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A Short History Of The Forklift Truck
The forklift truck has been around for about a century, and today is found in every warehouse in the world. 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.
In the beginning there was the two wheeled hand truck, eventually becoming the four wheeled luggage wagon used by the railways. In 1906 battery powered trucks were developed for moving luggage at train stations, then World War I saw the development of various types of handling equipment because of manpower shortages, including a bomb handling crane with a power lifting mechanism – the first electric lift truck.
Factories eventually saw the potential of powered lift machines and companies started to produce and sell them. During the 1920′s forklift design evolved into specialist machines, and the development of the standardised pallet in the late 1930′s allowed loads to be stacked uniformly and led directly to the increased development of the forklift.
World War II helped to make the forklift indispensable for loading of ships and trucks for the army, and put an end to manual handling with heavy materials. In the 1950′s and for the next 20 years, the development of the forklift proceeded swiftly with battery forklifts becoming common. Forklifts with more manoeuvrability were developed to reach new heights in warehouses as they began to expand upwards. The counterbalanced truck was redesigned to produce the first reach truck and other new models were designed to fit into narrow aisles and lift higher than before. Improvements in electronic controls were introduced, and safety regulations were introduced.
Forklift trucks are now changing in other ways. Different types of engine have been designed because of environmental concerns, and today the forklift can be powered by petrol, diesel, battery or gas, and there is a hybrid that runs on diesel and a lithium ion battery with fewer emissions and fuel consumption than existing models. Hydrogen fuel cells may be next. Modern handling equipment has taken advantage of technology and is quiet and versatile with low maintenance. 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…