Let’s face it – the terminology used within the materials handling equipment industry can be a little daunting!

Working in the MHE industry since the late 1980s, we’ve become accustomed to what can sometimes appear to be a second language, but we understand that not everyone uses this wording as part of their everyday communication.

That’s why we have compiled a list of common words and phrases related to forklifts, reach trucks and other equipment.

Whether you know what you need, but don’t know the name for it, or if you have heard a term used that you aren’t familiar with – you are sure to find the answer to your question here… and if not, head over to our enquiry page.

We’d be happy to help you find what you need.

Glossary of Materials Handling Equipment Terms

  • Articulating VNA
    Aisle-Master, Bendi, Articulating VNA: In recent decades, Articulating VNA trucks have been designed to offer some of the advantages of the reach truck, whilst also operating outdoors like a conventional forklift. With the ability to articulate, or pivot, between the mast and chassis, the truck is able to operate in narrower aisles. Combined with the counterbalance functionality and front-facing seating position, these trucks require additional skills but tend to have a more familiar feel to forklift operators. As the truck arcs towards the pallet when moving forward, the angle at which the tips of the forks are able to enter is closer to 45 degrees than the 90 degrees typical of a standard reach truck. The total width of an Articulaing VNA at such an angle can be as little as 1.6m, meaning the racking can be placed much closer together than in a conventional operation.
  • ATEX
    Equipment used in potentially explosive atmospheres must adhere to the EU ATEX directives (from ATmosphères EXplosibles) which specifies different Zones (from 0 to 22) depending on their potential combustibility. For further information, see Pyroban
  • Backup Handle with Horn Button
    The backup handle with horn button is mounted in the rear grab bar of the overhead guard. Made of comfortable plastic, it provides quick and easy reach for operators who frequently travel in reverse. This option not only offers the ability to use the horn button without turning back to the steering wheel when travelling rearwards but also keeps the operators hand within the confines of the truck.
  • Centre of Gravity
    The Centre of Gravity is an imaginary point of any object at which the weight is evenly distributed. Forklifts do not have a fixed centre of gravity as this will move dependent on which task the machine is performing such as tilting the mast forwards or backwards or lifting / lowering the load on the forks
  • Closed Height
    The height of the truck with the mast lowered is referred to as the Closed Height. This is also called the minimum clearance height, and is particularly important for doorways and containers etc.
  • Counterbalance Forklift
    Counterbalance forklifts are the most common industrial trucks used in the UK. Around 13,000 are sold every year. The load at the front of the truck is offset by the counterweight at the back, as well as the chassis and, in the case of electrics, battery weight. Their versatility makes them suitable for indoor and outdoor use, on most surfaces, usually with forks for lifting pallets, but also with the capability to use a huge variety of attachments such as beams, clamps and poles. Counterbalance forklifts are usually differentiated by the weight of the load they are able to carry (their nominal capacity), their fuel type, and lifting height. In the case of electrics, three and four wheel types also provide options for tighter turning circles or higher capacity. A counterbalance forklift truck will be certified to carry a load at a certain load centre. Typically, this means that the maximum weight the truck can carry is significantly less at height, or where extended forks or special attachments are concerned, further away from the certified load centre.
  • Counterweight
    The counterweight is fitted to the rear of the truck; this is the weight installed to the truck when manufactured to give stability to the machine under load at its rated capacity.
  • Cushion Tyres
    Cushion tyres are not, as you might think, soft. These tyres are a hard rubber press on band type and not for use over rough yards. These tyres offer extremely high residual capacity and are most commonly found on compact type trucks.
  • Double Element Cyclone Air Cleaner
    Double Element Cyclone Air Cleaner refers to two air-cleaner elements, fitted into one air filter housing, improving the reliability of the air filter especially useful in dusty applications.
  • Dual Drive
    Fitted to the front of the forklift truck, the dual drive axle has two tyres on each side which offers higher residual capacities than a single tyre configuration. The width of the truck is increased with this option.
