Forklift Load Capacity: Everything You Need To Know

Yellow forklift close-up. A man operates a forklift. Move crates on pallets throughout the warehouse. Warehousing business. Warehouse logistics. Storage of goods.

If you operate a forklift or are responsible for overseeing forklift operations, understanding load capacity is crucial. Exceeding the load limits of a forklift can lead to serious accidents and damage to your machinery and goods.

The load capacity is the maximum weight a forklift can lift or transport. However, this number can change, making it key that you understand how it works.

We discuss the factors that affect your forklift’s load capacity, how to read your forklift’s load capacity chart, plus much more, below.

    Importance of Load Capacity

    Understanding and complying with your forklift’s load capacity is essential for operator safety, the lifespan of your forklift, and the products being moved.


    With forklifts posing a serious risk in the workplace, it's essential to take the right precautions when driving or working around forklifts. Adhering to the forklift’s load capacity is a crucial part of maintaining a safe work environment.

    Exceeding the load capacity can lead to the forklift tipping over, putting both the operator and other workers at risk of injury or even fatalities.

    Equipment Protection

    Being mindful of your forklift’s load capacity helps protect your equipment from accelerated wear and tear and excessive strain on components.

    Overloading can lead to increased maintenance costs and potentially expensive repairs down the line. By ensuring that you're within the load capacity limits of the forklift, you can help prolong the lifespan of the equipment and prevent unnecessary damage and risk of accidents.

    Product Protection

    Overloading your forklift risks damaging the goods you’re lifting or transporting, since exceeding the load capacity can cause products to fall or become crushed in cases of tip-over.

    By staying within the recommended weight limits, you can ensure that the products remain secure and undamaged throughout the handling process.

    Factors that Affect a Forklift's Load Capacity

    A forklift’s load capacity is determined through its centre of gravity. This calculation, therefore, will change if the forklift’s centre of gravity changes – oftentimes reducing the load capacity of the forklift.

    A number of factors can affect your forklift’s load capacity; ensure you’re aware of them to avoid safety issues in the workplace.

    Type of Forklift

    Different forklift models have varying load capacities depending on their size and design, so it’s important that you choose the right type of forklift for your specific materials handling needs.

    Additionally, components such as tyres, battery, and overall condition can also impact a forklift’s load capacity. Older forklifts may have reduced capacity compared to newer models.


    Attachments can impact the weight a forklift can handle by adding extra weight and extending the load centre forwards, reducing the load capacity.

    It's important to take into consideration the weight of the attachments themselves, as well as how they will affect the balance and stability of the forklift when carrying a load by consulting your forklift’s data plate.

    Mast Height

    Operating at higher lift heights with tall masts may result in a reduction in the maximum weight that can be safely lifted.

    Forklifts with high masts may have different load capacity ratings for each lift height, so it's crucial to be aware of these fluctuations when operating the equipment.

    Fork Length

    The materials you’re handling will dictate the fork length required; nevertheless, it’s important to check how your fork length will affect load capacity.

    The longer the forks, the more they shift the centre of gravity outwards, reducing the load capacity and potentially compromising the stability of the forklift. Shorter forks, on the other hand, keep the centre of gravity closer to the forklift, allowing you to maintain a higher load capacity while ensuring better stability during operation.

    Load Centre

    The load centre refers to the specific location on the forks where the load's centre of gravity needs to be positioned in order to achieve the maximum load capacity.

    By placing the load at the correct centre point, you ensure that the weight is evenly distributed and the forklift can operate safely and efficiently.

    Lifting Height

    As the height increases, the load capacity decreases, thanks to a shift in the centre of gravity as the load is lifted higher.

    Be mindful of how the forklift’s load capacity will be affected when undertaking lifting operations or when picking and placing at height.

    Risks of Exceeding Forklift Load Limits

    Exceeding the forklift load limits can result in the forklift tipping over, dropping the load, and causing potential harm to operators and pedestrians, due to loss of control and instability.

    Additionally, exceeding the load limits can put excessive strain on the forklift's components, leading to accelerated mechanical failures and breakdowns, which can be dangerous and expensive to repair or replace.

    How to Avoid Load Capacity Issues

    There are several ways to reduce the risk of load capacity issues.

    Firstly, operators should always be adequately trained and should refer to the forklift's load capacity data plate to avoid exceeding weight limits.

    A counterbalance weight can also be used on the rear of the truck to maintain stability while loading and transporting heavy or large items.

    Positioning the load as close to the mast as possible will minimise the distance from the front wheels to the load's centre of gravity, increasing stability, with the heaviest part of the load closest to the mast if possible.

    How to Read a Forklift Load Capacity Chart

    Understanding how to interpret a forklift's load capacity chart can help operators safely determine the lifting capacity based on load centre and height.

    This data plate typically includes information about the forklift model, its weight, battery and load information, as well as components, relating load centre distances and maximum lift heights. This will ensure you’re operating within safe limits.

    The load plate will differ depending on the forklift make and model.

    To maintain safety within your workplace, understanding and adhering to forklift load capacity is crucial. Bear in mind the factors that may affect load capacity, and always consult the forklift’s data plate, to ensure you’re not exceeding weight limits.

    At Atlas Forklift, we provide training for forklift operators, catering to both beginners and experienced individuals. Our goal is to ensure that your operators are well-trained to operate forklifts safely and proficiently. You can find more information about our training courses here. If you have any questions about forklift training, feel free to reach out to one of our friendly team members today.