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Especially common in warehouses and other large storage facilities, forklifts serve the needs of various industries. Some allow the operator to sit while driving and operating the machine; others require the operator to stand. Some are powered by on-board batteries; others use different kinds of fuel. Regardless of the type, however, all forklifts perform the same basic functions.
Lift and Stack
Forklifts lift items that are placed on pallets and are too heavy, too bulky, or too awkward to be lifted manually. The pallets, which are small platforms upon which goods are placed individually or stacked in groups, have rectangular openings through which the two steel tines, or forks, of the forklift fit. These tines can be adjusted to fit through the openings of different-sized pallets. A forklift operator uses levers to lift the tines and raise the palleted items, often to stack them atop other palleted items or to place them on high shelves.
Forklift operators often need to transport palleted items from one area of a facility to another. Because the stacked items on the pallets frequently obstruct the operator's view, the steering wheel is equipped with a horn. Operators must press this horn frequently while transporting items, especially when they are approaching hallway intersections.
Loading and Unloading
In addition to transporting and placing items throughout a facility, operators use forklifts to load items onto trucks for transport away from the facility. They also use forklifts to unload items that have been delivered to the facility by trucks.
Scott Roberts studied communications at the University of Southern Indiana and has written for local newspapers throughout his adult life. He has created articles for more than 70 international clients. An accomplished artist, he has illustrated and written cartoons for newspapers and GoComics.com. He lives in Southwest Michigan.