Forklift Operator | My Forklift Jobs

What Does A Forklift Operator Do?

A forklift is a type of industrial vehicle named after the large fork-like attachment located in the front of the vehicle. The fork can rotate and is used to move large, heavy objects by an forklift operator. The basic use of a forklift is in factories, warehouses, manufacturing facilities and loading docks where moving and lifting large cargo is an integral part of the business’s operations.

A forklift operator uses the forklift to move, find, migrate, stack and check stock around warehouses, stockrooms, stockpiling yards, production lines, construction sites and many other job sites. He is responsible for operating the forklift safely and maintaining productive activity during each shift. Some forklift operators job responsibilities also include filling orders, quality control, and handling the logistics of the job site.

In general, forklift operators responsibilities vary with the primary function of safely operating the forklift according to OSHA standards and employer policies and procedures.

Work Environment

Forklift operators drive forklifts around the job site to move materials from point A to point B which sometimes includes various drop-off and pick-up points.

Overall, operating a forklift is straight forward. One of the most important things to keep in mind when looking at forklift jobs is to be prepared to move items that cannot be lifted by the forklift. Being able to lift up at least 40 pounds is a standard requirement. You’ll also need to be physically capable of bending, stooping, or squatting as needed.  

Here are few other standard requirements that may be in a forklift operator’s job description:

  • Required to be outside in various extreme temperatures and weather conditions
  • May be around various materials and environments including: exhaust, smells, loud sounds or chemicals.
  • Most forklift drivers work 8 hour (or more) shifts, yet that doesn’t mean the activity is a nine-to-fiver. If clients are located near the job site, most forklift work is scheduled after hours to avoid disruption to daily business transactions.  Alternatively, in a 24-hour distribution center, forklift jobs can be worked around the clock. 
  • Forklift operators may likewise be responsible for performing essential maintenance on their vehicle such as keeping the vehicle’s joints greased up.


OSHA’s Powered Industrial Truck Standard, 29 CFR 1910.178, contains requirements for forklift design and construction, operator training, truck operations, and maintenance. Employers are required to abide by these rules and regulations to ensure forklift operation safety at all times.

All forklift operators in the United States are required to obtain a forklift certification or license prior to operating a forklift. This assures that each forklift driver is operating the vehicle in the utmost safest manner possible.  While there have been many forklift accidents, the accidents  can be avoided for the most part by watching and learning safety practices, methodology and remaining alert on the job.

In general, forklift operators must be continually watchful and mindful of their surroundings to guard themselves and their associates from mishaps.

Types of Work

Forklift operators are essentially in charge of driving forklifts and moving loads as required per job site operations and supervisor or manager requests. The types of work can include:

  • Stacking and emptying palates, trucks, ships, shelves and other storage areas
  • Loading and unloading cargo and freight in trains, rigs and airplanes
  • Emptying inbound shipments securely and moving items and cargos to capacity areas
  • Stacking and putting away stock in designated areas of delivery and pick up
  • Guaranteeing whether outbound and inbound shipments are precise and free of any damage
  • Detailed reporting for quantity variations or differences
  • Pulling and getting ready items for shipment, guaranteeing that the correct number and sort of item is stacked and delivered
  • Productively moving items from capacity territories into rail, autos or trailers
  • Stacking, emptying, moving, loading of various materials
  • Utilizing radio gear to communicate with associates and team members
  • Examining and performing minor support on the forklift or other hardware
  • Keeping proper records and reports to ensure that tight stock control and security are maintained
  • Assisting with physical inventories

Cargo and materials to be moved is commonly stacked onto beds, which are typically notched particularly for the fork’s prongs making stacking and emptying genuinely simple. Sometimes, heavy items or items that have an arbitrary shape are difficult to stack on the pallet. During such cases, a unique fork lift known as the front forklift  is used to move them.

Wages & Salary

Forklift salary varies from employer to employer and state to state. Wages are determined based on several external factors such as company pay scales and experience.

The average salary for forklift drivers settles around $15-$20 an hour in the United States. The experience of the forklift operator dramatically affects the offered wage or salary.  

In May 2018, Glassdoor reports that the average base salary of a forklift driver in the United States is $29,661. Forklift operators entering the industry can expect to make around $26,358, while operators with more than 15 years experience will make a base salary of $30,198.


All in all, forklift operators have abundant opportunities for career growth and development. Some forklift operators utilize the job to gain industry experience, while others use it as a career stepping stone into managerial or logistical operation positions. Potential and work ethic is what drives success as a forklift operator as well as commitment to professionalism and safety. 

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