  • EDC
    Electronic Diesel Control (EDC) is a fuel injection control system for diesel engines. It allows precise metering and delivery of fuel into the combustion chamber of the modern engines used in the diesel range of Mitsubishi Grendia forklifts.
  • Elevated Exhaust
    An elevated exhaust is for use in applications with dust on the ground, this option prevents dust blown up into the air. For indoor usage of the truck, the exhaust gases are blown high into the air above head height of any operatives in the area.
  • Fork Carriage
    Fitted to the mast of the forklift and running inside the mast channels through a series of roller bearings, the carriage is lifted by the chains and hydraulic function of the forklift. Any attachments including forks are fitted to the fork carriage.
  • Fork Length
    Forks come in many shapes and sizes, with the Fork Length taken from the tip to the inner heal.
  • Forks
    The most standard form of attachment on a forklift. Can be ordered in many lengths, widths and thickness to suit loads being lifted.
  • Free Lift
    On a forklift, the term Free Lift refers to the maximum height to which the truck can lift before the mast extends. Simplex masts will usually have a free lift of around 200mm. A Duplex Mast with a centre lifting cylinder and all Triplex masts will have Full Free Lift.
  • FTC system
    FTC systems provide visibility and control in forklift fleets. The system has a wide range of optional functionalities including fire suppression, speed limiters, speed zoning, pre-shift checks, pin code access bespoke to each operator, and impact detection. FTC stands for Fork Truck Control. Fork Truck Control is an organisation which is part of the FTC Group, a specialist group of companies offering safety control and energy efficient products to the materials handling sector.
  • Grendia
    GRENDIA is Mitsubishi's latest range of IC engine counterbalance forklift trucks. The name comes from 'Green Diamond' (yes, really!): green for environmental protection; diamond for high quality, reliability and sound investments. Fast, stable and exceptionally powerful, GRENDIA forklift trucks offer a potent combination of high efficiency, low emissions and very low noise levels. To that, Mitsubishi has added a host of ergonomic features to maximise comfort, control and precision. The result is a forklift that can be relied upon to deliver top performance, whatever the application, whatever the conditions.
  • High Frequency Chargers
    High Frequency (or HF) Chargers make use of advanced electronics to control and convert mains electricity to DC output without the need for a large transformer. This offers advantages in terms of both size and weight of the charger, making wall mounting possible, as well as the main advantage of efficiency of charge. The "High Frequency" refers to a high operating frequency (50kHz) which goes through a small ferrite transformer and is converted to the correct DC voltage with negligible variation to the current (also called ripple). The smoother DC output reduces battery heat, thereby increasing battery life. HF chargers are suitable for all types of lead acid batteries.
  • Integrated Sideshift
    An integrated sideshift is built into the fork carriage. A side shifter improves productivity and operator comfort by allowing the driver to hydraulic shift the load either left or right of his seating position of the truck. The side shift stroke is usually set at 100 mm both sides, 200 mm in total. Integrated sideshifts also help maintain capacity of the truck due to a reduced lost load (x) dimension.
  • LED Front Working Lights
    Some applications require more light at the front of the truck. For these applications, durable LED rear working lights offer bright light whilst reducing downtime as no bulbs will need to be replaced.
  • LED Rear Work Light
    Some applications require more light at the rear of the truck. For these applications, durable LED rear working lights offer bright light whilst reducing downtime as no bulbs will need to be replaced.
