How to Read a Forklift Load Capacity Chart

by Trey Barber, on November 15, 2019 at 11:30 AM

MidCo Blog Image Top Reasons to Buy a Used ForkliftUnderstanding a forklift’s load capacity is not as simple as reading the maximum capacity and jumping to work - many factors influence how much your equipment can lift at what height. Should an operator exceed their forklift’s rated maximum capacity, it can put their safety at risk. With the increasing complexity of modern material handling equipment, it is crucial for forklift operators to understand how to read a forklift load capacity chart and understand the influences that shift how much a forklift can lift at different heights.

How is a forklift’s load capacity defined?

A forklift’s load capacity is defined as a specific weight at a specific load center. While your forklift may be rated to lift 6,000 pounds, that maximum capacity can be reduced based on the shape of the load you are moving. Objects with longer load centers cannot be as heavy as shorter objects due to the physics involved with forklift counterweights. The maximum capacity of a forklift is negatively affected by larger load centers, higher lifting heights, and added attachments to the forklift, as well as other factors. 

What is a forklift data plate?

A forklift data plate contains essential information about the forklift, such as its operating weight, rated maximum capacity, model and serial numbers, any present attachments, and it load capacity chart. Some manufacturers include the load capacity chart as a table giving the maximum weight lifted at different mast stages for different load centers. Others provide this information as a chart to highlight the differences between the different factors. Being able to locate the maximum capacity, load center dimensions, and load height are essential for safe operation of the forklift. 


Click to download Forklift Load Capacity Chart

How do forklift attachments affect load capacity?

Forklift attachments, carriages, and other features each carry their own rated maximum capacity. If you are modifying a forklift after purchase it must be re-rated by the manufacturer to ensure safety and compliance with OSHA standards. It is important to know that your maximum load capacity is determined by the lowest maximum capacity of any of the components present on that particular piece of equipment. 

Do lift heights impact a forklift’s load capacity?

Yes, forklift load capacities decrease at higher load heights. This is due to a forklift’s multi-stage mast’s construction. It is essential for operators to understand the decreased lifting capacities at tall heights in order to avoid equipment malfunction, damage, and possible harm to equipment operators. 

How are forklift load capacities regulated?

Both OSHA and ANSI require that each forklift attachment has its own data plate. They also require written approval to be secured from the forklift manufacturer for any after-market modifications that can affect the equipment’s capacity, stability, and safe operation. 

ANSI B56.1 Section 7.6.3 provides two methods for forklift manufacturers to calculate a forklift’s capacity. The maximum capacity can be calculated based on various factors, such as lift heights, load centers, attachments, and other factors. The second requires forklifts to be chained to a tilt table and tested according to guidelines in ANSI B56.1 Section 7.6.4. 

What are best practices for forklift load capacities?

Maintaining accurate documentation of your fleet’s rated capacities is essential for the safety of your warehouse, equipment, and employees. Some other best practices include:

  • Purchasing forklifts with rated load capacities just above your expected needs to future-proof your fleet.
  • Implementing training programs for your operators to ensure foundational safety skills are part of your culture.
  • Make scales available to weigh loads if they are not already marked. 
  • Stress the importance of reducing load weights in load centers are larger than usual. 
  • Ensure data plates are present, accurate, and easily readable. 

The potential damage and harm from exceeding a forklift’s rated load capacity is devastating. Building a culture of safety that includes understanding how to read a forklift load capacity chart and how to apply that information to your daily operation is essential for keeping your workplace and employees safe.

Further Reading:
Remote or On-Site Forklift Operator Training Classes
Top Reasons to Buy a Used Forklift
Kalmar Forklift Models for Sale

Get the Used Forklift Buyer Guide


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Material handling articles to help answer the questions you have about forklifts, aerial equipment, utility vehicles, warehouse optimization, and safety.

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