Forklift Terminology

July 20, 2017
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If you are new to the forklift industry, forklift terminology may seem confusing at times. If you are a seasoned veteran, it is still important to familiarize yourself with forklift terminology and definitions for training purposes. To help, we’ve provided this glossary of common forklift terms.


The lift cylinders are responsible for hydraulically controlling the raising and lowering of the mast.


The load backrest is a very important part of any forklift. It is attached to the carriage and is responsible for restraining the load when the load is tilted rearward or upward. The forklift’s backrest also aids in protecting the mast and the cylinder hoses.


When choosing a forklift, whether for purchase or rental, it is very important to be aware of its capacity. The capacity is a rating given to determine the amount of weight that can be lifted to a specific load height at a specific load center.

Picture of the capacity plate from the tipover article?


This term is a measure of the charge stored by the forklift’s batteries.  It represents the maximum amount of energy (typically measured in Amp-hours) that can be extracted from the battery during operation.


The battery compartment is the area of the forklift that holds the battery or batteries. The compartment can vary greatly in size and are typically measured using the length of the compartment multiplied by the width and the height (L x W x H). Knowing the specific dimensions can be important when choosing a forklift that is suitable for your needs, space and specific application.


Every electric forklift operates using a battery, and it’s important to know the type of battery needed for your specific forklift. Fortunately, batteries and battery types can be easily identified using a battery model identification code, which is expressed as battery style, number of cells, cell Amp/hr., number of plates, cell arrangement, special features, sequential letters (if needed) and paint codes.


Carriage is one of the more frequent terms used, as it relates to forklifts. It refers to the forklift’s support structure, in front of the mast, where the actual forks are mounted.


Cushion tires are forklift tires designed to be used in indoor applications with flat and even surfaces.


Pneumatic forklift tires are designed to be used in outdoor applications and on uneven surfaces. They can be filled with a rubber compound (i.e. “solid pneumatic”) or be air filled. Air filled pneumatic tires are usually the standard on IC trucks, however solid pneumatic tires are sometimes used based on the application.  If your application has a high amount of debris and you experience frequent tire punctures, solid pneumatic tires may offer you a longer tire life.  The pneumatic we stock our rental fleet with are equipped with “solid pneumatic” tires


This term refers to the amount of vertical movement that a forklift is capable of before additional mast channels are engaged. Essentially, it refers to the forklift’s ability to lift its forks without raising the mast.


The mast is the vertical structure of a forklift that provides a supporting pathway for the carriage rollers and allows the forklift to raise and lower the forks and material it’s carrying.


As the name implies, this is a type of forklift mast that has two stages. These consist of an outer channel, which is mounted to the lift truck, and an inner channel, which elevates when the cylinders extend.


This is an exceptionally short specialized type of mast. It is typically used in areas where overhead clearance is restricted and is used on Class IV and V lift trucks, up to 6,000 lb. capacity.


This term refers to the distance from the floor to the very top of the fork surface when the mast is fully extended.


You may hear this term referred to in conjunction with “mast” often. The overall lowered height is the height at the top of the mast when the mast is completely lowered. The measurements are taken from the floor to the top of the mast.


The Overhead Guard is the framework that is fitted to a truck which provides protection for the forklift operator in case of falling objects.


Sometimes referred to simply as the “fork” or “forks”, tynes are one of the most vital parts of a forklift. These are the arms found on the load carriage. They either enter a pallet to lift a load, or the load is placed directly on the forks.


Some forks will fall under the classification of “hook forks”. These are forks that lock into the carriage and hook over the bars.

This is just an intro to forklift terminology. Forklifts can be customized based on your application, but we hope this glossary provides you with a better understanding of the basics. Need help choosing the best forklift for your application? Contact your local MCFA dealer for assistance.