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Speaking Forklift

A Simple Guide to Forklift Language

Knowing the vernacular of a product line is critical to any buying experience. Whether you’re buying your 100th forklift, or looking for your first rental, being able to articulate requirements for your equipment will ensure you get the right forklift for the job. In this blog post, we will break down all of the essential terms for material handling equipment, making you fluent in forklift.

Forklifts, Lift trucks

What class is the Forklift?

Material Handling equipment is broken up into seven classes.

Class 1 – Electric Motor Rider Truck

Any stand-up or sit-down forklift that is powered by a battery. Either cushion (warehouse) or pneumatic tires.

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Class 2 – Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Trucks

Any piece of equipment that is battery powered and specifically made for narrow aisle application i.e. order pickers, reach trucks, side loaders, and turret trucks.

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Class 3 – Electric Motor Hand or Hand/Rider Trucks

A battery powered piece of  equipment where the operator walks behind while operating or has the option to walk behind and ride.

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Class 4 – Internal Combustion Engine Trucks / Cushion Tires

Any counterbalanced forklift that has an internal combustion engine and cushion tires. Often referred to as Warehouse Tire forklifts. Easily identifiable by a lack of visible lugnuts on the rear wheels.

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Class 5 – Internal Combustion Engine Trucks / Pneumatic Tires

Any counterbalanced forklift that has an internal combustion engine and pneumatic tires. For those that need to venture out of the warehouse. Easily identifiable by the lugnuts on the rear wheels.

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Class 6 – Electric and Internal Combustion Tow Tractors

Tow Tractors and Tuggers. These are used for moving heavy loads from point A to point B in a facility.

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Class 7 – Rough Terrain Forklifts

Forklifts designed to be used on unimproved natural terrain such as construction sites.

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The Mast puts the lift in forklift. It is the vertically-oriented tower that is mounted to the front of the forklift that moves loads up and down. There are four main types of masts, delineated by the number of channels the mast has for the carriage to be lifted and lowered by. The more channels a mast has, the higher it can reach.


Simplex, or single stage, masts, have one channel for the carriage to be lifted on.


Duplex, or two stage, masts, have two channels for the carriage to be lifted on.


Triplex, or three stage, masts, have three channels for the carriage to be lifted on. These are the most common masts for forklifts.


Quad, or four stage, masts, have four channels for the carriage to be lifted on.

Mast Specifications

Aside from the number of stages that a mast has, there are a few specs that will tell you the function of a mast.

Max Fork Height

 Max Fork Height, or MFH, indicates the highest that the forks, mounted near the bottom of the mast, can be lifted by the mast.

Overall Height Lowered

The Overall Height Lowered,  or OHL, indicates how tall the mast is with all channels collapsed. This is important to consider when shipping a forklift, or deciding if a forklift will be able to fit through through your dock doors.


Free-lift is the height that the carriage and forks can vertically travel along the mast before it engages the next stage.


Tilt indicates, in degrees, how far the mast can lean forward and backward.

Power Sources

Forklifts and Material Handling equipment can be powered by a variety of different sources.


Liquid Propane Gas, or LPG, is one of the most commonly used fuel sources for forklifts. LPG forklifts are easily identifiable by the fuel tank mounted to the back of the forklift.


Diesel forklifts are some of the toughest machines in the material handling world. Diesel is used across all lifting capacities, but most frequently found in higher capacity forklifts.


Electric powered forklifts are quickly gaining popularity because of their low maintenance cost. Powered by traditional lead-acid batteries or Lithium-ion batteries, these forklifts are great for high output facilities.


Dual-Fuel forklifts can switch between gasoline and LPG with the flip of a switch, maintaining the high horsepower of a gasoline forklift and the cleaner emissions of an LPG.

Other Key Terms



The carriage is a bracket mounted near the bottom of the mast that is used to mount various attachments to. Forks, carton clamps, paper roll clamps, and other attachments rest on the carriage.

Load Backrest

The Load Backrest, or LBR, is a bracket mounted to the top of the carriage that offers support to the load that is being carried by the forks.

Overhead Guard

The Overhead Guard is a protective cage attached to the forklift that encases the operator compartment.


Forks are the L-shaped attachments on a forklift that are used to make direct contact with a load, supporting it as it is lifted and carried.


Based on the needs of your operations, several different attachments may be implemented to the carriage of your forklift instead of or in conjunction with forks. These include side shifters, fork positioners, paper roll clamps, carpet poles, and more.

Steer Tires

As the name implies, the steer tires of a forklift are that set of tires and wheels that are used to steer the forklift. These are located in the back of the forklift, and are smaller than the drive tires.

Drive Tires

The drive tires are the set of wheels and tires that are powered by the engine to move the forklift. These are located near the front of the forklift, and are bigger than the steer tires.



Knowing how to articulate your forklift needs is critical in the buying process. Sunbelt is proud to offer expertise in these areas when needed to make buying, renting, or repairing forklifts and material handling equipment the easiest part of your day. For any questions or needs, contact us today!

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