What is the salary of a forklift driver?
In 2017, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported an average hourly wage of $17.00 or $35,000 each year for forklift drivers, but wages will differ depending on which state and city you live in.
Like anything else, locations with a high need for forklift drivers and not enough drivers are more likely to have higher pay. Likewise, places with less need for forklift drivers and many certified drivers available will have lower pay.
According to this same report, Georgia has the highest number of forklift driver jobs available but due to this, the annual wage ($33,500) is slightly lower than the national average. On the flip side, Connecticut has the least amount of forklift operator jobs and so their pay is much more generous–coming in at $40,500 annually.
What forklift driver training do you need?
Training to become a forklift driver requires both classroom training (either online or in person) and hands-on practice driving the forklift. This means that any website that offers certification completely online cannot give you a full certification since you also must have hands-on practice with the forklift. OSHA has made these requirements to make sure that forklift operators and their coworkers are safe at work.
People who would like to be a forklift driver typically either find a local certified forklift program or work with their employer to get a certification. Some employers offer forklift training onsite and certify you.
Many times, training offered by an employer will be specific to the model of forklifts they use and any additional safety training that comes with their specific industry. For example, a company moving chemicals may provide training on handling chemicals spills while a warehouse with ramps will provide detailed training on keeping the forklift balanced while driving on these obstacles.
If you do not work with a company that offers forklift certification, there are many independent programs that can offer training for a fee. Just make sure the program you choose meets the OSHA training requirements.
What is it like being a forklift driver?
Being a forklift driver may have the outward appearance of being a simple job but it requires certification for a reason. This job is tough.
Forklifts are classified as heavy equipment. These machines may not move very fast but they can lift enormous amounts of weight and do a lot of damage in the process they are not used correctly.
Being a forklift driver means you are responsible for your safety, the safety of your co-workers and the care of the items you are moving. This requires some math skills (considering angles and balancing the machine), hand-eye coordination (when loading or unloading the lift) and even patience (allowing the machine time to properly do its job).
Being a forklift operator can be quite rewarding as you can see the physical results of your work, and you hold a lot of power in the day-to-day operations of the company. Without this machine and its driver, not much would get done. As we know, with great power comes great responsibility, and that means being aware of any hazards and following the rules for the machine’s recommended uses.
What training is required to become a forklift driver?
It is a legal requirement that you be at least 18 years old to operate a forklift. Most forklift operator jobs will also require you to have a high school diploma or GED.
You will need to receive your certification from an OSHA approved training program.
Your certification will include a hands-on portion along with training in the classroom. Remember, just going through an online program will not allow you to get your full certification since you have required hands-on training and driving practice.
The classroom curriculum can be done in-person or online but will often consist of safety training. Once you have completed both of these portions you will be fully certified as a forklift operator.
From here your employer may require further training specific to their company policies or industry.
Finally, it is OSHA regulation that you are evaluated at least every three years to keep your forklift certification. Your employer may do this more often but the federal requirement is set at three years.
Do you have to go to school to be a forklift driver?
No, you do not have to go to school. That said, you must have a forklift training certification that is OSHA approved. Getting this certification should only take two days or less. If you don’t pass the first time, you can always try again.
What is OSHA?
We’ve mentioned that you need OSHA-certified training to become a forklift driver, but what the heck is OSHA anyways? OSHA stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It is an agency of the United States Department of Labor that was created to make sure workers are safe in their place of work.
OSHA requires employers to do certain things to make sure their work environments and employees stay as safe as possible. When something is required by OSHA, it is important that businesses and employees follow through.
Where can I expect to work as a forklift operator?
In fact, just about any business or industry that has large materials to move will likely have at least one forklift.
That said, people usually think about forklift work happening in a warehouse. Many forklift drivers do work in warehouses to move new stock, newly built products, manufacturing waste and final pallets that are ready for shipping. Forklifts can be used in warehouses to load and unload trucks.
So, it’s obvious that warehousing and manufacturing environments will have a number of forklift positions available. However, it’s important to realize there are many other industries with potential forklift needs. These can include:
- Construction sites
- Boat docks and terminals
- Store stocking (think Sam’s Club or Home Depot)
Many hospitals own forklifts to transport incoming supplies or equipment. A zoo may also own a forklift to transport animals or materials for enclosures. Keep this fact in mind when searching for a job as there may be some less common options available in your market.
