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How Much Do Forklift Drivers Make?

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Always on the Move: Earn a Great Living in Many Industries

If you have the qualities of good vision, steady hands and feet, alertness and good mechanical skills, you may be a great fit for a forklift driver position. Forklift drivers move materials around in warehouses or on construction sites, and keep track of the location of items. Some simple mechanical skills are good to have, so you can make minor adjustments to your machinery. You can also work part-time, earn a good wage and have extra time off work to spend with your children and family.

Job Description

As a forklift operator, you’ll likely work in a warehouse moving pallets of materials from one area to another or unloading incoming supplies off a truck. To operate a forklift, you need to use both your hands and feet to operate the levers and controls to drive machine correctly. You also need to be able to raise and lower the items you are moving. A forklift driver is in charge of inspecting the forklift each day or before the shift begins, to make sure it is fully operational.

You may create shipments by finding a pallet and loading items onto it to ship out of the warehouse. The materials on the pallet are often bound in large sheets of plastic to keep them from shifting during movement.

Education Requirements

There is no formal education required to be a forklift driver, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics; however, some companies will require you to have a high school diploma.

You’ll likely receive on-the-job training for a few days to a month or so under the guidance of an experienced operator. They teach you how to operate the forklift to move materials, and teach you machine safety, such as blowing the horn to alert employees before you move the forklift. Operators who work with hazardous materials undergo more specialized and additional training to learn safety practices standardized through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

You may need certification to work for some companies. This is usually obtained through online or hands-on education, but can also be obtained through work experience with your new employer. You'll need to pass a written exam and a hands-on evaluation to gain certification.

About the Industry

Forklift drivers have several options for choosing where and when they'll work. The majority—19 percent—work in storage and warehousing, whereas 15 percent work in the wholesale trade. About 9 percent work in temporary help services on a part-time basis. Approximately 7 percent work in the construction industry, and 6 percent work in food manufacturing. The added perk to this type of position is that you can work in a local warehouse without the need to travel to construction sites, earn a good wage and have spare time for the kids.

Years of Experience

The median annual wage of a forklift driver is reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to be $33,890. The median wage is the middle of the wage scale, as half of the workers earn less and half earn more. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $22,890 and the highest 10 percent earn around $53,430.

Forklift drivers make a decent wage to start out, but as they gain experience, they earn even more. Here is a projection of the median wages earned, by years of experience:

  • 0 to 5 years: $28,000
  • 5 to 10 years: $31,000
  • 10 to 20 years: $33,000
  • Over 20 years: $35,000.

Job Growth Trend

The overall employment of forklift drivers is projected to grow 6 percent over the next decade, about the same as the average of all occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will always be a need for forklift operators, because older employees leave the workforce to retire, creating openings for newer employees.

Other Considerations

Forklift operators are required to wear safety equipment, such as earplugs, safety glasses and steel-toed boots. In addition, you must be able to turn around easily to see behind you while on a forklift. Some forklift drivers must also be able to lift a certain amount of weight manually and, of course, you must be able to see and hear well to follow safety standards.