Your Complete Guide to Forklift Weight Capacity

According to Fortune Business Insights, the global market for forklift trucks was 1.4 million units in 2021 and is projected to reach 1.9 million units in 2028, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.3%.

Warehouses use forklifts to move stock, businesses use them to load and unload cargo trucks, and retailers use them to pick orders. And, as the world increasingly adopts ecommerce, the need for forklifts will continue to grow.

However, with all the benefits that forklifts bring to businesses come some risks. If used incorrectly, forklifts can lead to serious consequences.

Fortunately, such accidents can be avoided. Keep reading to learn how much weight a forklift can handle, the risks to equipment and stock of overloading a forklift, the potential injuries caused by overloaded forklifts, and what to do if a forklift tips over.

Weight Matters: The “Dos” and “Don’ts” of Forklift Safety

The necessity of forklift safety isn’t necessarily the easiest to understand. That’s why many warehouses struggle to draw a line between productive shortcuts and recommended best practices, asking questions like:

How much weight can a forklift lift?

Forklifts vary widely in their load capacity. On the low end, some forklifts can carry only up to about 3,000 lbs. On the high end, some forklifts can hold up to over 50,000 lbs.

As a forklift driver, it’s your job to know your forklift’s load capacity and stick to it.

Once you’ve established how much your forklift can lift, ensure that your load is under the limit. You can usually do this by reading the load’s label. If not, you may need to manually weigh it with a scale. Most forklifts have a scale built into them so you can quickly detect if a load is too heavy.

Whatever you do, don’t make guesses about the weight. It’s always better to double check to ensure you don’t overburden the forklift.

Why? Forklifts operate under a counterbalance system. The weight of the truck on the rear axle typically offsets whatever the weight of the carried load is. If the forklift is off balance because the carried load is too heavy, there’s a risk it will tip over and injure the driver or other workers and cause damage to the forklift and load.


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When driving an overloaded forklift, what immediate risks are posed to stock and our equipment?

Here’s how your stock or forklift could get damaged through overloading:

If the load is fragile and hits the ground hard enough under all its own weight, it could get ruined. The same goes for the forklift. It could tip over and land on its side or back, which could cause serious damage to the machine.

Both scenarios could lead to expensive losses and repairs, which would ultimately hurt your bottom line.

What Potential Injuries Stem From Exceeding my Forklift(s) Weight Capacity?

Worse than damaged goods or machines are forklift injuries and fatalities. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), forklifts were the source of 7,290 nonfatal injuries in 2020. Here are the main ways that people end up hurt by overloaded forklifts:

1. Being inside a forklift that tips over: If an overloaded forklift flips over while you’re in it, you could end up seriously hurt by the fall, stuck inside the machine, or worst of all, crushed between the forklift and the ground.

To prevent this from happening, always wear a seatbelt, avoid tilting the forklift too far forward or backward, use extreme caution on inclines and ramps, avoid sharp turns, and drive slowly.

2. Getting hit by a forklift: Another way an overloaded forklift could hurt or kill someone is by hitting them. That is, the impact of the heavy forklift running into another worker could lead to injury.

To prevent hitting anyone with the forklift, try not to drive near other workers, follow designated driving routes, obey all safety rules such as speed limits and traffic signs, sound your horn to alert others where you are, and look both ways at intersections.

3. Getting crushed or run over by a forklift: Most forklifts weigh several thousand pounds. As a result, one of the most common causes of forklift deaths is getting crushed by one.

To help prevent this from happening, always wear a seatbelt, never allow workers to ride on the forks or on top of the forklift, stay inside of the operator’s compartment at all times while driving, and always check the route for hazards.

At the end of the day, overloaded forklifts are an unnecessary cause of injury and death. What makes forklift accidents especially tragic is that they are avoidable.

So, don’t let your forklift drivers make reckless mistakes. Train them well and make forklift safety a top priority for your business.


What Should I Do if My Forklift Flips Over?

Did the delicate balancing act between your forklift’s weight capacity and your ambition fall through? Don’t panic. While you may be tempted to jump out of the vehicle, this may not be the best response since you don’t know how the forklift will land. Instead, remain calm and keep your hands firmly on the wheel. Try to position yourself in the opposite direction of the fall and brace yourself for impact. As soon as the forklift has completely fallen over, call for help.

Hopefully, you’re able to exit the vehicle safely and you can report the accident to your supervisors. Otherwise, get emergency responders on the scene as soon as possible and first aid if needed.

Partner with Texas’ Preferred Forklift Provider

Forklifts can be dangerous. But the point of this article is not to scare you from using them. It’s to teach you how to handle them properly so you never experience an accident.

And if you want to invest in large-capacity forklifts that have safety features built-in, HTX Material Handling can help. Contact us today to learn more about buying and renting forklifts in Texas.

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