Along with the pallet and conveyor belts, forklifts have revolutionized how we move things. In this day and age, it's possible to move a much larger amount of freight than ever before—even if you use a manual pallet jack, instead of a motorized forklift! Nowadays, the technology is also cheap enough to be accessible to all levels of society—whether it's a massive warehouse or small business start-up just getting the feel of things. However, the task of choosing a new forklift can be a bit daunting with all of the options and variants available on the market today. Here is a list of the most common variants and forms, simplified for your convenience:
Manual Pallet Jacks
These are the shopping cart-sized forklifts found at just about any home-improvement store. They are designed to move large loads over short distances, and they do so rather well for an inexpensive device. However, they are not very well suited for lengthy sessions, due to the unavoidable fatigue inherent in a manually-operated device. They are great to have around to help speed things up, should the main forklift be occupied.
Electric Pallet Jacks
These are essentially a motorized manual pallet jack. These have no driver's cabins, but rather have a small platform for the operator to stand on while the vehicle is in motion. They are very inexpensive, compact, and straightforward to operate.
Counterbalance Forklift trucks
As the name suggests, they place most of the weight at the back of the truck to counterbalance the carried load. These are the most common form of forklift and are considered the archetypal "forklift" as a result. There are versions that use gas, diesel, and electric systems for movement, ensuring that there will be an optimal forklift for various situations. Reinforced driver's cabs, mast-tilt, and many other features are also considered standard.
There are two major versions of the counterbalance forklift truck: the normal four-wheeled version mentioned above, and a three-wheeled version designed to maximize maneuverability. These have a tight turning radius and are perfect for narrow aisles and bottlenecks in warehouses.
These are even further optimized for narrow aisles and maneuverability in cramped working conditions than the classic counterbalance forklift. They usually have a 3-wheel system, with two front wheels offset on struts reaching forwards of the vehicle itself, and the main drive wheel underneath the operator, who sits in a cabin mounted sideways. Some models have a scissor-lift style of mast, which can extend the fork forwards to pick loads up.