A forklift operator, also known as a forklift driver, is responsible for carrying out all transportation tasks in the storage facilities of a business. They carry out this work using the forklift or an industrial truck used for loading and unloading materials. Their main areas of focus are storage facilities, warehouses and loading docks. The responsibility of a forklift operator is to ensure safe transportation and storage of materials. They have to ensure that workplace safety is established and the goods do not suffer any damage in the transportation process. A forklift operator is also responsible for optimizing these loads to ensure operational efficiency and assure any vehicles in use are in good condition with regular maintenance services.
If you have excellent hand-eye coordination and an interest in driving industrial vehicles, the work of a forklift operator will be perfect for you.
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Job duties of a forklift operator
The primary job duty of a forklift operator is to load, transport and unload goods in the storage facilities. This requires great technical knowledge in order to work with the industrial vehicles while also maintaining safety. Knowledge of precautionary protocols is a must for a forklift operator since the job has a risky nature. As a forklift operator you must be good at organizing inventory in order to arrange goods to optimize storage space. Overall, good hand eye coordination, technical skills in operating industrial vehicles and excellent organization skills are a must for a forklift operator.
Following are the job duties of a forklift operator:
Loading, unloading, transporting and shipping goods within and between storage facilities, warehouses and shipping docks.
Using Radio Frequency Scanning Equipment to monitor and manage inventory.
Locating and stacking goods to form pallets or crates for storage or shipment purposes.
Arranging goods in the storage facilities to optimize the storage space.
Performing routine checks and maintenance measures on the industrial equipment and vehicles to ensure optimum performance.
Following all safety protocols and precautionary measures to maintain a secure environment.
Handling packages, pallets and crates with care to prevent any damage to the goods.
Keep records of the movement of inventory supply by maintaining an activity log for all transportation activities carried out.
Forklift operator median salaries
According to PayScale, the median salary of a forklift operator is $38,944 per year. This pay increases as one gains more experience. Successful forklift operators can earn as high as around $58,000 every year.
Top skills for forklift operators
This position is responsible for operating forklift equipment to safely move material, stage, load and unload products from trucks, verify the items for quantity and quality and direct them to their specified areas of the warehouse after unloading transport trucks. You’ll also likely have housekeeping duties such as mopping/sweeping and ensuring cleanliness standards of the warehouse that would adhere to safety protocols. Let’s take a deeper look at the skills you will need to be a forklift operator:
- Operating a forklift: The primary duty of this role is to put away products using material handling equipment (MHE), such as a reach forklift. For this, you must know how to operate a forklift in a safe and orderly way. You’ll be responsible for following the warehouse management system directed at transporting pallets of product safely between staging areas, working with racking systems and loading/unloading pallets to ensure proper stock rotation. Your responsibilities will include maintaining the forklift by performing daily inspections, and reporting repair or service needs to the supervisor to minimize equipment damage and downtime. You must also ensure pallets are secured with shrink wrap for effective delivery to a door or staging area and storage. Following proper safety and handling procedures is essential. You should be conscious that when carrying multiple pallets, the pallet carrying heavier items should be transported on the bottom, while the pallet with lighter items should be placed on the top to prevent damage to the lighter product.
- Safety awareness: Basic safety understanding in operating equipment is essential for successfully operating a forklift. In this role, you must strictly observe and enforce all safety rules, procedures and policies to eliminate the occurrence of accidents and injuries. This includes following proper lifting techniques and physical work practices. You must also ensure that the forklift is in proper working order and immediately report any issues to the supervisor or team lead. You must ensure the product is loaded without harming the goods and that the trailer is not overloaded. As part of the responsibilities of a forklift operator, you must inspect the product being moved for shortages, damage, quality or deterioration of packing and report to the supervisor. You should also ensure the product is properly received by physically inspecting the product for weight requirements, condition, temperature and quality.
- Cleanliness: Many roles require you to keep assigned work areas and travel aisles clean and orderly and maintain correct locations of all items in the warehouse. Other than the cleanliness of the work area, you’ll be expected to keep the warehouse organized. It’s your responsibility to know where the products are and have safe, clear access to them at all times.
- Interpersonal and communication skills: As a forklift operator, you’ll need interpersonal and communication skills to work effectively in a team environment. Forklift operators need to read and comprehend simple instructions, create short correspondence and memos, and read and write simple correspondence. This is to make sure that you can communicate effectively with team members by email, phone and in person. Furthermore, you should demonstrate the ability to speak effectively in one-on-one or small group situations and respond to questions from managers, associates and peers. You will have assignments that require you to correctly complete all paperwork, including purchase orders (P.O.), rotation reports and spoilage logs and document the inspection of trailers before loading.
