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The History of the Forklift

Image courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Image courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

The forklift has come a long way from its roots. In fact, the very first forklifts looked nothing like their present-day counterparts. For this blog post, we’ll take a look at some key developments in the history of the forklift.

Necessity is the mother of invention, as the well-known adage goes. And that’s precisely how the forklift came about. During the early 20th century, farmers, factory workers and others required the ability to lift heavy loads for transport & storage. The very first “lift-truck” was used in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to help rail workers load cargo onto elevated train platforms.

As the First World War approached, increasing industrialization demanded a more efficient way to handle war material and even commercial cargo. The very first powered forklift trucks appeared in 1913-14, just in time for the war in Europe. Forklifts helped all the countries involved in WWI to better handle the complicated logistics of “total war.”

Better loading and organization methods soon followed. By the 1930s, the very first pallets were invented. This simplified the entire warehousing and storage process. Soon, forklifts were designed around the general principle of carrying pallets. This helped standardize things like fork width, but individual lifts started showing neat new features – including safety-friendly features that took into account the operator, not just the cargo.

This was long before OSHA was created in 1970. It’s interesting to look back on forklift design before OSHA. Thankfully, today’s forklift drivers operate in a much more safety-conscious environment. helps keep your company OSHA compliant. With 3 different training courses available to fit your specific training requirements, we’ll help your safety program without breaking the bank. Our affordable & effective training modules are a smart solution in today’s ever-changing workplace.

Call us today to get started. You can speak with the FLC team at (888) 278-8896, or check out our contact page for other ways to get in touch.

As the history of the forklift continues to be written every day, FLC will be there to ensure that safety is the most important chapter. Thanks for reading our blog – check back for industry updates, safety tips and more.

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