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Rider Forklifts

Rider Forklifts

Rider forklift

A rider forklift is the name given to any type of forklift that you can ride on. For many people, rider trucks are chosen simply because they serve a purpose while making it easier to move around the facility. But there are other reasons for choosing a rider forklift, and there are more types of rider forklift than just the standard lifts you see being driven around most storage facilities.

This page will introduce you to the most common types of rider forklift, and their main benefits and uses. Once you find the type of rider forklift you need, remember that you can use our Quote tool to discover prices and find the right make and model.

Note that the most commonly searched for rider forklift is the Sit-Down Counterbalanced Forklift Truck – this is the standard type forklift that you will see being driven around many larger storage facilities that require particularly heavy lifting. If this is what you are looking for, then you’ll find more information below, under the heading ‘Counterbalanced Rider Forklifts’.

Types of Rider Forklift

Counterbalanced Rider Forklifts

The most commonly-used and popular type of rider forklift is a counterbalanced truck, and tends to be most used for lifting heavy loads, which are often (but not always) stored at heights.

There are two main models of counterbalanced rider forklift, namely stand-up and sit-down. Although a sit-down truck tends to be more comfortable to operate during longer periods, it is not always the right choice – for example, you might find that a stand-up rider truck is slightly less bulky, as the operator’s area usually takes up less space; if you own a facility where every inch of room matters, then you might benefit greater from a stand-up model.

Counterbalanced trucks are able to handle heavier weights than other types of forklift such as pallet jacks, because they are designed to counterbalance the pressure of intense weights.

When selecting a counterbalanced rider forklift, it is important to consider what is most important – load capacity or maneuverability. In general, you will find that those trucks able to handle heavier loads will be more difficult to maneuver, and those that are easier to maneuver will probably handle lighter loads – and in general, stand-up trucks offer greater maneuverability but less weight capacity than sit-down trucks, due to their smaller size. For example, this table shows the differences between two similar trucks from the same manufacturer:

 DesignMaximum Capacity
Crown RC 5500 Series3-Wheel Stand-Up Counterbalanced4000lb
Crown FC 4500 Series4-Wheel Sit-Down Counterbalanced6000lb

Rider Pallet Jacks

Pallet Jacks are used for shifting pallets around the facility’s floor – from a holding area to a transportation vehicle, for example – and are not generally suitable for stacking shelves or racks, as they are not designed for lifting at heights. For smaller facilities, the manual hand-operated pallet jacks are preferable, because they are more cost-effective to acquire and tend to have a lower cost of maintenance, but many storage facilities prefer rider pallet jacks if they are constantly moving pallets or if they have a lot of floor space to cover, because rider pallet jacks take away a lot of strain from the operator which can help increase efficiency and uptime.

Here are three key concerns when opting for a rider pallet jack over a manual hand pallet jack:

  • Price: A rider pallet jack is outright more expensive to acquire – you could pay up to $10,000 for a decent model, compared with as low as $500 for a good-quality hand pallet jack
  • Power: Rider pallet jacks require electricity to run – this costs money, and requires downtime periods while batteries are charged or changed
  • Maintenance: Electric-powered vehicles are built with more complex parts, and are therefore more likely to require more regular maintenance or servicing, which can bring additional costs

Several brands offer rider pallet jacks, which can be found in both stand-up and sit-down models.

Stock Pickers (or Order Pickers)

A Stock Picker – also known as an order picker – is another kind of rider forklift that is very different from other truck varieties. Unlike pallet jacks or counterbalanced forklifts that are designed to carry stock alone, an order picker will allow its operator to work at the same height as the stock they are collecting, for more accurate order-picking. Stock pickers are also often designed to reach greater heights than counterbalanced trucks – for example, Toyota’s 6BPU15 model order picker can reach heights of up to 25 feet, and some models are designed to reach almost 40 feet.

Whereas a regular counterbalanced forklift is perfect for moving heavy loads from one place to another, an order picker allows the operator to take care of the finer details that might be required, at the height the stock is stored at – for example, if a pallet needs bringing down, but certain items need to remain, this can all be done at height, without having to bring the pallet down, rearrange the items, and then lift the pallet back up.

Although some stock pickers can handle very heavy loads, as a general rule, they tend to offer a slightly lower handling capacity than heavy-duty counterbalanced forklift trucks – for example, Toyota’s 6 Series (a series of order pickers) offers maximum load capacity of 3000lb, whereas even the most lightweight model in Toyota’s counterbalanced 7 series offers up to 4000lb.

Reach Truck

Reach trucks are probably best described as a hybrid of counterbalanced trucks and stock pickers. They are fully operated from a ground level station, just like the counterbalanced trucks (i.e. the operator cannot be lifted with the stock); but they offer lifting at greater heights than most counterbalanced trucks, just like stock pickers. Furthermore, Reach Trucks tend to be easier to maneuver in tighter spaces.

Because of their very high reach and great maneuverability, Reach Trucks are most commonly used by warehouses that stack products high, and often have very little space between racks. Compared with a stock picker, their main difference is the lack of a ‘man basket’ for sending people up to pick stock; and compared with many standard counterbalanced forklift trucks, their main drawback is load capacity – they are designed for greater height as opposed to heavier loads. Heavy load reach trucks can be found, but generally the load capacity of a reach truck is somewhat similar to that of a stock picker.

Reach Trucks are most commonly used by indoor facilities, and are therefore more likely to run on electricity.

Tow Tractors

Some material handling facilities do not require lifting, but do require pulling. Some require both.

Tow Tractors are not exactly forklifts, as they tow instead of lift – but we’re including them in this article because they often compliment a fleet of forklifts. Their versatility and ease of use is perhaps what makes them shine, as they can be used for pulling a variety of heavy loads across flat floor space – such as cages, stacks of pallets, or even other vehicles – and there’s no need to worry about balancing the load with complex lifting controls.

Tow tractors are often used outside, for example on farms, and so a common fuel type is diesel. For indoor use, you’re better selecting a model powered by gas or electricity.


There are a number of different types of rider forklifts, designed to do many different jobs. The most common kind is the counterbalanced forklift truck, but there are also pallet jacks, stock pickers, reach trucks and tow tractors available as ride-on machines.

Some of these are available elsewhere as manual or walk-behind forklifts. Walk-behind trucks tend to cost less, and have lower maintenance requirements. Some companies choose these because they are simply easier to manage, and cheaper to buy.

However, companies tend to choose rider trucks over walk-behind or manual trucks if they have a lot of floor space to cover, or if they feel their operators will be more productive with power assistance. Some models of rider trucks – such as the counterbalanced forklifts – are built to handle heavier loads, too.

In general, the heavier the load capacity, the less maneuverability a truck will offer.

To compare rider forklift trucks and get direct prices, you can use our Price Quote tool.