Forklift Safety | Vancouver, BC, Canada

by Scott McLeod

Everything You Need To Know About Forklift Capacity Ratings

Forklift capacity ratings are often misunderstood by forklift owners, operators and surprisingly, many forklift salespeople.

There are basically two types of capacity ratings.

The first rating is the gross chassis capacity rating that typically states the highest possible capacity that a particular forklift could achieve if conditions were ideal. For example, attachments such as a side shift would not be installed, the load would not be elevated but instead would be kept close to the ground, typically a (2) stage mast would be used instead of the more common (3) stage mast, solid rubber tires are chosen instead of air filled tires and so on. The gross capacity rating is set by the manufacturer based on either a 24” load center ( most common ) or a 48” load center ( less common ). The gross capacity rating should only be used to compare one brand of forklift to the next. It should never be used to determine the forklift’s lifting capability because in the real world, no one ever configures the forklift this way.

The second rating is the net chassis capacity rating ( or payload capacity rating ) and it is the most important rating to be aware of. The net chassis capacity rating takes into account all of the options and specifications chosen on a particular lift truck to arrive at the forklift’s ability to lift weight, given these specifications. As well, this rating will reflect the payload capacity of the forklift at the highest possible lifting height given the style of mast chosen.

So what does all of this mean?
Forklift Safely lifting load
When asking a forklift dealership for a quotation on a new or used forklift truck, don’t ask them, for example, to quote on a 5,000 lb. capacity forklift. When you phrase it this way to a forklift salesperson, they think you want a 5,000 lb. gross chassis capacity forklift.

Instead, take the time to tell them about the types of loads you carry, how much they weigh, whether the loads are spread evenly across the blade of the forks, how high you need to lift these loads and whether you are planning to carry different types of products with different weights and sizes sometime in the future. From this information, let the dealer select the gross chassis capacity forklift that will provide you with safe net chassis capacity ratings at various load centers and lifting heights in your facility. This way, you’ll have a greater chance of finding the right lift truck to do the job safely.

Separately, please be aware that a 5,000 lb. gross chassis capacity forklift manufactured today will likely handle less payload weight than a 5,000 lb. gross chassis capacity forklift manufactured 25 years ago. Even if the capacity data plates from these two different trucks are stamped with the same ratings, the safety margins designed into the forklift from 30 years ago were likely greater than they are today and therefore the older forklift will actually lift more weight. If the operator is familiar with the older truck, he could find himself in a precarious position soon after climbing on the newer truck. I hear this all the time in the field from forklift operators where they notice a big difference between two trucks that have equal gross chassis capacity ratings.

Unless you spend the time to better understand the weights and sizes of the loads you are handling, you can expect a degree of risk that an operator will have an accident with his forklift because he made too many assumptions, either about the weights he was handling or the forklift’s ability to handle the weight.

What is the solution?

The installation of forklift scales should be mandatory on all forklifts.

As well, discussions centered around topics such as these should be on the agenda at regular safety meetings to help educate forklift operators about the limitations of the lift truck. These discussions will also help operators properly assess whether the load they are handling can be handled safely with the lift truck they are driving.

Of course, forklift operator training, to meet the requirements of the safety organization in your area, should be completed before any operator is allowed to drive a forklift truck at your company.

Need more information?

Feel free to contact Scott McLeod, President of Fleetman Consulting Inc., by calling (604) 614-3530.

Posted in: Forklift Fleet Management, Forklift Safety, New Forklifts, Used Forklifts