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What Does a Forklift Driver Do?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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As the job title suggests, a forklift driver operates a forklift, or a small truck used to transport large quantities of material over short distances. Generally, a forklift driver works in an environment which requires frequent transfer of heavy materials, such as a warehouse or a construction site. As this job can pose safety risks, many countries require drivers to obtain certification. Those considering a career as a forklift driver should be aware that the position requires basic physical fitness as well as a tolerance for loud noises, unpleasant weather, and repetition.

A forklift is a fairly small, electric or gas-powered truck consisting primarily of a body which seats one person and which is set upon wheels. At the body’s front are two flat prongs, or “forks,” which can be raised and lowered using controls operated by the driver. A forklift driver inserts the prongs of his machine beneath the materials he needs to lift, which are often stacked on pallets. Once the materials have been securely loaded onto the fork, the operator can drive his machine to the area where the materials are needed. By carefully manipulating the forklift’s controls, the driver can then safely lower and release the materials.

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Generally, a forklift driver works in an environment which requires the ongoing transport of materials over short distances. For instance, if he works for a manufacturing company, he may drive his lift between a warehouse and an adjacent loading dock. If he is employed by a construction firm, he will likely work on building sites, transferring heavy materials like lumber from transport vehicles to the parts of the site where they are needed.

Forklift operation can pose a number of potential safety risks to both the driver and those around him. For example, a lift which is improperly loaded can tip over, and unevenly stacked pallets may fall. In order to minimize workplace accidents, many countries require forklift drivers to obtain certification. To become certified, drivers usually must complete a hands-on course which emphasizes safe lift operation. In many countries, this certification must be renewed every three to five years.

Those considering a career as a forklift driver should be aware that the position requires basic physical fitness. Drivers must be able to climb on and off their lifts easily, and may need to be capable of lifting small loads by hand. Additionally, forklift drivers must be able to tolerate the often-repetitive nature of this position, as well as the loud noises and extreme temperatures found in many warehouse and construction environments.

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