How to Operate a Forklift: A Basic Guide

Operate a Forklift

How to Operate a Forklift: A Basic Guide

Have you ever wondered how to operate a forklift? A forklift is a vehicle that can help businesses that have heavy loads that need to be moved. The concept seems simple, but using a forklift requires practice and training to operate forklift and maximize productivity. 

If you’re trying to figure out how to use a forklift, you’re in luck. In this article, we will be going over the basic operations of how to operate a forklift.

How to Operate a Forklift

A standard forklift has a set of basic controls. Knowing how these controls work are essential to operating a forklift in a safe and productive manner

Directional controls

A steering column is used to maneuver left and right, while forward and reverse directions are done via pedals. These pedals are normally located by the accelerator and brake pedals. There may be buttons on the steering column on some models – pushing the buttons or depressing these pedals will shift your forklift in the forward or backward direction.

Hydraulic Lift Controls

Forklifts use hydraulics to lift, raise, and tilt the forks. You’ll have one or two black levers. One will control raising and lowering the forks, while the other will control tilting the forks.


The pedals at your feet are the accelerator and brakes. These pedals will either move the forklift forward or help stop the forklift from being in motion.

Parking Brake

The parking brake is a secondary rear brake. It locks the back wheels to prevent the forklift from moving. Even if you use the accelerator pedal, the forklift won’t move unless you disengage the parking brake.

Inspection Before Use

Anytime you use a forklift, you’ll need to over some pre-operational procedures. You’ll need to go through a list of what you’ll need to check with the engine on and the engine off before use. Going through a checklist will help you avoid a forklift accident

that can occur. Let’s take a look at these procedures.

These are the things you’ll need to check before you turn the engine on. You need to check the levels and the condition of each thing listed.

  • Water level
  • Oil level
  • Hydraulic fluid level
  • Mast Chains
  • Condition of forks
  • Hydraulic forks
  • Condition of the tires

The condition and fluid levels of everything listed is essential to operate the forklift properly.

Starting the Forklift

You’ll first need to find the shifter, typically found on the left side under the steering wheel. Make sure this is set to neutral. You’ll also need to find the emergency brake and make sure it is engaged. 

Put the key in and start the engine.

Driving the Forklift

Once you have the forklift running, disengage the parking brake while your foot is on the pedal brake. Use the shifter lever and choose the direction you want to go to. 

Safety Concerns

Safety should be of the utmost importance when operating a forklift. Always be aware of your surroundings, and never leave the forklift unattended. 

If you have any concerns operating your forklift, always consult with the vehicles manual or talk with your supervisor. We hoped this article helped you with how to operate a forklift. For more articles like this, check out our other blogs on our site.

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About the Author: Amanda Byers

Amanda Byers is a graduate of Columbia, where she played volleyball and annoyed a lot of professors. Now as Zobuz’s entertainment and Lifestyle Editor, she enjoys writing about delicious BBQ, outrageous style trends and all things Buzz worthy.