As anyone who has worked in a warehouse, construction site or in logistics can attest, a forklift is an exceptionally versatile piece of equipment that helps to considerably speed up supply chains and move bulky or heavy materials.

However, when looking for a forklift hire, many people are unaware of quite how many types of forklifts and lift trucks there are out there, each of which is designed for a specialist purpose.

From the earliest uses of powered lift trucks in the early 20th Century to today, forklifts have evolved and developed into multi-purpose vehicles of all shapes and sizes that specialise in working in particular locations and on specialist worksites.

Here is a selection of some of the most popular and most unique forklift types.

Warehouse Low Lift Truck

What is often seen as the standard forklift, this small, narrow and versatile vehicle has two forks at the front that are designed to securely grab and lift items on wooden pallets.

They are also used to lift and move goods from delivery vehicles and have become a fundamental part of many warehouse and logistics operations due to their ability to carry a large number of heavy loads quickly for processing.

Side-Loading Trucks

Designed for the timber and sheet steel industries, side-loading trucks are designed to carry exceptionally long loads on the right-hand side of the vehicle, allowing them to be moved through doorways and stored easier than a conventional truck, which would by necessity become a wide load.

As a helpful consequence, they can also be driven directly alongside racks to move items without the need to turn.

Reach Trucks

Often seen in larger, tightly packed warehouses, a reach truck has an extremely tight turning circle using a single rear wheel to do so, which allows it to navigate more densely concentrated warehouses, enabling a lot of logistics companies to work efficiently with the space they have.

The Order Picker

One variation on the reach truck that has grown increasingly popular is the order picker trick, which has a cage welded to the fork carriage that allows a rider to be lifted higher to manually grab items, whilst wearing a safety harness.

These tend to be more widely used in distribution centres, where individual items or less-than-pallet-load sized shipments are taken to be processed.

Counterbalanced Forklifts

Most warehouse forklifts tend to be counterbalanced, which means that they have a counterweight on the back of the truck designed to offset any loads on the front of the load.

Interestingly, the development of the counterbalance for forklifts is one of the reasons why battery-electric forklifts became hugely popular before other types of industrial equipment; the heavy battery can itself serve as a counterweight and thus make the whole unit smaller.

Telescopic Forklift

A cross between a crane, a lifter and a forklift truck, a telescopic forklift uses an extendable arm, which has two forks on it to help lift items off of the ground.

These tend to be used to lift objects up at odd angles and into narrow spaces of a construction site or warehouse.

Rugged Terrain Forklifts

One of the earliest types of forklifts sold, these trucks are fitted with threaded pneumatic tyres akin to other heavy construction equipment, which makes for a more stable, balanced ride whilst carrying heavy goods across uneven surfaces such as quarries and construction sites.

Pyroban Trucks

Also known as explosion-proof trucks, these are battery-electric forklift trucks that are specially designed for safe use when handling flammable chemicals.

The name Pyroban came from the project name given to the truck by ICI, after an incident where a diesel-powered forklift set a flammable vapour on fire.

Omnidirectional Trucks

Most forklifts have a bidirectional drive, in that they can move forwards or backwards with the ability to turn. However, advances in omnidirectional locomotion has allowed for forklifts that can rotate with no turning circle whatsoever or strafe sideways without the need to turn the load.

This technology can be theoretically used with any type of forklift, but are most commonly seen with side-loading trucks, as this can allow loads to be moved into place without having to turn the front of the cab.

Marina Forklifts

A specialist truck used for boat storage, marina forklifts are designed to resist water corrosion, have heavy counterweights and exceptionally tall masts to lift boats into and out of the water.

What makes them interesting is that to do the latter task, a mariner forklift has a rarely-seen negative-lift cylinder that lets the forks lower below the cab itself, as well as feature forks up to 24 feet long.