How Hard is it to Drive a Forklift?

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Operating a forklift seems pretty straightforward. Just hop in the cab, grab those levers, and zoom off lifting pallets. However, handling several tonnes of machinery and cargo requires proper forklift training and responsibility. So how hard is it actually to drive a forklift?

What Makes Driving Forklifts Challenging?

While basic functions like accelerating, braking, and steering mimic a car, several key factors make safely operating forklifts more complex:

Visibility Restrictions

Forklift cabs sit quite high off the ground. Yet all that metal framing around you creates significant blind spots. Forklift operators must constantly check mirrors and twist in their seat when moving and especially turning to spot pedestrians and objects in their path.

Additional Controls

There are extra levers and pedals for lifting, tilting, and side-shifting the forks. Coordinating these hydraulic controls with driving takes practice to become intuitive. For example, tilting a raised load forward or back too quickly can cause instability.

Weight and Load Factors

Unlike cars, forklifts don’t have suspension systems. So they react harshly to uneven surfaces, holes, and speed bumps. Failure to adjust driving technique based on load size, height, and surface conditions multiplies accident risks.

Safety Standards

Strict protocols govern everything from pre-checks, load balancing, right-of-way, and speed limits. Forgetting critical rules or momentary lapses in concentration can endanger workers and damage infrastructure costing thousands of pounds.

Why Forklift Training is Essential

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), one-third of all forklift-related accidents result from inadequate training. That’s why the law mandates that operators complete accredited courses before unsupervised use.

Proper instruction equips you with the skills to mitigate risks, such as:

  • Correctly judging load capacities and lift heights
  • Using attachments like carton clamps safely
  • Ascending and descending ramps at an angle
  • Responding appropriately to hazards
  • Conducting thorough pre-operation inspections

Without formal forklift licence training, both individuals and employers face substantial fines and lawsuits for non-compliance.

Forklift Training Options

In-house Training

Larger companies often have internal forklift driving schools to induct new operators efficiently. However, quality varies wildly depending on the instructor’s competency and course content.

RTITB Courses

Most independent forklift training centres base their syllabi on the RTITB (Road Transport Industry Training Board) structure endorsed by authorities like the HSE. RTITB-approved programmes like those offered by TAG Forklifts teach indispensable defensive driving principles tailored to forklifts.

The RTITB’s systematic approach develops key skills through a blend of theory, practical exercises, and evaluations ensuring you can apply what you’ve learned.

Types of RTITB Forklift Licences

RTITB classifies forklifts by load capacity and mast type. Common licences include:

  • CAT B1 – For counterbalance forklifts handling loads under 5 tonnes
  • CAT B2 – For larger capacity counterbalance forklifts up to 10 tonnes
  • CAT D1 – For deep-reach trucks with 3-8 metre masts lifting 5-tonne loads or less

At TAG Forklifts, our expert instructors leverage a fleet of training-oriented forklifts to coach operators to the highest RTITB standards across all licence categories.

Next Steps: Learn to Drive Forklifts Safely

Driving a forklift requires considerable responsibility – but proper instruction builds confidence and sound judgement. To undergo accredited RTITB training contact TAG Forklifts in Manchester on 0161 848 0555. Or email to learn more about the licence categories we offer and upcoming course dates.