How To Read A Forklift Nameplate (In Plain English)

Last Updated: November 11, 2019

Every year, there are almost 100 deaths and over 34,000 injuries due to forklift (powered industrial truck) accidents (source).

According to OSHA, many of these are the result of “improper equipment” and a lack of training. In other words, these accidents could be avoided. The nameplates on a forklift are an important piece of this safety puzzle. They indicate exactly how much load can be put on a forklift taking into account things like truck weight and attachments.

Many forklift accidents are a result of the truck tipping due to excessive weight, yet basic understanding of how to read the weight requirements could prevent injury.

Most resources online are confusing, filled with jargon and OSHA codes – so we wanted to make a guide you could easily understand.

Share this with your company, forklift operators, or anyone involved with safety in your industrial workspace*.

Forklift Nameplate Basics

A forklift’s nameplate (also referred to as a data plate, weight plate or load plate) provides integral information about the machine’s capacity, fuel type, and weight.

The forklift data plate can be found on the instrument panel near the operating controls:

A nameplate found on the instrument panel of a Nissan FX5 Forklift – Image from Logismarket

Workers and operators can refer to the nameplate to ensure safe and efficient operation.

Specifications Commonly Indicated On A Forklift Data Plate

Each load plate is going to differ a little depending on the forklift.

This example of a used (worn) data plate specifies a load the forklift can safely address when fitted with an attachment or operating at various mast angles.

A used (worn) forklift nameplate to show attributes found.

On most plates you may find any of the following attributes:

Basic Information

  • Brand
  • Model
  • Serial Number
  • Forklift Type

Parts & Components Information

  • Mast Type
  • Front Tire Tread
  • Tire Sizes
  • Tire Type

Weight & Load Information

  • Truck Weight
  • Battery Weight
  • Attachments Included In Weight Calculation
  • Back Tilt
  • Forward Tilt
  • Load capacity
  • Maximum Lift height
  • Load center distances
  • Down rating of lift capacity (if mast is fitted)
  • Down rating for attachments (as specified on capacity plate)

Understanding Forklift Data Plate Terms & Definitions

While we’re not going to cover the self explanatory terms here (like ‘serial number’), below are important forklift plate terms and definitions to know.

Most importantly, this information is telling you how much load the forklift can withstand (before tipping, or other hazardous conditions). Your operators need to know the below information.

1. Understand The Forklift Components & Weight

Mast: This is the type of mast your forklift has. FSV or ‘triple’ as shown above is the most common. All mast types descriptions can be found here.

Attachments: This section lists the attachments on your forklift being included in the truck weight listed. If an attachment is on the truck, but not listed, you need to take that into account to determine the total truck weight (without a load) OR load weight, if the attachment is part of the forks.

Truck Weight w/o Battery: This gives the weight of the truck minus the weight of the battery. The battery will have its weight stamped on it. The weight of the truck and battery equals the total weight of the forklift. Useful, so you can recalculate the total truck weight if a different battery is swapped.

Truck Weight: The weight of the forklift without a load. Some weight plates will list the total truck weight including the battery, and others may list truck weight without the battery.

2. Understand The Lifting & Load Variables

Max Lifting Height: The maximum lift height based on load centers.

Load Center: This number indicates how far forward from the mast the balancing point of the load is. The further it is from the center, the less weight it can withstand.

Back Tilt: The maximum degree of back tilt (tilting the load towards the operator). On this example data plate, the maximum weight is calculated assuming no tilt is applied.

Forward Tilt: If your lift’s arms tilt forward, the maximum degree of forward tilt. Remember, the more you tilt the mast forward, the less weight it can withstand.

3. Calculate And Understand The Maximum Capacity

The above information is everything used to arrive at what we really want to know: the maximum capacity – or simply, “how heavy can the thing be I pick up?”

Maximum Capacity: How heavy the load can be, based upon the other calculations (mast height, load center, and front tilt). As you can see on the example data plate, it is listed given a few variables.

It is saying, if the mast is extended upwards 189 inches, the load center is 24 inches from the mast – the maximum capacity is 4,800 lbs.

So remember – the maximum capacity is not a static number, but changes depending upon the other factors.

Try a forklift capacity calculator like this one to calculate based upon custom variables.

4. Be Aware Of Other Safety Related Information

Tire Size & Type: The tire size does not factor into calculating capacity, but is provided to ensure proper replacement tires are installed. It also indicates pounds per square inch for optimal inflation.

How To Avoid Fines & Serious Injuries

While understanding weight specifications is critical to safety, you can’t read a nameplate that is worn, doesn’t exist or hasn’t been updated.

The data plates must meet respective industry regulations and standards. What may seem like minor infractions could lead to penalties, costly fines and even worse – injury or death.

While this guide provides an overview of reading weight plate data, you should be familiar with OSHA’s health and safety documents for forklifts (PIT or powered industrial trucks).

For example:

  • If your lift truck is modified or an attachment is added, the data plates need to be updated as well.
  • If lighter batteries other than those provided by the manufacturer are used, this changes the weight. Using a smaller battery invalidates the lifting capacity as stated on the data plates. Therefore you will need to recalculate.

It’s mandatory that every lift truck has a nameplate. Have you purchased a used forklift or not checked your fleet recently?

Here are common things to check for:

□ Do they all have the data plates?

□ Is the important safety information not worn off and legible?

□ Are the plates still securely attached, and not falling off?

□ Have attachments been added, or your battery been replaced?

Metalphoto of Cincinnati is a leading manufacturer of custom data plates for all types of industrial applications.

Our Metalphoto anodized aluminum nameplates are ideal for variable data and barcodes, and remain readable for the life of your equipment. Contact MPC for additional information or request a free sample:

*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the need to reference and understand OSHA’s official safety guidelines. Please refer to OSHA, safety requirements of your forklift manufacturer, and the resources below.

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