  • Load Centre
    Every forklift truck has a rated capacity at a given load centre. To determine the lifting capacity of a forklift, it is rated based on the capability to raise an even load at a certain distance away from its centre of gravity. Typically, this calculation requires the manufacturer to take into account the weight of anything beyond the front axle, as well as the distance. The forks, sideshift, load backrest, carriage and mast itself are already exerting force on the truck, which gets greater the further forward it gets. Once a load is added, it takes more counterweight to keep the truck firmly on the ground, and this increases the further up and further out it travels. The load centre, the exact middle distance of a load held at the heel of the forks (this is not to be confused with the centre of the pallet as loads can often overhang), is therefore used as a way of comparing the base, or nominal capacity. As the centre of most pallets are 500mm or 600mm from the edge, this is the measurement used by manufacturers (counterbalance trucks are mostly 500mm, most warehouse equipment is rated at 600mm). A forklift truck with a nominal capacity of 2,000kg at 600mm load centre may be capable of lifting 2,000kg off the ground, but this ability reduces (or "derates") as the load goes higher, sometimes dramatically so.
  • Load Weight Indicator
    The Mitsubishi Load Weight Indicator is built into the latest series of forklift trucks. The weight on the forks will be displayed on the truck display panel when the load is lifted (shown in tonnes). The readout is an estimate of the actual load on the forks, unfortunately it can’t be used as an exact weighing system for loading trucks but gives a clear and acceptable indication to the driver when lifting the load. A good example is - some applications will only be able to stack weights of above 1,000kg in the first two levels of racking. Anything below this weight can be stacked in levels three and above. This indicator will give the operator enough knowledge to position the pallet in the correct and safe position in the racking.
    LOLER refers to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. LOLER is incorrectly used as a shorthand for Thorough Examinations, a legally-required assessment of equipment safety. Thorough Examinations  cover more than lifting or LOLER requirements, since the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 is also a crucial element of the assessment.
  • Lowered Height
    The height from the floor to the top of the mast when it is in its lowered position. Crucial when driving through low overhead obstructions or doorways
  • Mast
    The mast is the vertical metal structure that allows for raising and lowering the load, usually comes in single, double or triple sections.
  • Maximum Extended Height
    The Maximum Extended Height refers to the height of the mast (or guard at full lift).
  • Maximum Lift Height
    The Maximum Lift Height refers to the height the forks will extend. This is typically lower than the Maximum Extended Height which includes the additional height needed for the load backrest.
  • Overhead Guard
    The Overhead Guard is the framework of the truck, including front and rear support legs and overhead protection, to protect the operator from falling objects. Different methods of manufacture means overhead guards can be expensive to repair, particularly when welded to the chassis and assembled in large sections. Whilst overhead guards are essential for safety, they can also cause serious damage to operators that attempt to leap out of their seat in the event of a tip over.
  • Pneumatic Tyres
    Same shape as Solid Tyres but these tyres are filled with air just like a car offering greater comfort, lower rolling resistance but are susceptible to punctures and truck will have a lower residual capacity.
  • Pyroban
    Pyroban is a term used to 'flameproof' or make equipment safe for use in areas which contain potentially hazardous and explosive materials, typically chemicals or gasses. The process takes its name from Pyroban, a company synonymous with flameproofing, founded over 40 years ago. Equipment used in potentially explosive atmospheres must adhere to the EU ATEX directives (from ATmosphères EXplosibles) which specifies different Zones (from 0 to 22) depending on their potential combustibility. To make equipment ATEX compliant, it must address the effective ignition sources, such as: Open flames. This varies from a lit cigarette to welding activity. Mechanically generated impact sparks. For example, a hammer blow on a rusty steel surface compared to a hammer blow on flint. Mechanically generated friction sparks. The combination of materials and speed determine the effectiveness of the ignition source. The combination of aluminium and rust is also notoriously dangerous. Electric sparks. For example, a bad electrical connection or a faulty pressure transmitter. The electric energy content of the spark determines the effectiveness of the ignition source. High surface temperature. This can be the result of milling, grinding, rubbing, mechanical friction in a stuffing box or bearing, or a hot liquid pumped into a vessel. Electrostatic discharge. Static electricity can be generated by air sliding over a wing, or a non-conductive liquid flowing through a filter screen.
