What Is a Rough Terrain Forklift?

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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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A rough terrain forklift is a piece of equipment used to lift or hoist materials over a surface that's unstable, rocky, or otherwise tough to navigate. While it shares many characteristics with a standard forklift, the rough terrain forklift is primarily used outdoors, rather than in a warehouse or factory. These forklifts typically incorporate special features, including heavier construction and rugged tires that make them easier and safer to operate over rough terrain.

These lifts can be found on many types of outdoor sites. On a construction site, they may be used to hoist materials onto the roof or other floors of a building. They can also unload supplies or materials from a truck and transport them to the site of an oil rig or road construction site. The military relies on these vehicles to carry goods on bases and camps. A rough terrain forklift is also commonly found at ranches and farms.

These units come in two basic configurations, which are designed to handle different types of loads and lifting operations. The most common is the vertical mast, which closely resembles an indoor forklift. It features a vertical support located in front of the driver, with tines that extend out parallel to the ground. For greater flexibility, buyers may choose a variable reach lift, which features a telescoping boom. This boom allows the operator to lift materials over obstacles or obstructions.


Compared to a standard forklift, a rough terrain forklift typically features a much sturdier heavy-duty construction. These units must be capable of withstanding outdoor elements like rain, wind, and even corrosive materials. They often are made of galvanized steel or even composite materials that are better able to hold up against moisture than regular steel. The stronger frame may also allow these machines to lift heavier loads, and to hoist them higher than a traditional forklift.

The rough terrain forklift also features special tires to maximize traction and stability over uneven or rough terrain. The tires are large and knobby, which allows them to grip the soil and travel over obstacles. They also feature reinforcement to prevent punctures or damage from rocks and other materials. The larger tires also help to prevent the lift from sinking into loose or soft soil, and allow it to pass over sloped or unstable areas more safely then smaller tires. Many of these machines incorporate front or four wheel drive to enhance maneuverability and to allow operators to handle almost any terrain.


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