If you want to learn how to properly operate a rough terrain forklift, you are in the right place. The rough terrain forklift is a constant piece of equipment at a construction site.
I have put together a list of tips I think you should know as an operator of one of these units to help ensure you are safe on the job and an all-around better operator. Before you ever operate make sure you’ve had rough terrain forklift training from a reputable training provider.
As always, you have to inspect your RT Forklift. This means checking all the forklift controls, parts, and systems.
Let’s start with the main parts and controls you want to think about as an operator. This is not an extensive list, but instead just the most essential parts you want to understand to make sure you are operating the forklift correctly.
Operator’s cab: This is the part of the RT forklift you are sitting in. There should be a seat belt for your safety, and all cab equipment should be working 100%.
Control panel: Put simply, this means everything from the Dashboard to the electronic brake handle. These items need to work correctly and without issue. Most class 7 forklifts have a combination of levers, buttons, and switches at the control panel.
Roll Over Protective Structure: The rollover protective structure is designed to protect you if your RT forklift rolls over. This is one of the most dangerous types of accidents that can happen to you in your forklift. Wearing your seatbelt is an integral part of this system. If you aren’t wearing it and you roll the machine over, the protective structure could want to hurt or, worse, kill you.
Wheels and Tires: The wheels and tires on your forklift are some of the most critical parts, so you want to make sure they are in good shape. One of the first things a new operator does when they get on a new machine is checked them out. Your wheels are your first system for stability. Getting that part wrong and a tip-over is just a matter of time.
Hydraulic System: The hydraulic system is vital for quickly moving energy to different parts of your rough terrain forklift.
Stabilizers/Outriggers: The outriggers/stabilizers are another significant part of your forklift. They ensure that when you elevate the boom section and forks, you have a bigger footprint at the base of your machine. This will help give you more stability. Make sure they are fully engaged, with your wheels off the ground. If not, you aren’t actually using them.
Boom Section: The boom of your rough terrain forklift is what carries the forks up and down and in and out. They are powered by your hydraulic system allowing you to lift and lower different loads at the push of a button. The boom section is what makes your RT forklift stand out from the other classifications of forklifts. It can lift and place a load from a distance.
Forks: The forks are what actually pick up the product. Without them, the machine is useless. There are multiple types of forks, depending on what material you would like to pick up. Generally speaking, in your RT forklift, your forks will be mounted on a bar. You can slide them across the bar, so they fit the bottom of the pallet or load you are lifting. Keep that bar well greased. That will make your life a lot easier or at least that of your spotter.
Tilt Cylinders: The tilt cylinders move the forks forward and backwards. Use this function when you are picking up a load or placing it. Tilt-back to secure the load on your carriage/backrest and forward when going into a load or placing it.
Lift Cylinders: The lift cylinders raise and lower the boom of the forklift. They lift and lower your boom section.
Boom Angle indicator: The boom angle indicator shows you the angle of your boom at any given time. You use this indicator along with boom extension to understand your load capacity range in the load chart. Pay extra attention when it’s freezing. These can stick when cold outside and give you the wrong reading.
Boom Extension Indicator: While using the boom, you can extend or retract your forks. Your boom will have letters or numbers to show you how far out your boom is. Use this, together with boom angle, to determine load capacity.
Frame Leveler – This is a hydraulic cylinder located at the front of your forklift to ensure that the front axle is level. It should be used under all circumstances. That means when lifting, extending the forks, or before driving. Don’t forget, don’t use this as a lifting aid. I know many experienced operators do this. When you swing your forklift left to right while it is extended and elevated, you are creating the perfect situation for a tip over. Imagine standing on your tippy-toes with your arms stretched, swinging from side to side. You’d eventually fall, right? Same thing with your rough terrain forklift.
Frame Level Indicator: This indicator allows you to check the front axle’s balance from left to right. The indicator shows you a reading from minus 10 degrees to plus degrees. Make sure you are at or as close to “0” as much as possible.
Operator Manual: Make sure you have your manufacturer’s operator manual and review it. This is an excellent overall guide for any rough terrain forklift safety issues.
Rough Terrain Forklift Training: RTF’s can be extremely dangerous if not operated or maintained properly. Make sure to follow all maintenance procedures in the manual.
Second, you want to complete an inspection of the area you will be working in and around. I’ve listed some of the things you want to consider while performing your workplace inspection. And please keep in mind a workplace inspection doesn’t just happen before you operate to RT forklift. You also need to keep your eyes out for anything that can pose a risk to your safety or the safety of others the entire time you operate the forklift.
Ok, now that we have a good understanding of what to look out for during your pre-use and workplace inspections, let’s move on to actually operating your rough terrain forklift. Before you do, make sure you have tested all of your controls. You don’t want to find out something is not working when it’s too late to do anything about it.
We are going to consider three things here that I want you to understand. If you do, the likelihood that you will operate the forklift properly goes up tremendously.
The way you drive a rough terrain forklift is noticeably different than the way you drive a car.
The RT forklift usually has two or three steering options. They are:
2 wheel drive– This is the standard mode of operation. You operate the truck with two wheels (one on each side), and the truck steers like a car would.
4 wheel crab: Four-wheel crab means that the front two wheels are pointed in the same direction, and you drive it like a crab. You can move sideways with this function. It is an excellent option for tight or awkward paces.
2 wheel circle: In this function, the front wheels point in opposite directions. It works great if you are trying to get the forklift turned around quickly.
Before you drive off after firing the forklift up, make sure you check the position of the wheels. If your wheels are not aligned, which can happen if someone leaves the back tires out of place, you could lose control of the forklift. This is because the rear wheels may cause you to drag from behind. You can imagine if you are close to someone or something, and that happens unexpectedly. This could be very dangerous.
Drive at a speed that matches your ground conditions. Rough Terrain forklifts can drive at a high rate of speed. If you are driving in unfavorable ground conditions or a high traffic area, keep your speed down.
Visibility is critical. In many models, the boom section blocks your ability to see anything to the right side of your forklift. In this case, lift your boom up high enough to see and also high enough to clear people’s heads. I suggest seven feet up, with forks tilted back. This way, your forks are high enough to clear heads but still low enough not to negatively affect your stability.
Speaking of stability. This is a very important factor when operating your forklift. You need to make sure you don’t overload the RT forklift, over-extend the forks, or push the center of gravity of your machine past the point of causing a tip over.
You should always be aware of the options and limitations of your rough terrain forklift, safe operating procedures, and safety policies outlined by your company. This machine has unique qualities that are both useful and risky. Get to know both sides of your machine. It will make a difference in your efficiency and safety. Make sure you have received rough terrain forklift training that at least covers the above.