A forklift, or lift truck, as it is also called, is an absolute necessity for any business that will be handling large quantities of goods or extremely heavy items. Forklifts can come in forms as small as a pallet jack or as large as an outdoor loader. No matter what the size, forklifts will fall into one of two categories, depending on what they use as a fuel source: combustion or electricity.
Combustion forklifts use propane as their fuel source. They are typically characterized by much higher load capacities then their electric counterparts. They are also capable of operating outdoors without too much concern.
Clark forklifts are largely combustion based with a few smaller electric models available for small aisle and warehouse purposes. The highest load capacities are achieved on combustion forklifts with pneumatic tires, such as Caterpillar forklifts, which are able to handle loads of up to 36,000 pounds.
Combustion models do have the drawback of being potential fire hazards, especially while the propane fuel tanks are being replaced after running empty. The fumes from exhaust also mean that any facility running them indoors will need to have extensive and extremely effective air exchange in order to prevent any health problems, such as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Electric forklifts offer many advantages over combustion-based models. They are much more energy efficient and can be recharged by plugging them into power outlets, meaning you never have to buy fuel, which can get pricy. They also operate very quietly, which is good for keeping noise pollution down. However, it can also be dangerous, as it is far easier to come up on people unawares, leading to potential accidents.
Electric forklifts are restricted to indoor use almost exclusively because they do not respond well to bad weather. Also, they generally have much lower maximum-lift capacities than combustion forklifts. For these reasons, electric forklifts are generally only worth the investment if you move a lot of large-but-light items around a closed facility, such as pallets around a warehouse.
Nissan is one of the other big suppliers of forklift trucks in North America, and they offer an extensive line of electric forklifts to meet consumer demands.
Forklifts can be expensive, especially if you buy them brand-new. If you are looking for a better deal, there are usually quite a few used forklifts to be found at auctions, online or from various retailers.
While Caterpillar, Clark and Nissan forklifts are perhaps the best-known brands, there are others worth looking at. Check out online reviews and manufacturer specs to find the unit that best meets your needs.