How to Drive an Electric Forklift Like a Pro

23 Nov, 2022

6 min read


  • Quick recap on the basics of driving an electric forklift
  • A reminder of the benefits of going electric when it comes to material handling
  • Brief reminder on key maintenance tasks

If you’re new to driving electric forklifts, or just need a refresher, this guide will show you how to operate this type of industrial truck safely and efficiently. Electric forklift trucks are becoming increasingly popular in warehouses and other industrial settings due to their low emissions and fuel costs. Knowing how to properly drive one of these vehicles is essential for keeping your workplace safe and productive!

Note, if you’re looking for information on driving a gas or diesel forklift, read this: How to operate a diesel forklift > 

What Is An Electric Forklift Truck?

An electric forklift truck is a powered industrial truck that is used to lift and move materials. These vehicles are powered by electric batteries, which makes them environmentally friendly and very efficient. Electric forklifts are becoming increasingly popular in warehouses and other industrial settings due to their low emissions and fuel costs. They are used for all the same purposes as traditional forklifts, such as moving pallets of goods and operating in tight spaces. However, electric forklifts have some specific features that set them apart from their gasoline-powered counterparts. If you’re planning on upgrading to an electric forklift truck remember to offer operator training for the new machines to ensure safe operations throughout the warehouse. 

How To Drive An Electric Forklift

Now that you know what an electric forklift is, let’s take a look at how to drive one of these trucks. While there are some similarities between driving a gas-powered forklift and an electric one, there are also some important differences in performance that you need to be aware of. Here is what you need to know to operate an electric forklift truck:

Turning On The Ignition: Before you can start driving your electric forklift, you need to turn on the power. This is done by inserting the key into the ignition and turning it to the on position just the same as most gas-powered trucks. It’s important to understand the control layout before you move the truck. Make sure you are familiar with all the control joysticks and control levers before moving off. Electric trucks may have slightly different control lever layouts than the trucks you are regularly operating.

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Checking the Gauges: Once the power is on, take a moment to check the gauges and make sure that everything is in the green. This includes the battery level, oil pressure, and coolant temperature. Electric forklifts will have a battery monitoring gage so you can easily see the battery level and make battery temperature monitoring easy. 

Putting It Into Gear: Electric forklifts typically have three gears: forward, reverse, and neutral. To put the forklift into gear, push the lever down into the position that you want it to be in.

Accelerating and Braking: To accelerate, simply press down on the accelerator pedal. The electric forklift will slowly start to move forward. To brake, press down on the brake pedal slowly until you hit the required speed or a full stop.

Reversing: To reverse your electric forklift, push the lever back to put the forklift into reverse. Then press down on the accelerator pedal and the forklift will begin to move backwards. Some electric forklifts even have backup cameras just like modern cars! Which increase visibility 

Turning: Electric forklifts can turn using either the steering wheel or the hand levers. To turn the forklift using the steering wheel, simply turn it in the direction that you want to go. To turn with the hand levers, push the lever in the direction that you want to turn. Most modern trucks are equipped with 360-degree turning and rear wheel steering making manoeuvring in tight spaces a breeze!

Using The Attachments: Electric forklifts just like gas forklifts are equipped with attachments such as forks and lifting arms. These attachments can be operated using the buttons on the control panel. Electric lifts can be much smoother than gas powered lifts or diesel powered trucks but usually electric lifts have a lighter load capacity meaning diesel forklifts still have valid lift truck applications if your looking for a tough lift truck. Make sure to read the manual before operating any of the electric lift attachments for the first time.

Parking: When you’re finished driving your electric forklift, park it in a safe location by applying the electric parking brake and turning off the power. To do this, simply turn the key to the off position. Some newer eclectic trucks have automatic park brake sets which further increases the safety of these trucks.

The Main Benefits Of Electric Forklift Trucks

Electric forklifts have become increasingly popular in warehouses and other industries 2018 electric forklifts normally come with some modern features that their gasoline-powered counterparts don’t have.

Some of these features include:

Electric Battery: They are powered by electric batteries, which makes them environmentally friendly and very efficient, this decreases warehouse overheads in the long run by reducing fuel costs.

Auto Fork Levelling: Modern electric forklift trucks have a feature called auto fork levelling. This helps to keep the forks level at all times, even when the truck is driving on uneven surfaces.

Anti-Rollback System: Many electric forklifts are now equipped with an anti-rollback system. This system prevents the trucks motors from moving backwards on steep inclines, helping to keep the warehouse a safer place for everyone. This is a feature that is not included with most other types of forklift. 

Blind Spot Monitoring: Blind spot monitoring is a feature that is designed to help the operator see in their blind spots. This is especially useful when driving in tight spaces. This technology significantly reduces warehouse accidents!

These are just some of the features that electric forklifts now have. If you’re thinking of buying an electric forklift, be sure to reach out to the Forkify team for expert advice and to get all the features you require to run an effective fleet forklift management team. 

How To Charge An Electric Forklift Battery

One of the key tasks of managers and electric forklift operators alike is to ensure that the electric forklift battery is always charged to avoid potentially costly downtime. To process of charging the battery will differ slightly depending on the class of products and the battery technology used, and you should always follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions.  

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Here is how you charge an electric forklift battery in 6 steps:

  1. Check the water level in the battery before charging. The water should be at least level with the lead plates inside the battery. If it’s not, add distilled water until it is.
  2. When charging the battery, use a quality charger that is designed for the electric forklift battery, these are usually supplied by the forklift manufacturer and any replacement charging devices should be bought from the original manufacturer.
  3. If the charger has an adjustable voltage be sure to set the charger to the voltage that is recommended by the battery manufacturer.
  4. Once the charger is connected, turn it on and let it run until the electric forklift battery is fully charged.
  5. When the electric forklift battery is fully charged, turn off the charger and disconnect it from the electric forklift battery.
  6. Check the water level in the electric forklift battery again and top up if necessary.

Now that you know how to charge an electric forklift battery, remember to always follow these steps to ensure a long life for your electric forklift battery and to avoid any potential accidents during the charging process.

Electric Forklift Maintenance Tips

Electric forklifts often have less maintenance costs which is one of the big bonuses of these trucks! Here are 3 tips to help you get the most out of your electric forklift and keep it running smoothly: 

  1. Check the electric forklift battery regularly: Battery maintenance is one of the biggest aspects of electric truck fleet management, after all it’s the most crucial part of the truck!  Operators should be checking the water level and making sure that the connections are clean and free from corrosion on  a regular basis.
  1. Keep the electric forklift clean: A build-up of dirt and debris can cause problems with and equipment but especially electric forklift motors, so it’s important to keep it clean.
  1. Follow the manufacturer’s electric forklift maintenance requirements and servicing schedule: This will ensure that your electric forklift is always in good working order and will help to avoid any potential problems down the line.

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Electric forklifts are a great option for any modern warehouse or business that wants to reduce its carbon footprint and operating costs. They offer great cost reduction by design and by following this guide, you can be sure that you can operate your electric forklift safely and it will provide years of trouble-free service. If you are interested in buying an electric forklift at the best possible price from a dealer in your area reach out to the Forkify team today.