How expensive is forklift certification?
It really depends on where you live and what resources are available. If your employer is helping you get your certification you may not have to pay anything. Some local government programs may also offer reduced fees. In many other places, it may be more than $200. If you are being taught additional safety information your classroom time, and price, may go up.
The best way to find out is to start searching the internet to see what kind of forklift driver classes are available near you. With a simple Google search and a few calls, you should get a good idea of your options.
Another thing to keep in mind is if you are already certified and move to another company. You may be on the hook for additional training that your new company requires in order to fit their industry or safety standards.
Can I become a forklift driver with no experience?
You can, but it may be difficult. In general, if you want to get a job as a forklift driver, the safest bet is to go ahead and get your certification. If you want to take a less traditional route, think about what companies in your area will be willing to help you take steps to become a forklift driver.
Having forklift certification is important because OSHA requires every forklift driver to be trained and certified to use the forklift in the workplace. As with any job application, there may be other candidates with more experience or drive time on the forklift than you.
One common track that eventual forklift drivers take is working their way up through the ranks in a warehouse. This often means starting in an entry level position and advancing from within the company to forklift driver. Another similar way to get hired without prior certification is being hired in at an entry level position with the understanding you will be trained by the company to become a forklift driver.
One way you can boost your “experience” factor if you are newly certified is to include any prior warehousing jobs you have held. Even though you may not have driven a forklift specifically, your experience in a warehousing environment is invaluable–especially if you worked in a similar industry.
For example, say you have applied for a forklift operator job with a major food manufacturer. There may be another candidate who has been driving forklifts for three years at a shipping center. They obviously beat you out on forklift experience. However, if you previously worked in a food manufacturing plant you may actually have an advantage over the other candidate. You are more likely to understand the urgency related to food movement, the sanitation parts of the job, along with other industry rules and regulations.
Although you may not hit the ground running with job offers after being licensed to drive a forklift, you should still try to show all relevant experience and knowledge to the hiring company.
What kind of agency will help me find a forklift job?
As with any job, career boards and websites can help you find forklift positions near you. These sites are one of the easiest ways to start your search and figure out how many jobs are available in your area along with possible pay and what shifts to expect. If you want to find a more specific job, you may need to reach out to a recruiting agency (also called a staffing or temp agency).
These agencies can help you find the specific details of a job you are looking for. As well, these agencies have special relationships with industries to help you find possible jobs not present on online job boards.
Never forget that networking can also help you find a job. Talk to your friends, family and acquaintances and ask if they have heard about any forklift driver job openings. Do you know anyone who is currently a forklift driver? Reach out to that person and ask them if they have heard about any openings.
What kind of skills should I put on a forklift driver resume?
When it comes to forklift operators, being certified is key. Employers can get into a lot of trouble for having unqualified drivers operating their forklifts. Remember, OSHA requires employers have only certified drivers operating their forklifts. You want to make sure your resume clearly states that you are OSHA certified so potential employers know you are a safe bet and ready to begin working immediately.
Other great inclusions can be your focus on safety, stamina for working long hours and great time-management skills when it comes to moving stock quickly.
If you have worked in a warehouse environment or as a forklift driver before, you will also want to include any achievements on your last job such as safety awards, attendance records or other related achievements.
What qualifications do you need to become a forklift driver?
You are legally required to be at least 18 years old and OSHA certified to operate a forklift. Beyond that, your employer will likely require a high school diploma or GED.
If possible, gain some floor time in a warehouse. This will help you become familiar with a warehouse environment such as loud sounds, heavy lifting or outdoor work conditions.
Warehouse work can be tough, so employers will be looking for candidates who can handle it. Any experience in a warehouse shows employers you know the expected work conditions and that you are able to work well in this environment.
What skills do you need to be good at to become a forklift driver?
Many can be certified to become a forklift driver but only a few can be great in a position such as this. Driving a forklift is not as simple as driving a car. This job requires the technical skill and knowledge of the forklift itself but also:
- Patience – The process of moving heavy objects is never speedy.
- Attention to Detail-Working a forklift can be dangerous so it’s important to be aware of possible hazards.
- Flexibility-Forklift drivers don’t often work 9-5, Monday through Friday. Companies using forklifts may be operating 24/7. As well, a forklift may not always be required to complete the work so your ability to roll with the punches is a must.