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Order Pickers, Forklifts, and Reach Trucks: Understanding the Differences

Authored by Derek Rotondi
November 13, 2023

In the world of material handling and warehousing, efficient movement of goods and inventory is essential for productivity and safety. To accomplish this, various types of equipment are used, with order pickers, forklifts, and reach trucks being some of the most common choices. Each of these vehicles serves a unique purpose and comes with its own set of features and advantages. In this blog, we will explore the differences between these three key pieces of equipment.

1.Order Pickers:

Order pickers, often known as order-picking forklifts, are designed for a very specific task: picking items from high storage racks. They are equipped with an elevating platform that allows the operator to reach the desired heights to access products. Unlike traditional forklifts, order pickers are optimized for vertical movement rather than horizontal transportation.

  1. Maneuverability: They are compact and can navigate narrow aisles, making them ideal for high-density storage systems.
  2. Operator Platform: Order pickers have an operator platform that can be raised and lowered, allowing the operator to pick items at various heights.
  3. Safety: To enhance safety, order pickers typically include guardrails and fall protection features to prevent accidents when working at heights.

Order pickers are crucial for operations with high-rack storage systems, such as distribution centers and large warehouses, where efficient order picking is a priority.



Forklifts are the workhorses of the material handling industry. They are designed for transporting heavy loads horizontally, loading and unloading trucks, and moving palletized goods within a warehouse or distribution center. Forklifts come in various types, including counterbalance forklifts, rough terrain forklifts, and more, each tailored to specific environments and needs.

Key features of forklifts:

  1. Lifting Capacity: Forklifts are known for their impressive lifting capacity, making them suitable for moving heavy loads.
  2. Versatility: They can handle a wide range of tasks, from moving pallets to stacking and loading cargo onto trucks.
  3. Counterbalance Design: Many forklifts use a counterbalance design, which eliminates the need for outriggers, allowing them to be used in tight spaces.

Forklifts are versatile and can be found in various industries, including manufacturing, logistics, and construction, where the efficient movement of materials is critical.

3.Reach Trucks:

Reach trucks are specifically designed for tasks that involve reaching into tall storage racks. They are similar in appearance to forklifts but are optimized for working in narrow aisles and lifting loads to significant heights. The distinguishing feature of reach trucks is their ability to extend their forks forward and reach into deep storage locations.

Key features of reach trucks

  1. Mast Extension: Reach trucks have a telescoping mast that extends the forks into the rack, allowing them to access goods in tight spaces.
  2. Narrow Aisle Operation: They are excellent for operations with limited aisle space, maximizing storage capacity.
  3. High Lift Capabilities: Reach trucks are built to reach heights that other equipment, like standard forklifts, cannot easily access.

Reach trucks are commonly used in warehouses with high-density storage, making them perfect for optimizing storage space and retrieval of products.

In summary, the key differences between order pickers, forklifts, and reach trucks lie in their primary functions, design, and suitability for different types of tasks and environments. Order pickers are best for picking items from high storage racks, forklifts excel at horizontal transportation and loading/unloading, and reach trucks are ideal for reaching deep into tall storage racks in narrow aisles. Choosing the right equipment for your operation depends on your specific needs and the nature of the tasks at hand.