Forklifts are frequently used to move objects and pallets from one warehouse, loading area, or showroom to another. But materials handling teams may also rely on a forklift when loading or unloading objects from a vehicle, which typically means a truck or railway car. Every aspect of forklift operation brings specific types of hazards and best practices, but vehicle loading and unloading require a unique level of attention in order to maintain efficiency and prevent accidents. Here are a few practices that even experienced operators may ignore or take for granted.

Stabilize and secure the vehicle before proceeding.

Arrest all motion: Set the parking break and chock the wheels of the vehicle. If you’re working with a semi-trailer that is not coupled to a tractor, install fixed jacks to keep it from tipping. Post signs warning potential operators not to move the vehicle.

Secure the area: Check to make sure the vehicle’s doors clear the top of the forklift by at least two full inches. Make sure the floor of the truck can support the weight of the forklift, and be sure to account for the full load as well. Inspect the interior of the truck for obstacles, hazards, and overhead clearance. If the weather is wet, install anti-slipping material in all places where the forklift will be used.

Maintain proper forklift operation.

Traveling on a ramp: While carrying a load, travel the ramp with the forks pointing upward. When carrying no load, travel the ramp with the forks pointing downward.

Clearly mark the edges of docks, rail cars, and ramps.

Do not attempt to tow or push the vehicle with the forklift.

Do not operate the forklift for a sustained period of time inside the confines of the vehicle. Dangerous fumes can accumulate.

Make sure the dock plate is secured and can handle the weight of the forklift and the load. Move slowly over the dock plate while operating a forklift.

Observe railway safety.

When crossing tracks in a forklift, move in a diagonal motion.

Never park a forklift within three meters of a railway tracks.

Don’t attempt to open the railway car doors using the forklift forks.

Before entering a railway car, be sure to set the handbrakes, wheel brakes, and derailer.

For more on how to enter and exit a truck or railway car while operating both loaded and unloaded forklifts, consult the materials handling equipment experts at Liftow.