Free Forklift Certification

If you're looking to train as a forklift operator there is certainly no shortage of providers to choose from. Between online and in-person training and the various "free" offers, how are you supposed to choose the right forklift operator training course?

The most important thing is to make sure your training and certification is Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliant. Otherwise, you can't use it to seek employment operating a forklift. Beyond that, there are various factors to consider in making the decision.

Here's a handy guide on what to look for in free forklift certification and key information about the best providers available.



Why Must Forklift Operators Be Certified?

Forklifts are not generally driven on public roads and are never allowed to carry passengers, so why does a forklift operator need to be certified by OSHA?

Forklifts are dangerous machines, even more so than you might imagine.

Limited driver visibility, balance issues caused by heavy loads or high speeds, and the sheer size and weight of some industrial forklifts contribute to the hazards of operating a forklift.

Why Must Forklift Operators Be Certified

In the USA alone there are around 100,000 injuries and 80-100 deaths from accidents involving forklift trucks. To put this into context, forklift accidents account for around 17% of all workplace fatalities in the USA and 90% of all forklifts will be involved in an accident at some point during their service life.

These statistics are despite the regulations on forklift certification and forklift safety. If drivers were allowed to work without robust forklift training, the number of forklift accidents leading to serious injury and/or fatality, as well as the cost of damage to property, would be much higher.

Free Vs Paid: Is There A Catch For "Free"?

You can learn about forklift safety, operating a forklift, forklift operator checklists, etc. from a free training provider online, so why would you choose to purchase a paid service? Turns out the answer is simple, it all comes back to compliance with those all-important OSHA regulations.

Online providers who offer their services for free may be providing resources that look impressive, but they are not guaranteed to fulfill the requirements of OSHA certification for powered industrial truck operators. Even if there is an official-looking certificate you can download and print after completion, this will often not stand up to official scrutiny. If a paid service claims to be OSHA compliant, the candidate has recourse if their certification is later deemed insufficient. Whereas, free training which turns out to not meet OSHA standards is just wasted time.

So, is there any point in taking a free online forklift training course? There still may well be, especially if you are looking to undertake training and certification for the first time, rather than renewing an existing forklift license.

It is always a good idea to try picking up at least some of the basic knowledge and skills in any area of study ahead of starting a formal course. It takes some of the pressure off in terms of your ability to complete the training course and, if you're speaking to a potential employer or the instructor on an in-person training program, background knowledge will help you stand out from other candidates.

For more information on the best paid programs, see our forklift certification guide. 

How To Get Forklift Certification For Free: The 4 Steps

Step 1: Know the Requirements

Know the Requirements

Aside from undergoing forklift training, there are some other criteria you need to meet in order to operate a forklift commercially in the USA. Providers will check to make sure you meet these requirements prior to sitting an OSHA-compliant forklift certification assessment. Applicants must: be over 18 years of age; be a US citizen or have the right to live and work in the USA; and hold a High School Diploma, General Education Development (GED) Certificate, or equivalent.

In addition, employers may have other requirements for job applicants. The most common of these are evidence of competency in English and the completion of a medical assessment. As well as checking potential workers' general state of health and fitness to work, the medical checks may also include drug testing. This is not a legal requirement in all states, but employers have a responsibility for workplace safety so need to avoid potential issues arising from substance use.

Step 2: Choose Your Route

There are several pathways to becoming a certified forklift operator without paying out of your own pocket. Which of these is most suitable for you depends largely on your current circumstances.

Via Your Employer

If you're already employed in a different role by a company that requires forklift operators, it's always worth expressing your interest to your employer/line manager. If they consider you a reliable employee it's likely they'd actually prefer to cover the cost of your forklift operator training rather than hiring someone they don't already know and trust.

Community College

Community colleges offering OSHA-compliant forklift operator training will sometimes provide a certain number of free places to local residents. There may be specific criteria for this so make sure you enquire early for the best chance.

Government/State Funding

If there is a general shortage of forklift operators in your state, there may be options for government sponsorship or grant funding to fill the gap. There is a website at where you can find information about all of the grants currently available.

