Having a forklift certification means you’ve had forklift training which helps you step up in your warehousing or materials-handling career. A certificate to operate forklift trucks is one such opportunity. If you have the chance to go for this accreditation, your career may begin to develop more quickly. So let’s take a look at the job path to driving a forklift truck.
This article makes no assumptions about your current skill level or your employment circumstances. You might have support from an employer who will organize your training. Or you may have to seek out training on your own and then hunt for the right job afterward.
If you are looking into raising your employment appeal to employers, it could be a decisive factor in hiring you for your next job. As a certified lift truck driver, you will put yourself in demand in a thriving segment of the industrial world.
Forklift Driving Jobs
On the national average, forklift truck drivers earned $18.45 per hour or $38,380 salary per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is higher than the average earnings for the equivalent positions without a Forklift certification.
Compare forklift operators to similar positions such as Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers who earned an average of $14.58 per hour (BLS.gov). When you consider that an extra $4 an hour means an additional $8,000 a year for full-time workers, it begins to sound like it is worth pursuing to advance your career, especially if you enjoy driving jobs. Your managers will see your growing value as a team member.
In this age of fierce competition for jobs, it pays to take every opportunity to improve your position in the workplace. Even if the only immediate benefit is an entry in your resume, you gain a feather in your career cap.
The Growing Scope of Forklift Operations
A forklift truck is just a vehicle that has a hydraulic lifting device attached at one end. Operators slide the forks under cargo pallets loaded with goods and materials and lift them onto platforms, shelves, vehicle beds or whatever you want.
A lift truck is a very efficient labor saving machine. These little trucks allow warehouse workers to store, sort and recover heavy loads quickly that would take workers hours to shift by hand.
These powered industrial trucks come in a wide range of abilities and sizes. The most basic are little more than electrically powered hydraulic pallet jacks. The largest forklift trucks have the capabilities of heavy machinery and operators would be comfortable with heavy equipment such as endloaders and backhoes. The power of a forklift is that it can do the work of many human laborers in one action.
If you operate your forklift trucks safely, they save time and labor and reduce the risk of workplace injuries. However, when you operate machinery in the workplace, there is always a potential for accident and injury that goes beyond the dangers of unassisted labor.
There were more than one-quarter million lift trucks sold in North America in 2018. This sales number represents an increase of 2.8% from 2017.
Such a high level of sales for this equipment means that companies will need to continue certifying workers into the foreseeable future. The demand for trained staff will increase in line with the number of trucks on warehouse and factory floors across the country.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Jobs that require forklift training are heavily regulated. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) take a keen interest in the health and safety of workers and the general public.
OSHA will be looking over your shoulder when you are using machinery to move heavy and possibly hazardous objects around. You are going to have to conform to the standards that OSHA determines to be safe to earn your certificate.
OSHA is responsible for keeping records about safety and workplace injuries. The agency publishes annual safety statistics that detail incidents and injuries in the workplace. These numbers show that there is a consistently higher rate of workplace injuries for warehouse and storage workers than other service related jobs.
Safety in the Workplace for Forklift Drivers
OSHA provides information and training material, which your instructors will use in any training course. Using a forklift without proper training is dangerous. There is a real risk that an unskilled operator could seriously injure or even kill someone in an accident. Also, OSHA could impose fines on your company for non-compliance if you get caught.
The reason for forklift operator safety is simple: You will be driving a sturdy cart with a giant two-pronged battle-axe on the end of it. What’s more, you will be driving in situations that have the potential to knock over tons of pallets loaded with goods of all descriptions. The truck-powered hydraulics gives you tremendous muscle to move heavily loaded pallets; everyone wants you to do it safely.
Forklifts go hand in hand with warehousing, where goods and materials may sit precariously on high racks. Any such situations have a tremendous potential for accidents that await the unskilled and unaware. Even trained operators can and do have accidents, which is why OSHA and the industry treat certification and operations as seriously as they do.
How to Get Forklift Certified
In the United States, OSHA dictates all aspects of the training for forklift certification. Trainees are to have both formal instruction and practical training, and a qualified instructor must supervise them throughout the process.
Formal training includes:
- Classroom instruction
- Video-based instruction
- Interactive online materials, and
Practical training includes:
- Demonstrations of equipment operated by instructors
- Demos of equipment use by trainees in safe conditions
Certification will be a worthwhile addition to your resume. If you are seeking the type of position that requires you to drive powered industrial trucks, it will improve your job options.
Do It Yourself Forklift Training
Across the country, many outlets offer forklift training. Choices include community colleges, vocational technical schools, university extensions and industrial training services. Prices should be affordable, less than $100. You will find the organizations that train forklift drivers in your region by querying your favorite Internet search engine.
As part of your research, you should read the reviews by past students on sites such as Yelp.com. Shop around to get the qualification that supports your career prospects best.
Any company that operates forklifts comes under the oversight of OSHA and has to comply with the Federal regulations created by that agency. OSHA tasks business owners and managers with creating unified programs that train and certify all forklift truck drivers that they employ.
The forklift truck is essential equipment for warehouse work. So if your company operates them, talk to the boss about getting certified. Employers will pay the bill for training, which is a perk of doing it in the workplace.
Changes are Coming to Industry
If you work in warehousing, logistics, or some related field, you should take any available opportunity to qualify to operate the powered industrial vehicles. Whether your employer directs the process and pays for it or not, you will increase your earning potential and position yourself for further career development.
There is always the prospect that a machine will replace your job. Robots are becoming more common on factory floors and in warehouses. However, if you have certifications and experience, you will be more valuable when the robots arrive.
When your employer does decide to invest in automation, they will still need operators for the new machines. It is likely that the employees who have the direct experience with powered trucks will be the first choice for the new jobs.
Workforce as a Service
Staffing agencies are bringing another type of change in the workforce. In the Workforce as a Service model, the agencies provide workers who come and go as the demand changes. If you want flexibility or variety in where you work, you might enjoy it.
Give Your Career Prospects A Lift
One final useful tip: The Industrial Truck Association has represented the industry and organized training for member companies for sixty years across North America. The members are manufacturers and parts suppliers of forklift trucks and related equipment. However, the organization’s website has links to resources that you can use to find forklift training and other career development tools.
Logistics, supply chain, materials handling, and transportation are industrial sectors that will likely continue to thrive and to overlap in the requirements for employees that they hire. As workforce business models change and automation becomes a threat to unskilled workers, having certifications such as forklift driving are like tools in your résumé toolbox.
When automated machines arrive and business models change the way that companies staff the workplace, the certified employees with the experience will be the ones who have the best prospects. Forklift truck certification is an excellent example of how valuable certifications are for workers. The more value you offer to any potential future employer, the more quickly you can move on to the next job opportunity.
Does your job require you to handle forklifts?
Geoff is a freelance writer at TruckersTraining.com with 20+ years of experience driving trucks and buses, dispatching, supervising, and training commercial driving teams. His expertise is writing topics on the transportation and trucking industry, and information technology trends.