Driving a Forklift is Not Like Driving a Car (Here’s Why)

Driving a forklift may seem pretty straightforward. You may be wondering… is driving a forklift like driving a car? Surely it’s the same, right? They both have four wheels, a seatbelt and a steering wheel. However, that’s where the similarities end. Spend a few seconds driving a forklift and you’ll soon realise how different they are compared to driving a car. 

If you or your drivers don’t have adequate forklift training, you or they can cause a lot of damage and potentially cause serious harm.

Did you know: 1,300 UK employees are hospitalised each year due to forklift accidents.

3 reasons why driving a forklift is not like driving a car

Rear-wheel steering

All cars have front-wheel steering. It just makes sense. However, jump into any forklift and you’ll quickly realise this isn’t the case. The majority of forklifts have rear-wheel drive. The main reasons for this are:

  • Precision steering – rear-wheel steering allows forklifts to make very sharp turns and manoeuvre with high precision in the narrow and tight spaces they are frequently used in.
  • Weight-bearing – it doesn’t make sense to have front-wheel steering in forklifts. This is where the majority of the weight is carried when lifting materials.

Top Tip: a lot of accidents in warehouses happen because forklift drivers don’t have control of the machines rear end swing. You must ensure that the rear end swing is taken into account when turning corners or manoeuvring in tight spaces.

Driver’s view obstructed

It wouldn’t make sense or be safe to drive a car if you’re driving view was obstructed from time to time. However, it’s not uncommon for a forklift drivers view to be obstructed when operating it. In order to drive with maximum visibility, especially when using larger forklifts, a forklift operator may have to drive in reverse for a sustained period of time. 

Remember: Driving a forklift requires a skilled operator who has completed sufficient forklift training.


The steering in cars is incredibly responsive when compared to forklifts. Navigating your way through a busy warehouse or building site is only done safely when the driver understands that the forklift is nowhere as near as responsive as a car. The fact of the matter is that a forklifts rear-wheel steering makes it increasingly difficult to stop the forklift quickly.

Remember: A forklift is a heavy piece of machinery. This can make it incredibly dangerous to drive. Especially if the operator hasn’t completed sufficient forklift training.

Why is rear-wheel steering useful?

Rear-wheel driving is incredibly useful when operating a forklift. Unsure how? Here are our top reasons:

  • Allows the operator to load more accurately
  • Allows manoeuvring in tighter spaces
  • Improved stability as the bulk of the weight is carried at the front
  • Allows the driver to turn 90 degrees in tight spaces
  • More even weight distribution allows better “load transfer”
  • Improved safety

Further reading: 25 Simple Tips You Need to Know When Operating a Forklift

Forklift Training

Remember, forklift training is essential to comply with safe working conditions and is also incredibly important to make sure you or your drivers are complying with the latest legislative requirements. If you’re looking for forklift training in the North East of England, contact us today!

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