The Basic Principles of Forklift Stability

Aug 01 2022 | 2 Min. Read Stability Accidents

Is your forklift like a see-saw?

The basics of forklift stability

Forklifts tend to be narrow (as measured by the track which is the distance between tires on the same axle). The interrelationship of a truck’s track, wheelbase (distance between axles), height, load weight and height, and counterbalance weight will influence its stability.

Too much weight or force in front will cause a front tip-over. If the load’s center of gravity shifts due to a turn or a change in fork height, the truck may tip over to the side.

How a forklift is like a seesaw

Most of us understand how a seesaw or teeter-totter works. The ends of the board move up and down based on the weight and force placed on either end.

A forklift is kind of like this piece of playground equipment. The weight of the load competes with the weight of the counterbalance (engine plus added weight). Just as the seesaw has a pivot point on which it rests, the front wheels are the balance point for a forklift. Too much weight on the forks will cause the truck to tip forward.

The stability triangle

Picture the forklift’s front and rear axles. If you connect the front tires with a line and then draw a line from each front tire to the rear axle pivot point, you’ll create the stability triangle. For accident-free operation of the forklift, the forklift's center of gravity and the load’s center of gravity need to line up in the stability triangle.

Maintaining stability and preventing tip-overs

The key to preventing tip-over accidents is understanding the variables that affect stability.

  • Weight - of the load and the counterbalance
  • Center of gravity - of the load and the forklift itself
  • Height of the load - affects center of gravity
  • Speed of travel - affects center of gravity
  • Cornering - shifts center of gravity

Carefully loading a truck, carrying loads with the forks low and tilted back, raising and lowering loads carefully, and maintaining a reasonable speed will greatly reduce the risk of tip-over accidents.

Trust TrainMOR for forklift operator training

Every operator should understand the basics of forklift stability in order to operate these machines safely.

When it comes to training operators on forklift inspection, operation, and safety, you can rely on TrainMOR. Contact us for information on our Mobile, Memorable, and Measurable training courses—available online, in classroom and on-site.

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