what is a forklift driver?

The job of a forklift driver involves operating a forklift. However, it is more complex than it sounds. A forklift driver has to be fully trained in operating heavy equipment. You need to know how to drive several forklift types through all sorts of spaces. Some forklift drivers go on lengthy drives to move materials, while others spend their time shifting items from one shelf to another.

A forklift driver needs to be able to operate somewhat independently. The job is not as simple as someone loading up the forklift and telling you to drive from point A to B. Forklift drivers have to be cautious when moving goods around a warehouse. You will need to keep track of inventory and follow a schedule of when goods need to be transported. Drivers may need to assign themselves tasks and meet production goals.

what does a forklift driver do?

Just about any industry that lifts heavy objects needs forklift drivers. Some forklift drivers work on construction sites to help move materials, while others work in industrial sites like factories. Many forklift drivers work in warehouses and storage sites to handle and move heavy loads. Others work in stores where they assist with unloading products from trucks or shipping containers.

Would working as a forklift driver suit your interest in controlling equipment? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a forklift driver role.


forklift driver jobs

average salary of a forklift driver

According to National Careers, a forklift driver starting out earns a median salary of £17,000 per year. As you build your skills, your salary could increase to £30,000 annually. The earnings fluctuate depending on the experience level and educational qualifications. Apart from the basic salary, you receive other benefits like a medical allowance or end-year bonuses.

factors that affect forklift drivers' pay

There are many variations in forklift driver salaries due to the different forklift driver jobs. Drivers who work in more specialised jobs, such as moving hazardous or fragile materials, will earn more. Meanwhile, drivers who do simpler jobs, such as moving materials around a small store, receive lower salaries. The training and experience of the forklift driver also affect their pay. Drivers who operate larger or more complicated equipment get higher pay compared to forklift drivers beginning their careers. A forklift driver also receives extra pay for working less sociable hours. Forklift drivers who work nights, overtime or weekends can get much higher pay.

male looking away while operating a machine in a warehouse.
male looking away while operating a machine in a warehouse.

types of forklift drivers

There are several ways to categorise forklifts. Some of the types of forklift drivers include:

  • counterbalance forklift operator: as a forklift operator, you operate the counterbalance forklift popular in indoor warehouses. The machine usually has forks in front and weight to counterbalance the loads. Your job is to manoeuvre the forklift to lift and move loads around indoor storage areas.
  • telescopic forklift driver: a telescopic forklift has the utility features of a crane and manoeuvrability of a forklift. Since the forklift has an arm that extends from a retracted position, the operator can unload cargo in tight spaces at odd angles.
  • warehouse forklift driver: a forklift driver works in storage facilities and warehouses to load and offload medium-sized pallets and heavy loads. You can work indoors, arranging items on shelves or removing items from delivery trucks.
  • construction forklift driver: as a forklift driver, you can work in construction sites operating forklifts. Your job is to lift loads to high heights and move construction materials around the site.

working as a forklift driver

If you're interested in a job as a forklift driver, it can be helpful to have an idea of what to expect. Keep reading to learn more about what duties you might have, what your workspace might look like, and how often you will work.


education and skills

Since the job involves operating heavy machinery, forklift driver jobs have a few educational requirements. First of all, drivers must be above the age of 18. Most companies will not hire minors due to liability concerns.

  • forklift driver certifications: in addition to general educational requirements, forklift drivers also need forklift-specific training. This training will vary based on local safety guidelines. In some regions, drivers may need to pass written tests, take educational courses or pass a driving exam. 
  • specialised training: if a driver is handling toxic chemicals or various types of dangerous equipment, they might need specialised training. Most drivers will also need to take courses on workplace safety, and this training may require ongoing education to help drivers brush up on their skills. Some companies provide this training, but most prefer if drivers already have relevant certifications.
  • forklift driver experience: experience is not a requirement for forklift drivers, but it is preferred. Experienced drivers are more likely to have the additional record-keeping and scheduling skills a driver will need. Jobs that involve working in larger buildings, supervising other drivers or handling oversized loads require experience. There are several ways to get this experience. Some organisations offer internships and apprenticeships to help new forklift drivers to gain experience. In other cases, it might be a good idea for applicants to spend a few years working a lower-level forklift job first.

skills and competencies

Many of the skills required for driving a forklift are similar to those for driving a car.

  • physical skills: you need to have good spatial awareness and accurately judge distances and speeds. Strong hand-eye coordination can make it easier to operate a forklift. For most jobs, forklift drivers have to be physically fit. Although the machines handle a lot of heavy lifting, you need to carry heavy objects, walk around, crouch or climb. A driver needs to be comfortable working in hot, cold or otherwise physically intense climates.
  • mental skills: the job is highly physical, but you should also have mental skills as a forklift driver. It is important to have basic analytical knowledge to keep track of inventory and records. Forklift drivers need to be motivated to handle tasks without constant supervision. You should also have the ability to remember and follow all sorts of safety guidelines. Forklift drivers have to do repetitive and physically demanding tasks without slipping up and forgetting to pay attention to details. 
  • computer skills: in most workplaces, learning and using standard inventory and order fulfilment software may be useful.
focused male looking behind him
focused male looking behind him


FAQs about working as a forklift driver.

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