Forklift vs Fork Truck

If you work in construction or are often around people who utilize large pieces of machinery, you may have heard them throw around the words “forklift”, “fork truck, or “lift truck”.

The question that a lot of people have is: are these material handling trucks the same thing?

Forklift vs Fork Truck Quick Answer: Forklifts and fork trucks (often referred to as lift trucks), are pretty much interchangeable when it comes to reach trucks. If you were to use the term “lift truck” to describe the majority of these industrial vehicles, you would be safer, as not all of these industrial vehicles come complete with forks.

Understanding The Different Types Forklifts and Forklift Trucks

If you are discussing the matter with someone who is extremely technical, your best term choice would be “lift truck" instead of forklift. Now that you have a basic understanding of the overarching terminology, let’s explore the realm of forklifts and lift trucks to see how they are classified. 

(Fork truck is on the left, forklift is on the right)

Fork Truck vs Forklift

There are seven different classifications when it comes to forklifts or lift trucks. The classifications are given to the vehicles depending on how much they are able to handle.

Here are the seven different forklift or lift truck classifications:

  • Class I: Electric motor rider lift trucks
  • Class II: Electric motor narrow aisle trucks
  • Class III: Electric motor hand trucks
  • Class IV: Internal combustion engine, cushion-tired trucks
  • Class V: Internal combustion, trucks with pneumatic tires
  • Class VI: Electric motor/internal combustion engine tractors
  • Class VII: Rough terrain trucks

Elements of a Forklift or Forklift Truck

Due to their unique design, forklifts and forklift trucks have the ability to carry a large amount of weight. Lift capacity, load center, and stability are the key elements that one must look at when seeking out either one of these pieces of machinery. They are great for indoor use and narrow aisle use, though not the best for rough terrain.

Lift Capacity

The material handling weight of a forklift is known as the lift capacity. The forklift stability is greatly impacted by the lift capacity as well, as a forklift that is carrying too much weight is not considered stable.

Load Center

The distance from the forks to the load’s center of gravity is known as the load center. The load center depends on a few variables, including the lift angle, tilt angle, and weight of the load. The load center is not a massive consideration, as long as you pay close attention to the weight capacity. 


Look under the forklift to find the stability triangle. This stability triangle maintains the forklift or lift truck’s center of gravity, which worries about the load center for you.

Bottom Life

A forklift and a forklift truck are the same things. Of course, if you work in the industry and want to be more technical, we would recommend using the term “lift truck”.

Tim Postlethwaite

Tim Postlethwaite // Staff Writer