The Most Popular Forklift FAQs Answered

As a top nationwide forklift truck supplier and servicer in New Zealand, we often see and hear questions that our clients and the general public have about forklifts. In this article, we aim to answer some of the most popular FAQs.

Can you drive a forklift without a license in New Zealand?

As with many other countries worldwide, operating certain machinery such as a forklift in New Zealand calls for a confirmed level of competency, which is usually demonstrated through obtaining a valid operator’s license. The simple answer to the question “Can you drive a forklift without a license in New Zealand?” is no, you may not. 

In a bid to uphold safety standards and ensure the overall reduction of work-related accidents, the New Zealand government mandates that every individual operating a forklift must be adequately trained and hold a valid license. This law is grounded under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which emphasises that all forklift operators must possess the appropriate level of training, supervision, and certification.

But what exactly does this forklift license entail? 

The operator’s certificate, commonly referred to as the forklift license, is evidence that an individual has undergone the right training and passed the necessary tests. By law, this certificate is required to operate a forklift on any terrain or environment, be it on a construction site, warehouse, or public road.

Getting a Forklift License in New Zealand

Obtaining a valid operator’s certificate for forklift operation in New Zealand usually involves attending a forklift training course provided by an accredited training provider. The training course covers theoretical knowledge, and practical skills, and often culminates in an assessment to ensure the trainee has sufficient competency to handle a forklift safely.

Additionally, a unique aspect of forklift laws in New Zealand is that an operator may require more than just a forklift license when operating a forklift on a public road. In such situations, the operator is mandated to hold a full driver’s license with an F (forklift) endorsement. Laws such as these reaffirm the New Zealand government’s commitment to promoting safety in any environment where a forklift is in operation.

Penalties for Operating Without a License

The repercussions of operating a forklift without a license in New Zealand are quite severe and aimed at discouraging non-compliance. Penalties can include hefty fines, stringent disciplinary measures or, in severe cases, imprisonment. Furthermore, employers who allow unlicensed individuals to operate a forklift can also face serious penalties, including fines and prosecution.

Promoting Safety and Efficiency

Implementing and enforcing these licensing rules is crucial from a safety standpoint. According to WorkSafe New Zealand, forklifts make up a significant proportion of serious harm notifications, with many incidents resulting in severe injury and even death. Therefore, ensuring that every operator has a license promotes a safer working environment by confirming that they have received adequate training and understand the safety procedures involved in operating a forklift.

How many hours should you get out of a forklift?

The average lifespan of a forklift is measured in hours. Standard forklifts, often powered by internal combustion engines, typically have a lifespan of approximately 10,000 to 20,000 hours. On the higher end, some forklifts designed for lighter tasks can top 30,000 hours. The exact lifespan will depend on several factors, including the make and model of the forklift, the kind of work it’s used for, and how well it’s maintained.

Factors Influencing Forklift Lifespan

Several factors can influence the lifespan of a forklift. Heavy use, rough handling, and extreme working conditions can all shorten the lifespan. For instance, a forklift that’s used for heavy lifting in a busy warehouse every day will wear out faster than one that’s used for lighter duties in a retail setting.

Regular maintenance also plays a critical role in prolonging the lifespan of a forklift. If a forklift is well-maintained, with regular services and replacement of parts as necessary, you can expect it to last considerably longer than a neglected one. Proper operator training can also help extend the lifespan of a forklift as correctly operated machinery tends to suffer less from avoidable damage.

Electric Forklifts: An Exception

Electric forklifts tend to have a longer lifespan than internal combustion forklifts. This is because electric forklifts have fewer moving parts and, therefore, fewer components that can break down or wear out. For heavy use, an electric forklift can typically provide upto 20,000 hours of service. With lighter use and diligent maintenance, an electric forklift can often exceed the 30,000-hour mark.

However, it is important to note that batteries and chargers in electric forklifts would require replacement and maintenance over time, hence, taking these additional costs into account is essential when considering the total cost of ownership.

What are the safety requirements for a forklift in New Zealand?

Forklift in operation

There are certain safety requirements that a forklift and forklift operator must abide by in the workplace. These are enforced by law and built into health and safety policies. Be sure to check with your company’s health and safety policies and the written laws, however, here are some general safety requirements that should and in most cases are mandatory.

