In the first of a new series of articles, Ross Grassick of Lencrow Materials Handling defines the various classes of equipment that are commonly used in Australia and explains their safe and legal use.

Powered pallet jacks

Powered pallet jacks are used for transporting of pallets from one place to another. The units employ batteries for drive and lift. These units are much more ergonomical than manually operated units. They come in a number of different designs to suit a variety of applications.

The most common is the standard walk-behind unit. These have capacities from 1500 to 3000kg and are made to suit standard pallets. They have hydraulic lift and lower by means of buttons on the handle. The drive is operated by a twist throttle on the handle, and the brakes are operated by lowering or raising the handle.

These are also available in a mini version that weighs only 420kg, but lifts 1300kg. This type of unit perfect for use in the back of trucks and delivery vehicles, or as a light-duty unit in shops or factory outlets.

Tip: A powered pallet jack can be used by any staff member as it does not require a licence - only that the operator has received instruction on safety and unit operation.

Some of these units used in distribution facilities have the facility for the operator to ride on or in the unit. There are four types: the “platform rider”, which has a fold-down platform on which the operator stands; the “end rider”, where the operator stands on a fixed platform; the “centre rider”, in which the driver stands on a platform between the load and the power unit; and the “ride in” unit, which has a rear stand up control where the operator stands and steers by means of steering wheel.

Some ride-on units are available in double length. This enables them to carry two pallets at a time, one behind the other.

Important considerations when choosing a powered pallet jack are:

1. The weight of the load
2. The surface and distance over which it will be used
3. The hours of operation required per shift.

Pedestrian forklifts

Pedestrian forklifts are designed for use on smooth level floors, and powered units are fitted with brakes. They can be used by all staff members as they do not require a licence - only that the operator has received instruction on safety and unit operation.

Pedestrian stackers

Pedestrian stackers are available with capacities up to 1500kg and many lift heights. All stackers have outrigger legs between which the load is lifted. The units have power drive and some come in push. The units also have low duty and high duty battery options depending on operational needs. Most of these units only have a lift function.

Pedestrian reach trucks

Pedestrian reach trucks are the most versatile type of pedestrian forklift and come in a large range of configurations of mast lift heights, with the most common capacity being 1500kg. The unit has the ability to reach the load forward of the outrigger legs, enabling goods to be stacked on docks or block type stacking. The units all come with traction batteries for heavier duty operation and have lift, reach and tilt functions and options of side shift.
Counterbalanced stackers

A counterbalanced stacker comprises a power drive unit with the forks in front of the unit. It can block or dock stack. With capacities to 2000kg and many lift heights, the only disadvantage is the length. Being counterbalanced, the unit is longer and requires more room to turn. These units all come with traction batteries and lift and tilt as standard.

Important considerations when choosing a pedestrian forklift are:

1. The weight and size of loads
2. The lift height required and headroom in which the unit will work
3. The type and condition of the floor
4. The hours of operation required.

Internal combustion forklifts

Internal combustion forklifts come in a huge range of specifications, all tailored for different applications. A few of these are detailed below, but it is always worth having your premises evaluated by a trained consultant to ensure any equipment purchased is fit for its purpose.

TIP: It is a Workcover requirement that all forklift drivers are fully trained and licensed. There are hefty fines for noncompliance.


Counterbalanced: (standard) conventional design for everyday use where space is not an issue, can be used on most surfaces.

Stubby: as above, but where space is limited this has a smaller turning circle, allowing aisles to be narrower and making more use of available space. These units are only available with limited capacities.


Two stage: as the name suggests, this mast has two stages of lift, and is ideal when there are no height restrictions. This is a less expensive option, with the added advantage of easy vision of the load through the mast

Three stage: provides the ability to reach the desired height, with the added advantage of a lower collapsed height, allowing access to areas that may not be accessed with a standard two-stage mast.

Container mast: this is a three-stage mast that collapses low enough to allow the forklift to be driven into a container for loading and unloading. The maximum lift height for this type of mast is 4700mm.

TIP: The nominal lifting capacity of any forklift is derated with lifting height.


Petrol: Easy to use and readily available – for outdoor use.

LPG: Easy to use and readily available – for outdoor use.

Dual fuel: using either petrol and LPG, or petrol and CNG. As above, with option of longer run and emergency reserve.

Diesel: Ideal for sites with their own supply, offering lower running costs, for outdoor use only. Diesel units are also available in flameproof configurations for dangerous goods and flammable conditions.


Pneumatic: The best option for areas that may be rough or uneven, with the ability to provide a little give and smoother ride. These tyres can, however, be subject to bounce with a heavy load on board.

Puncture proof: These are ideal for use in situations where the ground surface is in good condition. They are long lasting, and can be regrooved, but are not as forgiving over rough surfaces.

Cushion tyres: A narrow band of rubber is welded to a larger diameter steel rim, providing very stable load holding at heights.

When enquiring about a forklift suitable for your application, the following information is essential to ensure the correct equipment is quoted:

1. Weight and size of load
2. Lift height required
3. Headroom restrictions, eg mezzanine floors, low doorways, entering shipping containers for loading/unloading.

Battery electric forklifts

Battery electric forklifts are generally used for internal warehousing, cold storage and hazardous areas. The advantage of using battery electric units is that there are no harmful fumes, there is minimal noise, and they have lower running costs.

These units are available in an abundance of styles and specifications, all with unique advantages. The basic differences are covered below, but for a more in-depth introduction to these units please contact one of our fully trained consultants.

TIP: It is a Workcover requirement that all forklift drivers are fully trained and licensed. There are hefty fines for noncompliance.

Reach trucks

These units are available as either stand-up or sit-down models. The mast on these units reaches forward to retract with the load: this design allows for aisles to be quite narrow, allowing the number of pallet bays to be maximised. These units should only be used on level, smooth, hard surfaces.

Pantographic reach trucks

These units are generally the same as reach trucks, except the mast has a pantograph section that scissors in and out, allowing for even narrower aisles and greater warehouse productivity.

Counterbalanced battery electric forklifts

These are the fastest moving of the battery electric forklifts, and ideal to replace internal combustion forklifts where fumes can create a problem. These units come in both three- and four-wheel configurations. Three-wheel trucks have a narrower turning radius, whereas the four-wheel configuration is better for heavier loads.

Multidirectional reach trucks

These units are particularly productive when required to operate in very narrow aisles or other confined areas handling long loads.

Turret trucks

These units possess a unique turret head that is able to pivot to 90 degrees. The turret truck offers a high capacity for very narrow aisles, increasing warehouse capacity and productivity.

Order pickers

These units come in two styles: low level and high level. The low-level order picker is highly versatile for first and second level pick heights. The high-level order picker (see turret trucks) is ideal for vertical picking tasks, reaching up into the warehouse to prepare orders.

TIP: Contact Workcover to ensure the driver has the correct licence for an order picker, as some of these units require special licences.

When enquiring about a forklift suitable for your application, the following information is essential to ensure the correct equipment is quoted:

1. Capacity required both at base and full lift height
2. Size of load
3. Lift height required
4. Collapsed height restrictions
5. Type of racking
6. Aisle width
7. Daily operating hours
8. Ambient temperature.

Lencrow Materials Handling
1300 536 276



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