What is the work like?
Forklift truck operators load and unload deliveries of goods, and move them to storage areas in warehouses and depots. Goods are normally stacked on wooden pallets or in crates.
As a forklift truck operator, your main duties would include:
loading and unloading goods from vehicles such as lorries or aircraft
moving goods around a storage facility
stacking goods in the correct storage bays, following stock control instructions
checking loads are secure
stacking empty pallets
performing daily equipment checks, for example recharging the truck's battery
helping to load and unload trucks by hand where necessary
performing other warehouse tasks like packing.
You could work with various machines, including counter-balance trucks, telescopic handlers, side-loading trucks and pedestrian-controlled pallet lifting equipment.
What qualifications and experience will employers look for?
You do not need any academic qualifications to become a forklift truck operator, but you must complete an approved forklift training course before you can use a truck. See the Training section below for more details about the course.
Basic maths skills will also be useful for working out weights and distances, and warehouse or depot experience will give you an advantage when applying for jobs.
The minimum age to start training is 16, although many employers prefer applicants to be over 18, for insurance reasons. If you are going to operate a forklift truck on a public road, traffic legislation applies and you must hold a valid driving licence. You may also need a driving licence and your own vehicle to get to work, as warehouses and depots are often based in areas or run shift systems not catered for by public transport.
You may be able to start on an Apprenticeship scheme in distribution, warehousing and storage. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers. For more information on Apprenticeships, visit www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
If you are out of work, you may find specific back-to-work training schemes in some areas, which can include forklift training. You may have to satisfy certain eligibility conditions. Contact your local Jobcentre Plus or careers office for more details.
What further training and development can I do?
It is a legal requirement that your employer provides you with proper training so that you can use forklift truck equipment safely.
Your training would last three to five days and would take place in a training centre or on your employers premises. It would combine theory with practical exercises, leading to a test which covers:
manoeuvring in confined spaces with and without a load
stacking and unloading items at different heights.
The Health and Safety Commission approves six organisations to monitor and accredit forklift training providers:
the Association of Industrial Truck Trainers (AITT)
National Plant Operators Registration Scheme Ltd
the Road Transport Industry Training Board (RTITB) Ltd
the Independent Training Standards Scheme and Register (ITSSAR).
You can find the training providers on the approved organisations' websites.
Some of the training providers also offer forklift instructor training courses for more experienced staff. These courses cover health and safety legislation, training and assessment methods, and report writing.
You may need to take refresher training and be re-assessed from time to time to keep your skills up to date. You would also take further training if you were going to work on different kinds of forklift truck.
You could study for an NVQ in Specialised Plant and Machinery Operations levels 1 and 2, and Distribution, Warehousing and Storage Operations Level 2, which include forklift training options.
Where can I go for more information?
Road Transport Industry Training Board LTD (RTITB)
Tel: 01952 520200
National Plant Operators Registration Scheme
PO Box 204
Tel: 01606 49909
Independent Training Standards Scheme and Register (ITSSAR)
28 Broad Street
Tel: 0118 989 3229
Association of Industrial Truck Trainers
The Springboard Centre
Tel: 01530 277857
Tel: 01485 577577
Skills for Logistics
14 Warren Yard
Warren Farm Office Village
Tel: 0870 242 7314