How to become a forklift driver (steps, duties and skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses and individuals may hire professionals to help move goods around warehouses and other industrial sites. These entities can hire forklift drivers to help them move items from between locations. Understanding how to become a forklift driver can help you determine whether this career suits you and learn essential steps to join this profession. In this article, we define a forklift driver, outline the steps for becoming a forklift driver, list their duties, provide their skills and explain their work environment.

What is a forklift driver?

A forklift driver is a professional who moves goods around warehouses or industrial sites using a forklift. These professionals can use forklifts to unload truck deliveries and stack boxes for storage throughout warehouses and other industrial properties. Forklift drivers can help smooth operations in different sectors, such as warehousing, manufacturing and construction. They require perfect hand-eye coordination to handle the forklift in tight spaces with shelves and other employees. Communication competencies can also help forklift drivers engage other individuals at sites to ensure smooth operations and safety.

Related: 12 warehouse job titles (with primary duties and salaries)

How to become a forklift driver

You can follow various steps when considering how to become a forklift driver. The typical stages of becoming a forklift driver include:

1. Consider whether being a forklift driver suits you

Evaluate the role's demands to d determine whether being a forklift driver suits you. This profession might suit you if you're comfortable having extended shifts while following safety measures. This career can also be appropriate for individuals who can work in various sites. You may consider the roles you can pursue when you achieve the necessary qualifications. You may also check if you have skills like concentration and coordination, which are essential for operating a forklift.

Related: 10 most dangerous jobs in the UK right now

2. Understand how forklifts work

Understanding how forklifts work is a crucial requirement for potential forklift drivers. Familiarising yourself with the machinery can enhance how well you can drive the forklift. You can read materials reviewing or explaining forklifts and the various equipment a forklift driver uses. Check online, visit a local library or consult a professional forklift driver to get these records. You can also ask an experienced forklift driver to explain the machine's mechanics.

3. Get the appropriate qualifications

A-levels and GCSE academic qualifications can be ideal qualifications for forklift drivers. Courses like Level 2 NVQ in Plant Operations – Forklift Trucks can require two or more GCSEs graded from 9 to 3 (A* to D) or equivalents. This qualification can vary per college training provider. You can finish a Level 2 Certificate or Award in Forklift Truck Operations to obtain the necessary qualifications to be a forklift driver. These courses can develop your forklift driving and handling knowledge.

Refresher testing and training can happen every three to five years. The duration can vary based on health and safety regulations, company policies and insurance requirements. Training often occurs in the workplace, utilising the organisation's equipment and space. The practice can also happen in public areas where the training institution manages sessions and uses its equipment.

4. Seek an apprenticeship

An apprenticeship with construction, manufacturing or warehousing companies can be an excellent opportunity to discover the industry and experience forklift operations. You can finish an intermediate apprenticeship in supply chain warehouse activities to become a forklift driver. You may require some previous qualifications like GCSEs to get an apprenticeship position. Apprenticeship posts may need individuals to be at least 16 years old. The organisation recruiting an apprentice can expect the individual to work at least 30 hours weekly. You can divide your time between the on-the-job experience and a training institution or college.

Related: What are apprenticeship benefits? (Plus eligibility)

5. Find work experience

An excellent way to learn how to drive a forklift is by getting work experience. Work experience is often a qualification that potential employers prefer when recruiting forklift drivers. Hiring entities can choose candidates with months or years of work experience. You can gain work experience by working weekends or holidays with an organisation or someone you know who works as a forklift driver. Being an intern can also help you get work experience.

6. Get the appropriate certifications

Pursue the appropriate registrations and certifications to handle and drive a forklift. You require a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) approved card to operate a forklift safely on a construction site. The CSCS complements your apprenticeship, college or on-the-job training. Authorities are yet to introduce a formal licence for forklift driving, but you may require a training provider's permission to drive a forklift.

