From warehouses to construction sites, to delivery firms to research facilities, forklifts help keep the world moving.
This is an easily observable fact, given that over a million forklift trucks are sold each and every year in an industry that keeps on growing, not even taking into account those that opt for forklift hire.
However, there are more to forklifts than sales and utility, and one of the staples of every warehouse is also one of the most fascinating vehicles to have ever been made.
Here are some unique and astounding facts about forklifts.
Forklifts Were Only Sold To Others Due To Happenstance
The history of the forklift is a parade of serendipitous situations and prototypes that were as fascinating as they were useless.
However, the first commercially sold forklift happened by sheer accident, as the CLARK Equipment Company had made a “Tructractor” for internal use to move materials between the drill, axle and wheel departments of the company.
It would have stayed there too if it were not for visitors to the plant being so impressed by the practicality of the prototypical forklift that they asked if they could order some.
Just like that, CLARK were in the forklift manufacturing business.
Two Different Wars Inspired And Popularised Forklifts
Whilst the first forklift to bear even a slight resemblance to the vehicles we use today, we have two separate world wars to thank for the innovations and later popularisation of the truck we use today.
The First World War saw many labourers join the army and head to the trenches, leaving far fewer people who needed to do not only the work that had already existed but help ramp up creating munitions and equipment for the war effort.
To that end, material handling equipment was developed to help meet that need, which led to the Tructractor in 1917, and eventually Yale’s own Forklift success after the war.
However, if the First World War inspired the need for forklifts, the Second World War accelerated the introduction of the vehicles to such a degree that they as well as the wooden pallets they used became ubiquitous in industries across the world.
With most labourers able to fight sent overseas to fight, forklifts became an irreplaceable part of the war effort, allowing for the quick and easy movement of vital goods and materials, as well as allowing people who may not have otherwise been able to help play their part.
Even after the war ended the forklifts remained, inspiring greater innovations and the modern warehouse we know today.
Spiders And Forklifts Have A Lot In Common
As much as this sounds like a non-sequitur, one of the most characteristic aspects of forklifts is actually shared by spiders.
Spiders do not have bones, and so they move their limbs through the use of hydraulic pressure, which is where a liquid is used to transmit a force.
This same principle is used in many lifting systems, but especially in forklifts, as it is a highly efficient way to move and displace forces.
The Strongest Forklift In The World Can Lift 65 Tonnes
Forklifts come in all shapes and sizes to match the different sizes and shapes of the loads they are expected to carry. Whilst most lift trucks are pretty strong, for especially heavy loads you may need to bring in a specialised vehicle.
Enter the Kalmar DCG720-10LB, an extreme forklift that weighs over 80 tonnes and can lift over 65 tonnes, a world record that, incredibly, was achieved on a one-in-three hill with a 34 per cent incline.
The Modern Forklift Transformed Warehouses Completely
Whilst the forklift was first sold in 1917, it was a gradual evolution to what we know as the modern forklift.
In 1954, Lansing Bagnall created a narrower counterbalanced forklift that could reach up to 15 metres in the air. This allowed warehouses to stack goods higher than ever before and set up considerably narrower aisles.
This allowed for a much more efficient organisation of materials in manufacturing plants and warehouses, completely changing industry in the process.
This change also would lead to a greater focus on safety, as the forklift became the central concern of operators and owners alike. This led to operator cages, load backrests and other safety features now considered ubiquitous.
It also led to a greater focus on the operator, with the 1960s bringing the first forklift safety courses and the 1980s saw a focus on ergonomics that helped to reduce the strain on drivers and help them to react quicker and more effectively in the case of an accident.