How Do Forklift Trucks Work?

Forklifts are small industrial trucks used to move materials over short distances. These machines have been around for decades and were heavily used during both world wars to transfer goods around. Since then this machinery has developed into a powerful tool that is used in many companies over the world. This guide should help you to learn a bit more about how they work and where they are used.

How Do Forklifts Work?

There are two key parts to a forklift truck that makes them work, roller chain pulleys and hydraulic cylinders.


Hydraulic Cylinders

At the bottom of a forklift is a lift handle which is connected to an electric-powered air pump. When the machine is turned on and the operator pressed down the handle, this air pump will turn on. This is there so that air can be pushed outside into a filter and down and tube until it reaches the hydraulic cylinder. This is a tube which is closed with a lubricated piston at the end.

The base of this hydraulic cylinder is able to trap air without it leaking out. As the pressure increases, an upward force is created moving the piston up. As this is happening, the volume of gas increases as the pressure decreases. 

If the operator needs to lift something up, they will push the handle forwards which makes the forklift pump air into the cylinders. If the operator needs to bring something down, the handle will be pulled backwards which allows a valve to release gas from the cylinders.

Roller Chain Pulleys 

Forklifts are used to lift and carry materials, these forks that carry stuff is attached to the body of the vehicle with two roller chain pulleys. The fulcrum of these pulleys forms a gear above the mast. At this point, the hydraulic pistons will push the mast up and the gears at the top of the mast are pressed onto the roller chains. The masts will only be able to move in an upwards direction when the gears are rotating clockwise which pulls the forks overhead. This mechanism is important as it allows the forks to move away from the cylinders to reach.


What Are Forklifts Used For?

Since being invented in the 20th century, forklifts have changed the way business work. They have become an essential part of some industries but what actually are they being used for?



Forklifts were used on the docks for many years and they played a huge roll in the world wars unloading and stacking materials from the ships. Today these vehicles are used to transport all kinds of cargo but most commonly, wood and steel shipments.

Recycling Facilities

Forklift trucks can be used in recycling facilities to unload trucks or other containers before being transported to sorting bays. These help to efficiently load and unload recycling materials.

Construction Sites

Most commonly this is what forklifts are used for. Construction workers will rely on forklifts to transport heavy building materials over short distances as well as unloading any equipment when being delivered.


This is another common place where they are used for the purpose of loading and unloading goods. Different types of forklifts are available depending on what you need them for.


Contact Us

Whether you are looking to hire or buy a forklift or even find out some more information about them, our team can help. Give us a call on 0116 276 2868 or fill out our online contact form to find out more.