Free Forklift Certification

If no routes are available to get funding for paid forklift training courses, the alternative is a free forklift certification provider. As discussed previously, there are significant potential issues here. However, if this is a pathway you need to explore, some of the best free training providers are listed later in this article.

Even though you are unlikely to gain official OSHA certification for free, it is often possible to obtain a discount on the paid programs if you can demonstrate a given level of competency on their practice tests. Using access to free online training material, you can prepare yourself for these practice exams and save yourself at least some of the cost of your chosen OSHA forklift license program (often around 20%).

Step 3: Complete the Theory Certification

The classroom (or online) portion of a training course will cover OSHA regulations and health and safety, as well as the principles of forklift driving and basic maintenance. In-person training for this section generally takes around 6 hours, whereas online forklift training can be significantly shorter.

Following the training, there will be a written assessment in the form of a questionnaire. Achieving a pass mark (usually around 75%) in this test is essential to receive your certification.

Step 4: Practical Training and Assessment

Whether part of your in-person forklift training program or not (e.g. if you took your forklift certification online) you will also need to complete practical training on how to operate a forklift and have an evaluation of your driving competence.

If you took the online training route and have not yet completed a practical exam, don't worry. You can still apply for employment driving a forklift. Companies are obligated to provide new employees with practical training on the specific models of forklift trucks used in their operation. This is designed to meet the practical training OSHA compliance requirements and is therefore sufficient as the practical endorsement on your forklift license.

The 3 Best Free Online Forklift Training Resources

#1 Best Free Forklift Training Resources - Forklift Certification Institute (FCI)

The Forklift Certification Institute offer (paid), fully OSHA-compliant online forklift training and certification. However, they also provide a lot of their forklift program resources for free so prospective forklift workers can study ahead of the course.

The FCI Free Learning Center page provides clear information about forklift safety and operations, OSHA guidelines, etc.

Alongside the written resources there are dozens of instructional videos, so you can pick up a really strong grounding in the basics in your own time, sitting at your computer, before committing to the paid program.

There is also a practice exam on the FCI forklift training web page. 

Completing this to a passing standard gives you a 20% discount on the online training for forklift certification (normally priced at $48 including the final evaluation). FCI even offers a full money-back guarantee to any candidates who are unsuccessful in passing the program.

#2 Best Free OSHA Courses for the Workplace - OSHAcademy

OSHAcademy provides their entire forklift license training program free of charge via their web page. You can sign up for free as a student and follow the whole course from home or your workplace. 

The student is only required to pay to obtain their certificate following completion of the course.

The cost of this is between $15.99 and $27.99, depending on the required certificate format.

In addition to forklift operation training, OSHAcademy offers a wide range of courses covering OSHA compliance in workplace settings.

 If you work for a company requiring safety education in several aspects of workplace operations, OSHAcademy has free courses tailored to various industries: construction, oil and gas, maritime, healthcare, and many more.

If you feel you (or your employees) would benefit from a more in-depth, personal approach, OSHAcademy also offers paid Professional Programs. These are delivered in-person by their network of authorized trainers and are perfect for providing on-the-job safety training to groups of employees.

#3 Best Free Mobile Training Platform- EdApp

The EdApp mobile LMS hosts and curates training courses for industry sectors from retail to construction and manufacturing.

The full advanced functionality of the training platform, including gamified learning and assessment materials and spaced repetition practice, is available on mobile devices (Apple iOS or Android) as well as via the web browser on a computer.

The mobile aspect allows prospective operators to access free forklift training resources from anywhere. 

If you're busy and know the bus journey to and from work is the best time for you to learn, no problem. All the information you might need about how to operate forklifts, workplace safety rules, etc. is literally right at your fingertips.

Some of the advanced learning features of EdApp do require a paid subscription but, at a maximum price of $2.95 per user per month, this isn't likely to break the bank.

(Note: The OSHAcademy forklift training program is currently also available on EdApp, so you can combine the power of the EdApp learning system with the OSHAcademy guarantee of regulatory compliance.)

Tim Postlethwaite

Tim Postlethwaite // Staff Writer