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what is a counter balance forklift

What is a Counterbalance Forklift?

A counterbalance forklift is one of the most common forklift devices you will find across the country and industries. They are characterized by having two “forks” on the front to pick up/move objects. The device’s namesake comes from the “counterweight” that is on the back of the machine. This weight keeps the machine grounded, even when carrying and moving large loads. A counterbalance forklift provides a wealth of benefits and features that many companies can use to move products quickly. These tools are a must-use if you are looking to optimize and improve your warehouse capabilities.

An example of a counterbalance forklift

Key Features and Benefits of Counterbalance Forklift

There are many benefits and features to using counterbalance forklifts in your business. They provide an easy method of moving objects, but they can also keep your employees safe. Here are some key features and benefits you can expect:


Gas/Diesel/Electric Options:

Counterbalance forklifts come in 3 distinct formats when it comes to power. First, forklifts can be charged electrically. You can reduce your carbon footprint. Second, they can run off of regular gasoline. Third, they can run off of diesel which does have some extra bonuses such as better fuel mileage. This gives you multiple options to choose from and you can choose the right forklift for you.

Forks and Load Backrest:

These forklifts have front prongs that can lift, lower, and carry items. They also incorporate a load backrest to keep loads from shifting rearward while being transported. Not only does this keep your items secure, but it also protects your driver should items fall on the forklift.

Can be Outfitted with Different Tires:

Counterbalance forklifts can have different tire types based on the application. They can be outfitted with cushion tires (better for concrete and smooth surfaces), or pneumatic tires (better for outdoors and rough terrain). If you need a counterbalance forklift, you don’t have to be limited in the places you use it, if you have the right tires.

However, these tires are not interchangeable. Once you have chosen a type of tire, that’s what you will use for the entirety of the life of the machine. There are variations to these types of tires though that can make a difference if you find that one tire type doesn’t totally suit your needs.

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Operator Comfort:

Counterbalance forklifts are developed with the operator’s comfort in mind. They are outfitted with amenities such as adjustable seats, ergonomic controls, and tight handling to guarantee operators can work comfortably and efficiently for extended periods of time. Comfortable operators are more likely to keep concentrating and accomplish their tasks safely.



Counterbalance forklifts are highly versatile machines suitable for a wide range of applications. They can handle tasks such as loading and unloading goods, stacking pallets, transporting materials within a facility, and maneuvering in tight spaces. Their adaptability makes them invaluable in diverse industrial settings.

Load Carrying Capacity:

One of the most notable advantages of counterbalance forklifts is their capacity to easily carry heavy loads. They can carry and transport heavy loads with ease thanks to their sturdy construction and counterbalance mechanism. This makes them ideal for operations involving the movement of large, heavy products or stacked pallets. Most counterbalance forklifts can carry around 5,500lbs according to Fork Lift Certification. Many factors though affect how much load you can carry.


Even in tight quarters, counterbalance forklifts provide great maneuverability. Their small size allows them to easily navigate narrow hallways and tight working areas. By lowering the time and effort necessary to move cargo within a facility, this agility boosts production and efficiency.


While this is not applicable to all counterbalance forklifts (as some are made solely for indoors), many can operate on various surfaces, including concrete floors, outdoor terrains, and semi-rough terrains. This makes them ideal for facilities that need a bit more flexibility in their loading/unloading capabilities. This accessibility and comfort are not always found in every type of forklift.

common industries that use counterbalance forklifts

Drawbacks and Considerations for Counterbalance Forklifts

Aisle Width Requirements:

Like with all forklifts, there are small aisle width requirements needed to operate the machine. Counterbalance forklifts typically require wider aisle widths compared to other types of forklifts, such as reach trucks. Their ability to operate in short aisles is hampered by the presence of the back counterweight, restricting their applicability for certain warehouse layouts.

Specific Load Requirements:

Counterbalance forklifts exist in a variety of load capabilities, however, if you have unusual or extraordinarily heavy load requirements, you'll want to check that your forklift can handle these projects. Make sure you test. Don't settle for the cheapest forklift that can't handle your most common load sizes.

Operator Visibility:

When reversing or navigating congested locations, the rear counterweight can block the operator's rear visibility. Extra caution should be used, and mirrors or cameras can help improve visibility and decrease blind spots. Your operators should be taught how to use these tools and how to maneuver safely before going into production. This is true of all material handling equipment.

Need a Counterbalance Forklift for Your Warehouse?

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