There are several types of forklifts available for material handling, and each one fills a niche. Based on the materials you’re handling, the environment you work in, and even your shelving, you may need a specific lift truck for your workplace.

Let’s go through the different types of forklifts that are commonly used, and if you need help choosing a forklift to rent or buy in Indiana, Tynan is here to help.

Counterbalanced Forklift

Counterbalance forklifts are the standard for lift trucks, and what most people envision when they hear the word “forklift.” Counterbalance forklifts are easy to operate, with a seat for the operator and a straightforward lifting mechanism.

Because counterbalance forklifts are so common, there’s a lot of variation among different models to better suit particular work or environments. They can vary in fuel type (electric, LP, or diesel), tires (pneumatic or cushion), and capacity (usually between 3,000 to 6,000 lbs for most models).

Industrial Reach Forklifts

Usually referred to as “reach trucks,” these forklifts are designed for moving materials on and off of tall shelving. The majority of them are operated while standing, and are a bit more difficult to maneuver than standard counterbalance lifts. Like with counterbalance lift trucks, you can choose from electric or gas-powered reach trucks, different capacities, and lift heights.

Narrow Aisle Forklifts

There’s a good amount of overlap between narrow aisle forklifts and other categories, but it’s an important enough classification to list it separately. Narrow aisle or Very Narrow Aisle (VNA) forklifts are essential if your shelving is maximizing storage space.

Narrow aisle forklifts include a number of different style of lifts, including sideloaders, turret trucks, and some swinging mast reach forklifts. Since narrow aisle shelving makes as much use of vertical space as possible, the majority of these lift trucks could also be called reach trucks.


Also called “cherry pickers,” telehandlers are material handlers with a boom lift – used to go up and over to reach awkward places that other forklifts can’t. Some telehandlers end with forks to pick pallets, and others can use cages or platforms to get a person up close to work.

The majority of telehandlers are used for outdoor work, so there isn’t much variation beyond capacity, lift height, forward reach length, and whether the boom telescopes or articulates.

Order Pickers

Order pickers are similar to reach forklifts, but instead of picking pallets with a fork, they’re used for individual case picking by hand. The vast majority are battery-powered, so the main differences in models will be capacity, lift height, platform size, and operator options.

Rough Terrain Forklifts

Rough terrain forklifts are exactly what they sound like: forklifts built for rough outdoor terrain. Whether that means working on a grade or navigating through rocks and gravel and earth, rough terrain forklifts are equipped with high power engines and heavy duty tires to handle the most treacherous environments.

Which Forklift Do You Need?

Don’t worry if you’re still not sure exactly what type of forklift you need for your work – that’s what we’re here for. Call Tynan at 317-597-4003 today to get in touch with one of our forklift experts who will help you find the best fit for your team.

Counter balance forklifts are just one of the many common types of forklifts for Indiana warehouses.

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