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Forklifts 101: History of Forklifts

Material Handling Best Practices, Tips, Information and More from Toyota

The Early Years: History of Forklifts


The two-wheel hand truck first appeared over one-hundred years ago.  These original units were wrought-iron axles and cast iron wheels which enabled loads to be lifted and transported without manual labor.  In the early 1900s the evolution to combine horizontal and vertical motion resulted in the first crude forklift capable of lifting a few inches off the ground.  Over the last century, these machines evolved into hand-operated four-wheel baggage wagons used by almost every railway station in the country.

Many of these early material handling developments have now evolved into today’s powerhouse forklifts.  Today, the forklift is an integral part of modern materials handling.  A forklift is a cost-efficient way to reduce the time it would take to move product by hand.  Use of one of these machines minimizes the potential for injury by shifting heavy loads from the backs of individuals to the forks of a forklift.

History of Forklifts: Forklifts Today


A forklift by any other name, is still a forklift.  Today’s dealers refer to a forklift by a variety of names, including lift truck, fork truck, material handling equipment, lift, etc.  Whatever we might call it; there are four basic types of forklifts:

  • IC Pneumatic Tire Forklifts- Internal combustion engines with either solid or air-filled pneumatic tires, meant for primarily outdoor use

  • IC Cushion Tire Forklifts- Internal combustion engines with solid rubber tires, meant for primarily indoor use

  • Electric Forklifts- Battery-powered forklifts meant primarily for indoor use

  • Pallet Jacks- Battery or hand-powered meant for indoor horizontal transport


The key to reaching your ultimate level of productivity is to find the right forklift for your application.  Several factors need to be considered before you purchase your first forklift:

  • Power source (gas or electric)

  • How much is being lifted?

  • How high is the product being lifted?

  • Aisle sizes

  • Frequency of use of the forklift

  • Weight and size of the product being lifted

  • Consider cost and determine whether it is more cost effective to purchase new or used equipment


Toyota forklift dealer consultants are trained to assist you with determining your forklift needs.

Request A Quote or for pricing, parts & more, click here to find a dealer near you.

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