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A Brief History of Forklifts

February 26, 2014


Before forklifts, manually powered hoists were typically used to lift loads. These hoists were mainly composed of chains and winches. The first platform trucks were essentially hoists that were mounted to a platform with wheels. The first forklift type vehicle was introduced by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1906 for moving luggage at their train station in Altoona, PA. World War I also utilized various lift trucks mainly because of the labor shortage the war had caused.

One of the manufacturers you probably are familiar with today, Clark, started using powered lift tractors to transport material in their factories, and soon after Towmotor Company and Yale Manufacturing joined the mix. Hydraulic power forklifts and electric power forklifts started being developed through the 1920s.

Pallets were not standard sizes until the 1930s, but when this occurred forklifts became much more popular. As warehouse storage became more efficient, the demand for forklifts that could reach higher heights in less space increased. In the 1950s Lansing Bagnall, a British company, developed one of the first narrow aisle electric reach trucks. Narrow aisle forklifts can maneuver and operate in aisle widths that are considerably smaller than what a traditional forklift can operate in. Smaller aisle widths significantly increase storage density, so your facility can fit more inventory in the same amount of space.

The development of safety options became necessary as lift heights and capacities increased. In the 1960s, additional safety features such as overhead guards were added to forklifts to help protect the operator. By the 1990s, forklift emission standards started to be put into place to make emissions from lifts safer for the environment. Today’s modern propane forklifts can be operated indoors because they have very low emission output.

Today, there are a huge selection of different types of forklifts on the market. This may be confusing and overwhelming for new buyers. We would like to put your mind at ease, and we have a dedicated sales team to help do so. We have many different types of high-quality used forklifts in stock, and the know-how to find the perfect fit for you. Feel free to give us a call today, we would be more than happy to provide solutions to your material handling problems.