Thinking about becoming a forklift operator?  Forklift operators are persons employed to move materials around warehouses, factories, storage yards and construction sites, using a machine known as a lift truck.  This type of work requires training and certification, which are typically provided by the employer.

What are the Risks Associated with This Job?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, this job is considered a “hazardous occupation.”  Operating a forklift and Lift Truck requires several safety measures such as driving at a safe speed, being aware of everything and everyone around you (especially in the direction you’re traveling), exercising caution around blind intersections and areas of pedestrian traffic, and moving the stacker truck only when the load is at its lowest point to avoid tipping.  A dangerous mistake that forklift drivers often make is jumping out of the fork truck while it is tipping, which usually results in injuries that could have been prevented had they remained in the vehicle.

For safety’s sake, attire such as safety boots, helmets and brightly-colored vests may be required.  In addition to operating a fork truck, forklift operators may also be expected to lift materials without a machine. Depending on the type of environment, forklift operators might work around fumes or transport dangerous chemicals.  If on a construction site, they might also have to deal with loud noises, which can affect awareness as well as lead to loss of hearing.

In spite of obvious concerns, OSHA does not require that forklift operators undergo visual, auditory, physical or mental testing.

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What Kind of Hours Will I Be Working?

Forklift operators typically work full time.  This type of work can be first, second or third shift. It is common for forklift drivers to work after hours if customers visit the site during the day.

How Much Will I Get Paid?

 The average forklift operator makes about $15 per hour.  More experienced drivers can make up to $20 per hour.  As of 2010, forklift operators earned a median annual wage of $30,800.  States where forklift operators were hired most often included California, Texas, Georgia, Illinois and Ohio.  In Hawaii, North Dakota, Alaska and Washington, where forklift operators made the most money, wages were on average between $37,000 and almost $40,000.

How Can I Become a Forklift Operator?

Most employers require that forklift operators be at least 18 years old with a high school diploma or GED.  You do not have to have a driver’s license to operate a forklift.  Once you’ve been hired by an employer, you will need training to meet the extensive list of requirements determined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) before you can become certified to operate a lift truck.  Employers usually train their forklift operators, but an alternative to getting trained on the job is taking a course at a trade school; however, if you opt to take a certification course online, you will still need to be evaluated for the hands-on portion of the process by a qualified trainer.  Once you’ve been certified, your employer will need to evaluate you at least once every three years.

 What Kind of Questions Can I Expect at My Interview?

A lot of the questions you’ll be asked at your interview are typical of interviews for other types of employment.  You’ll probably be asked about your job history, what your strengths and weaknesses are,   why you want to work for that particular company, and where you see yourself years down the road.  Questions more specific to the forklift operator position might include:

  1. How much experience do you have with operating a forklift?
  2. During which shifts have you operated a forklift in the past?
  3. Have you committed any safety violations or experienced any accidents while operating a forklift?
  4. In what kinds of environments have you operated a forklift?
  5. What relevant skills do you have for this position?

What is the Outlook for This Job?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that between 2010 and 2020, forklift operator jobs will increase by 12% in warehouses only.  Employers will be interested in forklift operators who can work with modern technologies such as hand-held scanners, high-speed conveyors, and robots.  In other environments, the need for forklift operators might be replaced by additional technological advances and processes.

If you are still interested in this position, we wish you the best of luck!  Operating a forklift can be challenging and even dangerous, but the pay is decent and the work is straightforward.  Don’t be nervous about your interview if you lack experience- most employers are willing to train their forklift operators.  Just keep it calm and professional, make plenty of eye contact, and be sure to give a firm handshake at the close of your interview.  If you do all of these things, you’ll most likely get the job.