Understanding the Capacity of a Forklift

Knowing your Forklift’s Capacity

How do you know what capacity of forklift will fit your company’s needs and do the job safely?  If you need to lift a 5.000 lb load, a 5,000 lb forklift will do, right?  ….  Not likely.  There are many factors that can change the capacity rating a forklift.

Capacity ratings on forklifts can vary tremendously compared to what may be stamped on data plate or what size load you are actually lifting.  Capacity ratings can be often misunderstood by forklift owners, operators, and often times many salespeople.

Gross Capacity of a Forklift

The gross capacity of a forklift is what a forklift is rated for with the base chassis.  The gross capacity only gives a capacity up to a specified height, without any options and if all conditions were ideal.  Adding attachments, such as sideshifts or fork positioners can alter the capacity rating of the forklift significantly.  The capacity that a forklift can safely lift will also change if the load width or length changes from the rated load center on the data plate (standard 48” load ).  Forklift manufactures typically use a 24” load center (also known as the horizontal and vertical center of gravity of the load) for the base rating of a forklift.  The base capacity rating of a forklift should only be used to compare one manufacture’s forklift to another.

Net Capacity of a Forklift

The net capacity (also known as a payload capacity) of a forklift is more specific to each individual forklift.  The net rating takes into account all of the options of the individual forklift, such as any attachments and the model and height of the mast.  Remember, the higher you lift and the larger the load, the lower the net capacity of the forklift will be.

Do you currently own an older forklift and are looking to replace it with the same specifications?  Be prepared, new trucks today most likely will not have the same ability to lift as their older counterparts.  There are many miscellaneous items that will quickly change the gross capacity of a forklift such as tire choice (cushion tire, air pneumatic, or solid pneumatic tires), flat ground versus uneven terrain versus incline or ramps, and even the degree in which the mast can tilt forward or backward.

To correctly identify the capacity of forklift that would be safe in your operation, it would be best if the dealer representative could evaluate how the forklift will be used in your operation.  Some of the items a dealer representative will look for are:  What types of loads the forklift will carry, what the length/width and height the load is, what the load weight is, if  the loads are evenly distributed, how high the loads need to be lifted, will your operation need an attachment, what type of floor  or surface conditions will the forklift drive on, etc?

Here at Quality Lift Trucks, we have experienced fleet management experts and representatives that understand the equipment in the industry, will help you with the specifications for your operation.  We will ensure we understand your application and the bigger picture on how to integrate the forklift truck for maximum safety, productivity and lowest cost of ownership.  We will help you make buying a forklift as easy as possible.


For more information, please call us at (619) 425-1640.