The forklift truck is such an everyday element of any manufacturing business these days that the brilliance of the machine is often completely overlooked. Unbeknown to many, the forklift truck actually has a long and rich history dating back almost 100 years. Initially, just like most inventions, the forklift was created out of utter necessity. As manufacturing warehouses across the world desperately tried to find a method of transporting freight efficiently, the forklift truck became the immediate answer!
In this post we’re going to take you back through time and highlight some of the key dates and developments throughout the forklift’s lucrative past.
The First Ever Forklift Truck
The CLARK Equipment Company is largely credited with creating the first influence for the forklift truck of today, way back in 1917. Back then they were known as ‘Clark Tructractors’ and they better resembled a traditional tractor rather than the forklifts we are used to seeing today. The platforms on these machines were loaded manually.
It wasn’t until the 1920s when these machines evolved and incorporated a chain system to lift items vertically off the floor. Although these machines still required muscle power, they made the job a lot easier than before. The early models were capable of lifting a wooden crate just a few inches off the ground, but this tiny development made freight transportation incredibly more efficient.
The year 1923 saw the first electric truck come to market, incorporating a vertical mast and raising forks. This machine was created and introduced to the world by Yale and has since been considered as the first proper model of the traditional forklift truck. A ratchet and pinion system allowed the lifting mechanism to work in this device and the mast could be elevated above the height of the truck.
Forklift Truck Development
World War I brought popularity to the forklift truck, due to a lack of labour throughout the war and during the immediate aftermath. The need to store items up high and a lot more efficiently also brought about the need for a high lift version of the simple platform truck. Manufacturing warehouses required more maneuverability with trucks that could reach greater heights and so the modern forklift truck was born.
The development of narrow aisle electric trucks then also allowed warehouse managers to pack more into their building space by incorporating narrow aisles at great height. The 1950s and 60s also brought about health and safety features, such as overhead guards and back rests. Then the 1980s introduced ergonomic designs to improve operator comfort and reduce injuries sustained over time.
In recent times forklift trucks have had to change again, mainly for environmental reasons. Exhaust emission standards now regulate these machines, meaning more and more AC powered forklift trucks are in operation every single day. Fuel cell technology will be at the forefront of forklift development from now until the foreseeable future – who knows what to expect after that!? One thing is for sure, as an industry worth almost £17 billion, forklift technology will continue to be a massively important element of the world’s manufacturing industry.