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Forklift Trucks – Where did it all start?

Probably one of the most common pieces of materials handling equipment used around the world, the forklift truck can be found in almost every warehouse and has been around for nearly a century. A forklift truck is a powered truck used to lift and transport materials and is an irreplaceable part of manufacturing and warehouse operations. In this century of development have come the changes that have led to today’s modern forklifts.

Early adaptations

The very first forklift trucks started off as a 2-wheeled hand truck. This eventually became a 4-whelled luggage wagon, often used by the railways. In 1906, the battery-powered truck was developed. This again was to help move luggage around at train stations.

When World War I began it saw the development of numerous types of material handling equipment due to lack of manpower. This included a bomb handling crane with a power lifting mechanism, or what we’d refer to as the first electric forklift truck.

Further improvements

After the First World War during the 1920’s many companies saw the benefits of powered lift machines. They saw potential in producing and selling them to other businesses, which lead to more specialised machines and the development of the standardised pallet in the 1930’s. World War II helped to make the forklift an essential piece of equipment for loading of ships and trucks for the army, and put an end to manual handling with heavy materials.

New heights reached

After the war, and for the next 20 years after that, the development of the forklift truck advanced rapidly with battery powered forklifts becoming more and more common. With a focus now on forklift manoeuvrability and reach height, warehouses began to expand upwards. This led to the development of a newly designed counterbalanced truck, producing the first reach truck. It also saw the creation of new types of forklifts, designed to work in narrow aisles and lift higher than before.

Not only this, but due to the expansion of the different types of machines, improvements were brought in for electric controls and enhanced safety regulations were introduced to improve warehouse standards.

Cesab Drago Forklift

Future developments

The forklift truck market is constantly changing and updating. With more environmental issues becoming a concern for many, improved engines and versatile options to suit your needs are now available. Whether you’re looking for a forklift that can be powered by petrol, diesel, battery or gas, or even a hybrid that runs on diesel and a lithium ion battery, there is plenty to choose from. There are already plans to look into hydrogen fuel cells as a source of power too.

Forklifts have come a long way since the early models, now without a chain or winch in sight, and they have become an indispensable piece of equipment, driven by increasing technology. It will be interesting to see what the future will hold in the way of evolution of the forklift truck…