Consider this: The heaviest load a forklift can lift is a staggering 198,000 lbs, a Guinness World Record held by the Kalmar DCG850-12LB model. That’s the equivalent of hoisting nearly 100 cars! But not every task demands such a colossal machine.

So, how much can a forklift lift, and what factors influence its capacity?

This guide will cut through the confusion and help you know what to consider when selecting a forklift based on your specific weight requirements. Let’s get into the details.

Forklift Capacity 101: Understanding Rated vs. Actual Capacity

Forklifts might seem like simple machines, but their lifting abilities are more nuanced. Always aim for safe and efficient operation when using them. To achieve this, you have to understand the difference between their rated capacity and actual capacity.

Rated capacity is the official forklift weight limit a forklift can safely lift under ideal conditions, as the manufacturer specifies. It’s typically a number displayed on a plate on the forklift itself. The actual capacity is the real-world weight a forklift can safely lift in a specific situation.

Why Actual Capacity Can Be Lower Than Rated Capacity

The first cause of this difference is the lift height. As the forks rise higher, the forklift’s stability decreases. As such, it can’t lift as much weight at higher heights as it can at ground level.

Also, the distance between the load’s center of gravity and the forks can cause disparity. The further forward the center of gravity is, the less weight the forklift can safely handle. Imagine balancing a ruler on your finger — it’s easier with the center of gravity closer to your finger.

Weight Matters: How Much Your Load Weighs

Before hopping on a forklift, know exactly how much your load weighs. Forklifts are designed to lift specific weights. Exceeding the forklift size and capacity can lead to tipping, which can cause serious injury or damage.

A forklift struggling with an overly heavy load will be slow and inefficient. The right forklift will get the job done quickly and smoothly. So, how do you find your load weight?

Many products have their weight printed directly on the box. If the weight isn’t labeled, weigh your load on a scale before lifting it with a forklift. But this won’t apply when dealing with uniform loads like pallets of identical boxes.

Here, you can estimate the total weight by multiplying the weight of one box by the number of boxes. If unsure, always choose the safer option. Opt for a forklift with a capacity higher than your estimated load weight.

Reaching New Heights: How High You Need to Lift Your Load

Forklifts can lift impressive amounts, but only to a certain height. Knowing how high you need to lift your load is another key factor in choosing the right forklift. This ensures you get the perfect forklift for the job.

As the forks rise, the forklift’s center of gravity shifts, making it less stable. A forklift designed for lower lifting heights may not be safe for reaching high shelves. If you need to reach an extra high, consider using fork extensions, which can reduce the forklift’s lifting capacity.

Before selecting a forklift, measure the height of your highest storage rack or the maximum height you need to lift your load. Specifications will typically list the maximum forklift height at the rated capacity. Look for a forklift that can reach your desired height while staying within its safe lifting capacity.

Forklift Attachments: How They Affect Lifting Capacity

Attachments can further expand a forklift’s capabilities. However, certain attachments like clamps, booms, or rotators add extra weight to the forklift. They can change the distance between the forks and the load’s center of gravity.

Many attachments have their specific weight limitations. Always consult the attachment’s manual to determine its capacity and ensure it’s compatible with your load’s weight and your forklift’s lifting capacity. You should also account for the weight of the attachment when calculating your actual lifting capacity.

Center of Gravity: Finding Balance for Safe Lifting

The center of gravity (CG) is the imaginary point where an object’s weight is concentrated. For safe lifting, find the CG of your load and ensure it stays within the safe zone of the forklift’s forks. If the CG of your load is too far forward, the forklift becomes more likely to tip over backward when lifting unbalanced loads or using forks that are too short for the load.

A CG that’s too far back (closer to the heel of the forks) can cause the forklift to tip forward. While this is less common, it can occur with heavy loads that significantly overhang the forks. As such, you should know your load, use the right fork length, and tilt for stability to ensure smooth and stable operation.

Terrain Talk: Choosing a Forklift for Uneven Surfaces

Uneven surfaces can cause the forklift to tilt or lean, affecting its center of gravity and increasing the risk of tipping. Slippery or loose surfaces can reduce the forklift’s traction. They make it difficult to control and potentially cause accidents.

Consider a forklift specifically designed for rough terrain (larger tires with deeper treads for better traction and stability) for frequent use on uneven surfaces. When operating a forklift on uneven ground, go slow and avoid sudden movements or sharp turns. Inspect the area for hazards like potholes, loose gravel, or debris, and avoid lifting or lowering loads on slopes.

Unsure of “How Much Can a Forklift Lift?” Let Superior Industrial Products Help

So, how much can a forklift lift in a nutshell? Well, it depends on several factors, like the forklift model, weight of the load, and lifting height. This article explored these factors to help you choose the right forklift for your needs for safety and efficiency.

Need to buy, service, or rent a forklift? Superior Industrial Products offers a wide range of industrial equipment to meet all your materials handling needs. Contact us to get an industrial equipment sales, rental, or maintenance estimate in the Nashville, Indianapolis, and Fort Worth markets today.