What Are the Different Classes of Forklifts?

Forklifts are commonly used in a wide variety of applications, including shipping, storage and construction. Because they are useful in such a wide variety of settings, many different types of forklifts are available for you to choose from. In order to help make choosing a forklift easier, a standard set of forklift classes organize the forklifts into categories based upon design and intended use.

Forklifts come in many different classes.

Class I Forklifts

Class I Forklifts are electric motor rider trucks. These forklifts extract their power from an electric motor, and the operator is intended to ride along with the forklift while it operates. Several sub-types of Class I forklifts exist. Counterbalanced forklifts have a rear weight which offsets the weight of their load to protect from overturning. These forklifts can be designed for the operator to sit or stand while they operate the machine. Electric motor forklifts also subdivide based upon their tire configurations; some have three tires, two in the front and one in the back, and others have cushion tires or pneumatic tires.

Class II Forklifts

Class II forklifts are electric motor trucks as well, but these electric motor forklifts are designed to fit in smaller spaces than Class I forklifts. Forklifts like these are also known as "narrow aisle" forklifts. These types of forklifts can come with a wide variety of features designed for different applications. For instance, some narrow aisle forklifts will come with a side-loader, meaning its teeth sit at a perpendicular angle to the forklifts front, while a reach-type outrigger can extend outwards from the machine.

Class III Forklifts

Class III forklifts are mostly hand trucks, although they sometimes have seats for the operator. However, most of these models are operated by a handle at their rear. Sometimes, though, this handle is located at the middle of the forklift. These are also commonly called pallet jacks.

Class IV Forklifts

Class IV forklifts are internal combustion engine trucks, so named for their propulsion system, which is an internal combustion engine just like those used in an automobile. These forklifts can come counterbalanced, and usually have sit-down operation consoles. More than one class of internal combustion engine forklifts exist. Class IV trucks all have solid, or non-inflated, tires.

Class V Forklifts

Class V forklifts are also internal combustion trucks just like class IV, but they have pneumatic tires. Like class IV trucks, they are usually counterbalanced and have sit-down operator consoles.

Class VI Forklifts

Class VI forklifts are not actually forklifts, but tractors. They can use either internal combustion engines or electric motors.

Class VII Forklifts

Class VII forklifts are designed for use in rough terrain, such as construction sites or undeveloped natural terrain. This class covers a wide variety of forklift types, as long as they have the capability of navigating uneven ground.

Justin Mitchell

Justin Mitchell has been a writer since 2009. In 2002, he received a B.A. in theater and writing from the University of Northern Colorado. Mitchell worked as an ESL teacher in Europe and Asia before earning a master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York. He has written for the "New York Daily News" and WNYC.org, among other outlets.