How Forklift Rear-Wheel Steering Affects Safety

Forklift Operator Safety Forklifts

The fact that many forklifts use rear-wheel steering may not seem like a big deal. But when you hire new employees who have only experienced driving vehicles with front-wheel steering, you’ll need to train them so they understand how driving a forklift handles differently than a car.

How rear-wheel steering works

Most vehicles, like the automobile, have front-wheel steering, meaning that if you turn the steering wheel left, your front tires turn left, and you go left. Most forklifts have rear-wheel steering. Now, if you turn the steering wheel left, your back tires pivot around the front tires, giving you a much tighter turn. However, pivoting means the back tires move much quicker than the front tires. To some, this “rear end swing” seems unfamiliar and can lead to accidents.

With so many potential problems, why do forklifts use rear-wheel steering? The short answer: maneuverability and weight.

Rear-wheel steering works better in tight spaces

Because the back end pivots around the front, rear wheel steering allows for very sharp turns and high-precision mobility in narrow spaces. Many Indiana warehouses need this kind of maneuverability so that pallets can be loaded and unloaded quickly with a great deal of accuracy.

Rear-wheel steering helps balance the load of the front

One of the main jobs of the front wheels is to support the weight of your load. As the load gets heavier, the front wheels take on more strain. If the front wheels also had to steer, your vehicle would consume more energy and experience much more wear-and-tear.

Potential problems with rear-wheel steering

Most of the problems associated with rear-wheel steering come from the fact that it’s so different from how we were taught to drive. It’s easy to knock into a rack or two because of rear end swing. Accelerating or stopping too quickly can lead to instability. Drivers need to learn to take it slow, anticipate where the back end will go, and how to position the forklift at the inside of a turn so the tail doesn’t run into a rack or co-worker.

Need driver training for your Central Indiana operation?

Tynan offers fully certified forklift operator training, in Indiana so you can ensure that your drivers are both efficient and safe. We can train off-site or at your facility, or offer a “train the trainer” program. We can tailor sessions to your unique needs, and offer training on every make and model we represent. Call us today at 317-597-4003, and we will set up a program that will work for your Central Indiana operation.

Rear-wheel steering helps forklifts be more maneuverable, but there's some safety concerns to be aware of.

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