The forklift truck as we’ve come to know it evolved in the 1960s, but primitive forms of these most useful of warehouse vehicles have been used since the early 20th century. Forklift trucks powered by batteries were introduced back in 1906, and they gained popularity during World War One, as they were used to handle and transport bulky and heavy war materials.

Wars tend to cause Labour Shortages 

The men are out fighting the war, and of course not all of them return. A fall in the workforce during the First World War was another reason for the adoption and development of the forklift truck in the 1920s and 1930s. The Second World War also provided an arena for these machines to show off their uses.

These trucks aren’t going anywhere, and they’ll be in use long after our oil reserves have gone, which is why we’re working on hydrogen cell-powered trucks. We’ve already had propane, electric and compressed natural gas-powered forklift trucks.

Forklift truck mishaps account for up to 10 per cent of workplace accidents. These vehicles can travel at speeds of up to 8mph, but if they’re being driven in areas where there are people on foot, they mustn’t travel any faster than 3mph. Speed – especially when going around corners – is a major cause of forklift truck accidents, as they can tip over all too easily. It’s actually safer to stay seated in a forklift truck if it starts to tip over, just make sure you’re strapped in.

As if this isn’t Clumsy Enough 

Consider the poor Miller beer warehouse worker in Wisconsin who got fired after a newspaper featured a photo of him drinking a bottle of Bud Light!

From clumsy to nifty now;the Sidewinder forklift truck moves around on a several sets of rollers that can change direction, enabling the truck to – you guessed it – move in any direction. The Sidewinder can get a 40-foot long beam through a narrow doorway by going though it sideways. It can also roll over small obstacles – up to 3 inches in height – that would fox a regular truck.

There’s actually no such thing as a UK forklift truck licence. Employers are, however, required to ensure that the driver has been properly trained before setting off for a day’s work. There are six accrediting authorities in the UK, and employers should make sure a driver has a recent certificate from one of more of them. Hitec Forklift Trucks offer UK-accepted training courses that cover most of the Home Counties.

In all heavy work environments, safety is first, and all employees and employers should bear this in mind at all times. A good way to promote safe handling and work practices is to have contests, and forklift skills contests – sometimes known as rodeos – are surprisingly common all over the world, especially in Canada and the US. Most involve a written part, and the second part is when contestants try to get their truck through a demanding course as safely and as quickly as possible.