rudimentary understanding of traffic safety. Many employers require new hires to have a driver’s license before they allow them behind the wheel of their lift trucks.

Differences between Forklifts and Other Vehicles

Operating a forklift requires additional training even if the employee already has a driver’s license or even a commercial driver’s license that authorizes them to drive a larger truck.

For one thing, forklift cabins are typically open, so they are open to the elements. Operating a forklift in cold weather, rain, snow, or other weather conditions create new challenges.

Forklifts are also heavier than cars or even some trucks, weighing between 9,000 and 30,000 pounds, depending on their size and use. Rough terrain forklifts can be even heavier.

Slower Speeds

Forklifts also go slower than cars and trucks. Typically, forklifts rarely exceed 20 miles per hour, which is closer to a walking pace than driving a car.

Lift trucks also have a three-point suspension, unlike cars and trucks. That makes them much more prone to tip over accidents, whether they are carrying a load or not. Conversely, the three-point suspension gives forklifts aq much tighter turning radius, allowing the vehicles to work in tighter spaces than other vehicles.


In both forklifts and cars and trucks, drivers should always wear seatbelts whenever sitting in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. Failing to wear a seatbelt can cause the driver to be thrown from the cabin if the vehicle were to turn over, which can easily result in serious injury or death.

All drivers need to always be aware of their surroundings while on the job site, whether they are backing their truck into a docking bay or driving their forklift down the aisle of the warehouse.



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