- Mathematical skills: Forklift operators must have basic math skills, including adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing into all units of measure, using whole numbers, common fractions and decimals. This is necessary to accurately count all items received and analyze and disseminate numerical data. Along with helping you maintain correct inventory counts, this skill is required to ensure that the exact number and type of product is loaded and shipped.
- Problem-solving and decision-making: Being a forklift operator means that you must have the ability to apply common sense to carry out instructions in written, oral or diagram form. You also must have the ability to deal with problems involving several variables and may need to come up with multiple solutions. Good decision-making skills with the ability to think ahead are essential to identify and solve issues that arise effectively. In this position, you’ll be working in confined spaces and stand or walk for extended periods. So, you must exhibit a high level of endurance, energy and strength to perform in the position successfully.
Educational requirements for forklift operators
DegreeThe minimum requirement for most roles is a high school diploma or GED. Still, some employers may overlook this requirement if you have the appropriate certifications and experience and are at least 18 years old. While higher education won’t hurt, getting the necessary certifications is considerably more important for this role.
Many employers also expect at least three to six months of experience operating a forklift, but other roles require two to five years of related experience. However, training is usually offered on the job for the first few months. Make sure to search for a position that’s right for your experience level.
CertificationsYou don’t need any specific type of license to become a forklift operator. However, you’ll need a certification to operate them. In some cases, the employer will provide you with the training you need to get the appropriate Forklift Certification.
You must also be able to pass the Forklift Driving Skills test and to get forklift certified. The Forklift Certification Institute (FCI) offers an OSHA-compliant forklift certification that’s completely online. If you have no experience driving a forklift, you must pass a forklift driving skills test usually provided by employers to get the certification. The Forklift Academy also has a Forklift Certification, and the Manufacturing Skill Standard Council (MSSC) offers the Certified Forklift Technician (CFT) program, both of which are worth considering.
To learn more about forklift operation, you can also check out OSHA’s eTool to become familiar with the different types of forklifts, the training you need to pass and information on how to operate them.
Forklift operator resume-writing tips
A good resume is the first step towards a successful career. If your resume is well-written, it can quickly get you noticed by employers. As a forklift operator, your set of technical skills and work experience at the job are the most important assets that demonstrate your capabilities.
Following are some resume-writing tips that will help you perfect your resume and start or further your career as a forklift operator:
- Focus on specialized skills: Your specialized skills are the technical skills that help you perform your job to the best of your capabilities. For technical jobs like forklift operating, highlighting your specialized skills can be your best move to get noticed and hired. Forklift operation requires utmost care to ensure that goods are transported without any damage and safety is maintained in the storage facilities. As a result, it is advisable to emphasize your technical skills such as organization, loading and unloading skills, knowledge of safety standards and protocol and ability to handle and manage various industrial vehicles and equipment.
- Curate your resume to individual job profiles: Making minor changes to your resume before submitting it to a potential employer can create a lot of impact. The more tailored your resume is to the needs of the hiring party, the higher are your chances of being selected. Curating your resume to individual job profiles seems to be a difficult task. However, it is pretty easy since it does not involve rewriting your resume. Minor tweaks are more than enough. One way of modifying your resume to the employer’s needs is by thoroughly analyzing the job description. It will always contain keywords that are repeated constantly and needed to fulfill the job. Adding the keywords to your resume will increase your chances of being selected.
- Include a professional summary or objective statement: The top of your resume is the most important area. Most employers only focus on the beginning portion of the resume. If the start does not convince them that you are the correct person for the job, they do not go through the rest of the resume. As a result, including a summary or objective statement in your resume is a good way of catching the interviewer’s attention. You can include information about yourself, your professional experiences and your career aspirations in your statement. As a forklift operator, you can talk about how you are qualified to operate various models of forklifts.
What is the difference between a forklift operator and a material handler?
Forklift operating is a part of materials handling. Materials handling involves the usage of various industrial vehicles to handle loading, transporting and unloading goods. You can carry out tasks by using multiple vehicles and machinery, such as hand trucks, electric fork jacks and forklifts. Thus, the material handling that is carried out with the help of a forklift to transport loads in storage areas is called forklift operating.
What are some professions similar to the job profile of a forklift operator?
Several professions are quite similar to forklift operating. Some examples include construction equipment operators, delivery truck drivers, railroad workers, hoist and winch operators and water transportation workers.
What are the working hours of a forklift operator?
Transportation of goods occurs all day and night. Forklift operators may have to work odd hours during day shifts to ensure that goods are being packaged safely and ready for transport.