  • Rating Plate
    Rating Plate is a legal requirement on every forklift truck. The plate is used to inform users of the maximum load a forklift can legally carry and also gives information on the truck in terms of serial numbers and load centres.
  • Reach Truck
    Reach trucks are industrial vehicles where the operator sits side-on to the mast or pantograph which extends, or reaches out, to access a pallet, usually within racking. The extending nature of the mast, and sideways seating position, allows for a more compact vehicle, meaning it can operate in narrower aisles, leading to greater warehouse utilisation. This contrasts to a counterbalance forklift where the counterweight at the rear of the truck offsets the weight of a load held out front. A tight turning circle is also possible. Reach trucks are predominately designed to work in warehouses with even floors, with two outer legs that distribute the load weight. The drive wheel is located under the operator, whilst an open overhead guard or camera system allows vision at height. Whilst it is possible to use reach trucks outdoors, it is rarely ideal, particularly as the truck's wheels are designed for smooth, flat surfaces and small potholes or obstructions can easily tip the vehicle. See also: Articulating VNA
  • Right Angle Stacking Aisle
    The Right Angle Stacking Aisle is the width required between aisles for the forklift to be able to turn to 90 degrees.
  • Simplex Mast
    A two stage mast with limited free lift. Offers excellent forwards visibility through the mast. These masts have restricted free lift usually of up to 200 mm before the inner mast extends.
  • Solid Tyres
    A solid rubber construction that is puncture resistant and offering good residual capacity. Fitted to most counterbalance trucks as standard.
  • Stability Triangle
    The forklift Stability Triangle is a conceptual way of illustrating the equipment's safe working capability. If you can imagine drawing a line between the two front wheels and the pivot point of the rear axle on a forklift, this is the stability triangle and is the defined area that the centre of gravity must be kept within. If the forklift is operated incorrectly and the centre of gravity falls outside of the stability triangle then the forklift will very likely tip over.
  • Thorough Examination
    Thorough Examination is the term used to cover those checks thought necessary to ensure equipment complies with Health & Safety Law. It is a "systematic and detailed examination" of the equipment and safety-critical parts, carried out at specified intervals by a competent person who must then complete a written report - in essence, the forklift "M.O.T". It stems from the Health & Safety Executive's definition and guidance: "Thorough examination of industrial lift trucks is required under health and safety law: LOLER 1998, which covers lifting equipment, and PUWER 1998, which deals with all other safety-related items, such as brakes, steering and tyres. Your regular inspections as part of a preventive maintenance scheme or scheduled service are not a thorough examination." ...which references the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998. Both build upon previous regulations, but do not refer to equipment used by the public, which comes under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. A valid Thorough Examination is mandatory by law, so if you own, lease or hire a forklift truck without one, it could lead to prosecution, invalid insurance or a serious accident due to faulty equipment. The competence of the inspection, as well as the keeping of appropriate records, is crucial for legal compliance. Some functions and components, such as chains, masts and controls are obvious items that are covered by a Thorough Examination, whilst others, such as the load backrest, rating plate, tilt cylinders, seat mounting and hoses are equally important but less obvious. The relevant checks also vary dependent upon the type of equipment that is being inspected, i.e. a reach truck requires different checks to a telehandler. For further information see: HSE Guide to LOLER
  • Tilt Cylinder
    Tilt cylinders are the two cylinders fitted to the chassis and mast of the truck and operated with a hydraulic lever to allow the mast of the truck to tilt forward and backward - which aids handling of loads.
  • Tilt Cylinder Boots
    Tilt Cylinder Boots are rubber boots fitted over the tilt cylinders to cover the chromium shafts to protect them against the environment, and also to reduce risk of damaging seals etc. when exposed to corrosive elements.
  • Triplex Mast
    A three stage mast with full free lift. This low profile mast allows the carriage to lift without the mast extending, ideal for confined areas where a higher lift height is required but truck is also required to travel through low doorways or into containers.