The most common type of forklift is the counterbalance forklift. The counterbalance forklift’s name comes from the heavy weight attached to the back that offsets weight when carrying a load. If your employees are new to the counterbalance forklift, it’s essential to have them follow our guide on everything you need to know about counterbalance forklifts.
What Is a Counterbalance Forklift?
The counterbalance forklift gets its name from the weight attached to the rear that offsets the load placed on the forks. Without this weight, the forklift would become unbalanced and could tip over from the added weight on the divisions.
A counterbalance forklift has forks attached at the front that protrude out in front of the machine, but they don’t have outrigger legs and arms to steady the forklift. In other words, when transporting from one spot to the next, you can drive up close to the exact place where your load or racking is located. For those trucks that have stability arms, as in the case of a reach truck, the forks must extend past the stabilizer bars in order to pick up or place the loads.
What’s the Difference Between Gas and Electric Counterbalance Forklifts?
The greatest thing for a worker to note is that propane gas and electric-powered counterbalance forklifts look the same, but there are plenty of differences between the two. For instance, consistent power—the power you start the shift with—will not waver or decrease as time goes on. Then again, the electric counterbalance forklifts won’t emit fumes, and on-site fuel storage is not required. Here’s more on both types of counterbalance forklifts.
The Propane Counterbalance Forklift
Propane counterbalance forklifts work better for long shifts; they don’t need to charge for hours at a time and can move faster than an electric counterbalance forklift. Here are some elements of the propane counterbalance forklift:
- They can be used both indoors and outdoors
- They are faster and easier to refuel
- Forklift maintenance is more demanding
- It’s commonly used with attachments like roll and box clamps
- It has an inching pedal option that can disengage the transmission
- There’s an exhaust which gives off fumes.
The Electric Counterbalance Forklift
There are four critical differences between an electric and propane-powered counterbalance forklift that your employees should learn. For starters, the electric lift is better to use around food, as the harmful chemicals that propane forklifts emit can harm the food, even when it’s packaged.
Also, after clocking out for the day, you can charge forklifts overnight. If you need to use the electric forklift for extra shifts, it’s recommended to buy extra batteries so that you can alternate between them easily. Another option for multiple shifts is going with quick charge or an opportunity charging battery system.
Electric counterbalance forklifts are also quieter, and they won’t ventilate harmful chemicals into the air. Although there’s no inching brake on the electric counterbalance forklift, if you take your foot off the accelerator, then the forklift stops moving.
Here are some more details about the electric forklift:
- The electric version commonly has three hydraulic levers, which lift and lower your load, tilt the load, and even shift loads from one side to another. Although not as common, a fourth lever option can be ordered, which allows operators to position the forks without leaving the operator compartment.
- Instead of a foot pedal, the electric forklift has an emergency brake that you can pull with your hand.
- The great thing about electric forklifts is that they have display panels that give you the necessary information, including how much life’s left in the battery and how long the forklift has been operating that day.
- The battery can weigh anywhere from 1,000 pounds to 4,000 pounds, depending on the type of forklift. The battery not only powers the forklift but also acts as the counterweight, which helps the forklift balance as loads get placed onto it.
The Three-Wheel Electric Counterbalance Forklift
The electric counterbalance forklift also has a version that has three wheels attached. This type of forklift is perfect when you need to get into tight spaces, and they’re better able to move than a four-wheeled forklift. For example, a three-wheeled forklift has a 4′ 10″ outside turning radius, while a four-wheeled forklift needs a 5′ 5″ outside turning radius.
The Working Areas of a Counterbalance Forklift
A counterbalance forklift can work indoors and outdoors as long as it has the proper tires. For example, if a forklift is exclusively working inside, you may want to choose a tire type that won’t leave any markings on the floor.
While outdoors, the counterbalance forklift needs pneumatic tires that are long-lasting, heavy-duty, and able to withstand harsh conditions. As long as the wheels have robust rubber tires, they can do work while outside.
Counterbalance Forklifts in Different Industries
The counterbalance forklift can work inside or outside, but it’s the best forklift when working inside. You can find counterbalance forklifts in the medicine production industry and the food and beverage storage industry. When working with medicine production, everything needs to be stored in specific temperatures.
The electric is preferred for the food and beverage industry since no gas emits from the machines. As long as there’s no gas, no food or beverages become tainted during transportation from one end to another.
Should You Buy or Rent a Counterbalance Forklift?
If you’re not familiar with a machine or unsure if you need one, many times, it’s a better idea to rent a forklift before you go and buy one. Many businesses buy brand-new equipment without researching to determine if they truly need a counterbalance forklift for their warehouse. Many times, forklift dealerships will come out to your place of business and perform an assessment of needs. They can offer suggestions and/or insights based on your material flow needs that you may not immediately be aware of.
However, if you don’t want to rent, you can also purchase a used counterbalance forklift at a reasonable price. Right before buying, research local dealers and opt for the one that offers forklifts at an affordable price with the features you will need most.
As you get to know the counterbalance forklift, our guide on everything you need to know about counterbalance forklifts can help you teach and allow for a basic understanding of the forklift. For all of your forklift training needs, reach out to First Quality Forklift Training, LLC for enhanced training programs that will help train your operators to become certified counterbalance forklift operators.