Read more: How to get forklift certification in the UK (with FAQs)

7. Pursue jobs

Seek jobs as a forklift driver. You can check online job boards, organisations' sites and job placement institutions to discover forklift driving opportunities. Review each role's job description to learn the specific qualifications and skills to highlight in your applications. You can tailor your CV, cover letters or interview responses for each job by highlighting the required skills or qualifications.

Related: Applying to jobs: a comprehensive step-by-step guide

What does a forklift driver do?

A forklift driver moves goods, equipment and loaded pallets securely and safely around a building site, plant or warehouse. Besides driving forklifts, forklift drivers can also have various warehousing duties like packaging shipments and checking inventories. The typical responsibilities and duties of a forklift driver may include:

  • operating forklifts safely in crowded or busy environments

  • safely unstacking and stacking large quantities of items onto pallets or shelves

  • moving products from storage points to loading areas

  • offloading deliveries and relocating the items to their designated storage spaces

  • removing obstructions or spills from forklift operation areas

  • regularly inspecting forklifts and their accessories for damages or faults

  • using wooden pallets and industrial plastic wraps to package and stack goods for transportation

  • following and updating health and safety requirements and forklift driving or operating procedures

  • preparing partial or empty pallets for incoming items

Essential skills for forklift drivers

Forklift drivers may require various skills to perform their forklift operations, such as:

Concentration

Forklift drivers require concentration skills to operate the forklift carefully and safely. They can identify potential hazards quickly and execute moves that help them avoid them. If someone is on the forklift's path or direction, they can spot the individual quickly and prevent accidents. Forklift drivers can also notice potential equipment issues with the forklift and act appropriately.

Coordination

Forklift operators require coordination to perform their forklift manoeuvres. Stopping, turning or moving the forklift at the appropriate time or spot ensures the operations are safe and convenient. If the forklift driver operates the forklift in a tight or crowded space, coordination ensures the driver's actions match their intentions, avoiding accidents or collisions. Coordination skills can also help forklift drivers follow instructions.

Maths

Maths skills can help forklift drivers perform their duties safely and efficiently. Basic maths competencies can help these professionals evaluate a load's weight and compare the weight to the truck's capacity while considering the distances the forklift travels, height to lift the haul and angle of corners or slopes to navigate. You may use maths proficiencies to track your moved items and worked hours.

Related: Basic math skills: definition, types and importance

Teamwork

Forklift drivers can engage with different individuals to transport or handle materials. For example, they can work with lorry drivers, other forklift drivers, the loading team, supervisors and stock pickers to execute their tasks. Strong teamwork skills can help forklift drivers engage these professionals when working. They can delegate responsibilities, share ideas or communicate instructions. The forklift drivers can also consider other people's needs, provide assistance and ensure other stakeholders' safety.

Related: Teamwork skills: definition, types and tips for improvement

Awareness

A forklift driver who knows their environment can execute their tasks safely. Work surroundings can be busy, and knowing the hazards can help you respond quickly and avoid dangerous situations. Pedestrians, objects and other drivers can distract you, affecting your balance and causing a collision. Awareness enables you to identify these hazards and act appropriately.

Communication

Forklift drivers can communicate ideas, instructions and requirements to various professionals while working. For example, they can inform other employees of the space or time they may require to complete their tasks. Supervisors can also relay instructions to forklift drivers. Communication competencies help forklift drivers understand the manager's message, interpret their body language and provide feedback. If there's any report or document to fill, strong writing skills can help forklift drivers input essential information to make the record reliable.

Related: A guide to the 7 Cs of communication

Forklift drivers' work environment

Forklift drivers can work in various environments. For example, some roles comprise working in extreme conditions like warehouses of low-temperature frozen foodstuffs. Some jobs may also involve handling and transporting hazardous materials. Most shifts can be eight hours long, but the type of work or organisation can change the working hours. For example, you may have paid overtime when rushing to complete a construction project. The hourly pay rate can vary depending on the type of machine, conditions and the forklift driver's experience.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related:

  • How to become a forklift driver without experience


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