What Factors Affect a Forklift's Lifting Capacity?

When choosing a lift truck, having sufficient lifting capacity to safely handle your heaviest load should be one of the first and most important factors in making your choice. Today’s forklifts have capacity ranges from 2,500 to 110,000 lbs. based on chassis design, but this is far from the only influencing factor.

When investing in a forklift, you should consider where you’ll use it and the type of load it will handle. However, variables like the center of gravity, special attachments, weight distribution, and tire types can also affect a forklift’s lifting capacity. Let’s take a closer look at what affects your vehicle’s potential load.

Are you considering a forklift for your operation? These factors can affect the forklift lifting capacity of your lift truck. #HTXMaterialHandling Click To Tweet

Forklift’s Center of Gravity

Forklifts have an invisible balancing envelope called a stability triangle, or more accurately, a stability ‘pyramid’, which becomes critically important when carrying and raising a load. The center of gravity always lies within the pyramid when the forklift is at rest, but invisibly shifts when the truck moves or lifts a load. A load’s width, length, height, and weight distribution can also shift the center of gravity and affect how much net capacity your forklift is capable of. Unsurprisingly, an unstable center of gravity makes your forklift vulnerable to tipping over and drastically reduces its lifting capacity. If the center of gravity ever moves outside of the stability pyramid, a tip-over is imminent.

Extra Equipment

Many users often add special attachments to forklifts to suit their operational needs. While this additional equipment can be quite helpful, remember that every attachment decreases your capacity and potentially shifts the center of gravity as well. Attachment weight counts toward your forklift’s total load capacity and may mean you’ll have to stick to smaller loads or increase the base capacity of your truck.

Pro Tip: Locate the data plate on your forklift’s attachment to determine its correct lifting capacity. With this data, you can safely calculate your forklift’s net capacity.

Type of Tires

A forklift’s tire type, size, and tread width can also influence the truck’s lifting capacity. Cushion and pneumatic tires (solid or air-filled) have different load limits. Forklifts with cushion tires tend to have better capacity retention than those with pneumatic tires, but are also limited in where they can travel. Generally speaking, improved surfaces only.

Forklifts with dual tire configurations usually have higher lifting capacities than trucks with single tire configurations. Similarly, tires with wider treads tend to increase the forklift’s overall weight capacity because such tires create a broader stance to improve the truck’s stability pyramid. Which tires work better for your application?

Choosing the Best Forklift for You

When considering a forklift for your operation, check the forklift capacity plate to see if its lifting limits match your needs. Additionally, remember that factors like tire type and attachments can also affect the rated load capacity. By considering these factors, you can be well on your way to choosing an appropriate lift truck for your particular need.

Contact us to learn more about safe material handling and vehicle care.