Why Understanding Forklift Capacity (and how to calculate it) is Important

When it comes to forklifts, there are few subjects more important than understanding how to read a forklift capacity plate and using the information presented to calculate the proper amount of weight to lift (lift rate), before loading your machine. It is important to consider both concepts. An incorrect calculation or reading could lead to improper weight distribution. To avoid this and other major issues, it helps to know a few of the basics.

How is the forklift capacity rate determined?  The forklift capacity rate is determined as the maximum weight that a forklift is able to safely carry. This information is located on the Forklift capacity plate.

So, what exactly is a forklift capacity plate?  The forklift capacity (data) plate, also known as the nameplate, lets the operator know the load each forklift can safely lift at different angles or when it is fitted with an attachment. The plate displays the load capacity, lift height, load distance (the center of gravity), its brand as well as the model number. The plate should also display the down rating of the lifting capacity; the number identifying the least amount of weight a forklift is able to carry once an attachment is added. The forklift capacity plate contains basic information such as brand, model and serial number as well as other information such as part sizes and components.

How do you calculate the forklift capacity rate? Depending on whether you are calculating the minimum or maximum load of a machine, calculating the appropriate weight to lift (rate) is relatively simple. In this example, the rated load center; located on the nameplate, is lower than the actual load center, also located on the nameplate. The formula breakdown is as follows:

Rated load center / Actual load center x Rated capacity = New safe load capacity. For instance, if your load actually had a load center of 25 inches. Using the equation, we can figure out the new rated capacity. 21 inches / 25 inches x 5,000 lbs. = 4,200 lbs. You should also know that adding attachments may change this,

The bottom line, never lift anything more than the rate allowed per machine. This could cause the forklift to tip forward. Operators should be aware of the risks associated with operating a forklift.  Here are a few tips to avoid injury to themselves or others around them:

  1. Use forklifts with a slightly larger load capacity than what is actually required.
  2. Estimate the safe load capacity when handling oversized loads.
  3. If the load center is exceeded then reduce the weight of the load, immediately.
  4. Make sure that the nameplate is legible, fitted and contains the correct information.