How to Become a Forklift Driver
Forklift Drivers are the hidden heroes of the modern world!
Why should I become a Forklift Driver?
The chair you are sitting in, the device you are reading this on, the clothes you are wearing, the food you had for breakfast: At some point, on their journey to reach you, they were moved by forklift. Wherever physical goods are being moved, somewhere along the line, a forklift driver has been making a living shifting it. Skilled forklift operators are in high demand in multiple industries giving you excellent flexibility and job security. As a critical part of the modern supply-chain, you are making a positive difference to the end-users of the potentially thousands of goods you will be moving. The logistics and warehousing industry is still expected to grow, with more people working from home and more companies moving to online shipping. One of the most critical jobs in this industry is that of forklift drivers. You might also see these roles advertised as FLT drivers, Forklift operators or material movers.
What do Forklift Drivers do?
As a forklift operator, you'll be responsible for using different types of forklift truck to find, move, stack, and count stuff around warehouses, factories, docks, construction sites, and storage yards safely and efficiently. You might have other stock-management, order-taking and maintenance duties. You may have a hybrid role that allows you to learn and use additional warehousing and logistics skills. Job adverts should indicate where you will be operating a forklift only as part of your responsibilities.
What Are Working Conditions Like?
It can vary dramatically depending on what you are moving and where! Some jobs may require you to work in extreme conditions, such as with warehouses of low-temperature frozen foods. Some situations may be working with hazardous materials. Many critical and just-in-time logistics operations are running 24 hours a day, often split into 8-hour shift. Drivers can earn between £8 and £14 an hour, rates will vary depending on the type of machine, experience and conditions.
What types of Forklift machines might I be operating?
There are more types of forklift than you might think! Forklifts were developed from late 19th Century manual carts. The addition of hydraulics and electric motors in the early 20th Century boosted their power. As palettes standardised, many different types have been developed, from generic to the specialist. Forklifts are rated by the maximum weight they can lift, and their maximum forward "centre of gravity". These two key numbers are generally prominently displayed on the machine as exceeding them is unsafe. They tell you what you can shift and how. As part of your training, you will learn to calculate how to safely shift, rotate, move, drop and lift various loads. Forklifts feel very different from road driving. Rear-wheel steering gives them high manoeuvrability in tight warehouses. The way they translate the steering wheel torque force into a rate of turn is different from road-vehicles, as is the acceleration depending on the type of power. Your typical warehouse forklift can shift between one and five tons - but the big beasts of the forklift world at docks and in the military can move 50 tons and more!
What qualifications do I need?
Forklift operators are often trained on the job or sent on a training course. In the UK there is not an official government' forklift licence', but companies are required to have approved written documentation to show you are suitably trained. What you will see referred to as a licence is a certificate of a training course. -Training is carried out by several different organisations. Generally, refresher training and testing are every 3 to 5 years, but this might change depending on health and safety regulations, insurance requirements or company policies. Training tends to be done either "on-site" in the workplace, using the company's location and equipment, or on public courses are available where a training company will run sessions on their own premises and equipment. If you are starting with no experience, search for jobs that include on the job training, or you can invest in a private course opening up new job opportunities for you. Some machines are more complex than others, so the amount of time spent in training will vary with the type of machine the operator is using. Training time also can vary by industry and role. There may be a requirement to learn forklift maintenance and adding and removing specialist attachments. The standard classification in the UK was put together by the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and this is generally used on UK qualifications to indicate what machines you are trained to drive. Forklifts can be powered by diesel or LPG but, generally, those for use indoors are electrically powered to avoid filling the building with poisonous exhaust fumes.