In this article we look at the five main types of forklift truck. Forklift trucks come in many different types, sizes and shapes. Here we discuss at the most common five types.

Counterbalance Forklift Trucks

This is the truck that springs into most people’s minds when forklift trucks are mentioned. The forks protrude out of the front of the vehicle and there are no outrigging arms or legs so the truck is able to be driven right up to the precise location of the racking or load. As no reach mechanism is needed, counterbalance trucks are relatively straightforward to use.


They are either electric, diesel or gas powered and many feature sideshifts, driver cabs and mast tilt. Counterbalance forklifts utilise a counterbalance weight which off-sets the load that is being lifted by the forks. Electric counterbalance trucks can use a smaller counterweight because their heavy battery acts as ballast. This is the most commonly used forklift truck.

Three Wheel Counterbalance Forklift Trucks

Both new and used forklift three wheel trucks with a counterbalance work in exactly the same way as standard counterbalance trucks but have a single wheel in the middle of the machine’s rear section. The addition of this wheel increases the maneuverability of a truck.

Three wheel counterbalance trucks are ideal for use where space is at a premium because of their very tight turning circle and maximum manoeuvrability. This mix of manoeuvrability and counterbalance under-clearance results in maximum productivity.

Reach Trucks

These trucks are designed for use in warehouses and offer excellent manoeuvrability combined with maximum lift height.

Reach trucks can reach out further than their stabilising legs which allows them to reach right into racking. They can lift to great heights (more than 10 metres in some cases) whilst still working in very tight conditions.

A reach truck’s stabilising legs along with its batteries stabilise the truck so no counterbalance is required.

Some are designed with a til-table cab which provides a more comfortable position for the operator. Others have a very open guard overhead and so this is not needed. Reach trucks are also often fitted with cameras situated on the forks to aid navigation. The camera relays pictures back to a screen in the cab and can be wireless or wired. Wired cameras are less susceptible to interference.

Reach trucks are not intended for outside work where their very low clearance can cause then to become ‘beached’ on uneven surfaces. Also, their electric power units can experience contact trouble when regularly shaken as can happen on undulating surfaces.


As you might expect, sideloaders work by picking their load up from the side. They are ideal for use with particularly long or wide loads that would cause unstability in conventional trucks. This makes them ideal for working with sheets, piping and timber.


This type of forklift is more of a specialist truck. They feature an extending mast which operates with a boom and their main benefit is the increased access that this confers. Both sides of a delivery lorry can be accessed, increasing efficiency. They are the most expensive of these five types of truck.

Ilena is a leading expert in used forklift trucks and also advises companies such as Trucks Direct on how to best serve their customers.