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Forklift Dimensions: What Size Forklift Do I Need For My Warehouse?

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When purchasing a new forklift, one of the first things that people consider is the size their forklift will need to be. Figuring that out can be difficult, since sizes vary from model to model and among manufacturers. At the same time, size needs vary according to application. These variables may seem confusing, but you need to take the time to understand the differences. Purchasing a forklift that's the wrong size can result in more than just an underperforming machine for your business; it can create a safety hazard in the workplace. It is important that you consider the different types of measurements that go into forklift sizes in addition to the applications the forklift is intended to perform.

Forklift Height

Forklift height is more than its measurement from bottom to top. Three components make up the total height of a forklift:

  • Collapsed height: Collapsed height is the measurement from the floor to the highest part of the collapsed mast. This is an important measurement to consider, because the collapsed height of a forklift should be no taller than the shortest opening it needs to move through. For example, if you most commonly move through nine foot openings, but also unload trucks with a six foot opening, you will want to ensure that the forklift you choose does not have a collapsed height taller than six feet.
  • Max fork height (MFH): The max fork height is a measurement from the ground level up to the top of the tip of the forks when they are fully raised. Max fork height should be a minimum of eight inches higher than the top of the highest shelf the forklift will service. It is generally lower than the overall height of the forklift.
  • Overall height (OAH): A measurement that begins at ground level and extends up to the highest part of the forklift when the mast is fully extended, overall height is one of the best indicators of how the forklift will be able to move through your workspace. The OAH lets you know whether the forklift is going to interfere with things such as lighting or sprinkler heads and if it is a viable model for your business.

Determining Forklift Length

As with height, there is more than a single length measurement that must be considered when purchasing a new forklift:

  • Fork length: The length of the fork itself is important when considering the length of your forklift. There are various lengths and sizes of fork across different lifts, and it must be one of your size considerations when determining forklift length.
  • Overall length (OAL): Overall length of a forklift is the measurement from the most forward point on the vehicle to the farthest rear point. Remember that OAL may not include the length of the forks. In addition, overall length will impact the turning radius of the forklift. In general, the shorter the OAL, the more suited the machine is to operate in narrow areas.

How to Measure Forklift Width

Unlike height and length, the width of a forklift is determined by a single dimension - the unit's overall width. Also known as OAW, this measurement will vary depending on where the measurements are taken from and what aspect of the lift they incorporate, such as the axles, carriage, and tires. Different brands and dealers take their measurements in different ways, so it is important that you verify how the width is being measured before you make any final purchasing decisions.

Additional Forklift Dimension Considerations

The dimensions of a forklift are specific to the intended application and type of lift. If you need to navigate through narrow aisles with low ceilings, you're going to be looking into different units than you would if you had high ceilings and large amounts of open space. Consider the dimensions that are needed for your environment as well as what is needed for your business, as any mistakes in dimension calculation could leave you with a forklift that cannot properly operate to your needs. As long as you verify that the lift fits your space as well as your business needs, you can avoid a safety hazard and wasted money.

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