Forklift Speed Limits

forklift operator training in Ontario

Speed: it's key to one of the most frequently asked questions we get from our customers: how fast should my forklift operators drive? Well, this topic isn't as straightforward as you might initially assume. Unlike automobiles, where speed limits are defined by law, there is no exact speed limit when it comes to forklifts. Instead, the lift truck industry follows the guidelines provided by regulatory frameworks such as OHSA, where travelling speed is defined in relation to safety. To understand how fast your operators should travel, then, we need to look at the relationship between safety and travelling speed.

Speed and Safety

Travelling at an appropriate speed is extremely important for forklift operators and businesses alike. After all, many of the most common forklift accidents are related - whether directly or indirectly - to travelling speed. If an operator is travelling too fast, for example, the risk of an accident increases as momentum and instability accident, collision and/or tip over. Whether it's simply travelling too fast, failing to maintain enough distance in between forklifts, taking too sharp of a turn, or failing to stop, each cause can be prevented by maintaining an appropriate speed for a given situation.

As such, operating a forklift in a safe and effective manner requires a firm understanding of its limitations within a given work environment and application. This is particularly true when it comes to maintaining a safe traveling speed, which, even under the best conditions, must change in accordance with your surroundings, operating conditions and load type. As case and point, take a moment to consider the formula provided in paragraph 4.3.2 of ANSI B56.1, which calculates theoretical stopping distance: S = 0.394^2 / D-G where

  • D = drawbar drag, as a percentage;
  • G = percentage grade (e.g., 5 for 5%);
  • S = stopping distance in meters; and,
  • V = velocity in km/h.

Using this formula, maximum speed is defined by how long it will take you to safely come to a stop on clean, dry asphalt, brushed concrete or an equivalent surface. Again, you can see how important situational factors such as floor surface, drawbar drag and grade percentage are when determining travel speed. You'll also need to pay attention to equipment and facility design as heavier units and tighter aisles dictate slower travelling speeds.

Enforcing Your Limit:

Once you've determined how fast your operators should be travelling, you'll need to make sure these speed limits are followed. In an ideal world proper training and education would be enough to ensure your operators are following your speed policy. Unfortunately, we don't live in an ideal world, so additional measures are often needed. Some of the most common and effect measures are:

  • Mechanical - on most electric forklifts, the AC controller provides a means of limiting forward/backward and braking speeds based on load weight, lift height, etc., while a physical stop may be installed on IC models to limit how far the acceleration pedal can be depressed.
  • Safety Accessories - while these don't directly limit travel speed, the proper mix of safety accessories can limit the number of accidents that occur. Among the most effective are acoustic (horns, backup alarms) and visual (strobes, warning lights) devices that indicate the location and travel direction of the forklift at all times. For maximum impact, make sure to educate your operators on when and how to use these safety devices, particularly when approaching intersections or blind spots.
  • Signage - be sure to prominently display your speed limit signs throughout your facility. Also, make sure all intersections and pedestrian walking paths are clearly defined.

Best Practices

In addition to speed limit enforcement measures, you should also make sure you and your operators follow these best practices:

  • Always operator your forklift at a speed that allows you to stop in a safe and controlled manner;
  • Reduce speed and drive with caution while on wet, slippery floors or graded surfaces;
  • Slow down and sound your horn when approaching intersections and blind spots;
  • Reduce speed while turning in a smooth, sweeping motion;
  • Always maintain a reasonable distance in between forklifts; and,
  • Ensure all forklift operators are properly trained and licensed to operate a forklift in Ontario.

In Closing:

As you can see, determing how fast your forklift operators should be driving is not a simple exercise. It takes an intimate knowledge of forklift braking distances, facility design and safety standards. For help with your forklifts, operator training, service or sales, contact Lucas Liftruck Services today. Our experienced staff has got you covered!

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Niagara Wholesale Mart

You'd think this kind of information would be more widely available

Lucas Liftruck

Hi there, it should be and we're making sure it is!

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