• Material Handling: Forklift Slang You May Need to Know

    A forklift by any other name…..would still do the same thing!

    “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" is a popular reference to William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet. The reference is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are. It's one of the beauties of the English language that different regions have their own vocabularies, but sometimes the differences warrant a "Huh?" In certain parts of the country, you may need to order a Soda, in other parts it could be a Pop and to confuse the matter even further in the South you may need to order a Coke even though you don’t want a Coca-Cola. When it comes to the American lexicon, variety is key, and forklifts are not immune to this issue. However, the terminology people use to refer to forklifts does not vary as much by region but more about what company you work for.

    From its early origins in the late 1800’s as a simple hoist to modern versions of hybrid-powered technology, the forklift was naturally born out of necessity. No matter what you call them, their purpose is simple, move product from point A to point B.

    Forklifts have a long and important history that has significantly impacted supply innovation around the world. During their evolution, they have also been referred to by many different names. In 1923, Yale was the first company to use forks that lifted loads off the ground and an elevated mast that could extend beyond the height of the truck. The Yale truck is considered to be the first forklift. Thus was born the “forklift.” This is the most common term still used today. It is suggested that this has become the most popular name because it is also the most obvious description of the machine.

    However, let’s explore some of the other names the most important and widely used piece of equipment in material handling goes by:

    Lift truck: “Lift Truck” is arguably the second most popular name used to describe these pieces of equipment. Forklift and Lift Truck can be used interchangeably as there is no difference between the two. Other common words that are generically used to describe “forklifts” are fork truck, forklift truck, and lifts. These terms seem relatively obvious since they are different variations that ultimately describe the equipment.

    One lesser known term that is still used today to describe forklifts is “jeep.” To find the origins of this reference we need to go way back to 1907. When the Mercury Company was the first to use the word “jeep” on its forklifts. The use of the name pre-dated the famous Willys Jeep.

    In addition to these general terms there are also other nicknames that are used to describe more specific types of forklifts. There are seven different classifications of lift trucks. Classifications depend on factors such as applications, fuel options, and features of the forklift. Over the years different names have been used when describing certain types of forklifts within a class.

    For example, order pickers are a type of Class II electric motor narrow aisle truck. These trucks are designed to lift the operator to retrieve items. Order pickers are specialized forklifts for selecting items from elevated heights in warehouse racking. Although “Order picker” is their common name they are also referred to as cherry pickers because of there ability to lift an operator high into the rack to “cherry pick” items. The term “cherry picker” is also used for other types of material handling equipment that have a railed platform at the end for raising and lowering people.

    Another name used in the Class II family is a “turret truck.” This truck is specifically designed to do one task: operate in very narrow aisles. The turret truck is often abbreviated to VNA standing for a very narrow aisle truck. It is also often referred to as a “swing reach truck.” Turret Trucks are a battery-operated machine that uses both the electric engine, battery, and operator compartment to counterweight heavy loads.

    Today we have a whole new type of forklift that also comes along with a few different names. Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) are forklifts that are designed to operate autonomously. These forklifts use guidance systems to maneuver themselves through a warehouse or building and pick up and drop off loads automatically. These vehicles are also known by other names such as LGV (Laser-Guided Vehicle), Mobile Robots, SGV (Self-Guided Vehicle), Guided Carts, Autonomous Vehicles, and Driverless Vehicles.

    To confuse matters even worse, many organizations have their own unique nicknames for their forklifts. Comment below with some of the unique names you have heard them called.

    No matter what you call them, there is no dispute that forklifts are the backbone of the supply chain. Without them, workdays would be longer and more strenuous and less efficient. History would have to be rewritten, as we would not have been able to achieve the extraordinary innovations that we all enjoy today.

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