In terms of equipment requirements, every forklift should be equipped with a securely fitted seat belt, an overhead guard, and a rearview mirror. Forklifts should also include functional brakes, reverse beeper, horn, head and tail lights, and flashing hazard lights. The forks should be maintained in good condition and not be used if they are cracked, bent, or worn. 

Proper maintenance of forklifts is another crucial aspect of safety standards. Regular, documented inspections before starting a shift are mandatory. This includes fluid level checks, tire inspections, and brake functionality checks. It’s important to not operate a forklift if any defect is found and report it immediately.

Safety rules govern the operation of a forklift as well. Operators should adhere strictly to the speed limits specified within the working premise and should not carry a load that surpasses the specified weight limit of the forklift. Loading conditions, extension attachments, and raised loads can change the forklift’s centre of gravity and thus should be appropriately adjusted by the operator.

Specific safety measures should be followed while lifting loads. This includes a thorough inspection of the load before lifting, ensuring the load is balanced, and it should be low enough to not block the operator’s vision. When not in use, forks should always be placed on the floor, and the parking brake should be applied.

Pedestrian safety is an equally important aspect of forklift operations. Clear visual indicators and warnings should be used to alert workers and pedestrians in the vicinity. The operator should constantly be aware of and anticipate the movement of pedestrians, and stop the vehicle for any pedestrian pathway.

How much diesel does a forklift use per hour?

Although the usage of diesel will vary based on the model, brand, age, and working conditions of the forklift, a general estimation is still possible to define a baseline. A diesel forklift can consume anywhere between 1.5 to 2.5 litres of fuel per hour under normal conditions. 

As an example, in a normal 8-hour operating cycle, a diesel forklift with a 2.5-litre-per-hour consumption rate would utilise approximately 20 litres of diesel. Extend this usage to a five-day work week, and the diesel consumption sums to about 100 litres. Going by this approximation, it’s key for businesses to contemplate these figures when strategising about their operational costs. 

However, multiple factors can influence the consumption rate. Running the forklift continuously at high speed or under maximum load will certainly cause higher consumption. Similarly, operating in cold weather may also result in increased fuel usage due to the need for additional energy to heat the engine. The condition and maintenance level of the forklift will likewise affect the fuel consumption rate. Properly tuned and well-maintained engines can consume less fuel, thereby saving costs and ensuring longer machine lifetimes.

Moreover, the driver’s skill and habits play a significant role. Accurate handling reduces unnecessary forklift movements, eliminates the need for constant start-stop cycles, and thus lessens fuel wastage, making driver training a good investment for any organisation. 

It’s also noteworthy that advancements in technology have led to the development of more fuel-efficient forklift models. Many newer forklifts come with fuel conservation mechanisms, such as engine shutdown after a period of inactivity or power management systems that reduce fuel consumption when the forklift is not carrying any load. 

How fast is a forklift in KM?

Before delving into the specifics, it is important to note that forklift speeds can vary depending on several factors, including the forklift’s type, model, load capacity, and the prevailing workplace regulations. Counterbalance forklifts, reach trucks, pallet jacks, and other types of forklifts all have different speed capabilities.

Generally, forklifts are designed for indoor use and are not expected to achieve high speeds compared to vehicles used on roadways. The average maximum speed for most forklifts ranges from 8 to 18 kilometres per hour. However, some specialized forklifts designed for outdoor use, like rough terrain forklifts, may have higher maximum speeds to address the specific needs of certain industries.

What is the daily check for a forklift?

The daily check for a forklift in New Zealand includes a series of inspections and tests to ensure that the machine is in optimal condition. It ensures that potential issues are identified and addressed promptly, preventing accidents, injuries, and damage to property. Let’s take a closer look at the key components of this daily check:

Visual Inspection

Start by visually inspecting the forklift. Look for any signs of damage to the body, forks, mast, tires, and hydraulics. Check for fluid leaks, loose components, and any obvious issues that could affect the safe operation of the forklift.

Fluid Levels

Check the fluid levels, including fuel, oil, and coolant. Ensure that they are at the recommended levels. Low fluid levels can not only affect the forklift’s performance but also lead to mechanical failure and damage.


Examine the tires for any signs of excessive wear, cuts, or bulges. Properly inflated and intact tires are crucial for maintaining stability and manoeuvrability. Replace any damaged or worn-out tires immediately.


If the forklift is electric-powered, inspect the battery for any damage or leaks. Check the connections for tightness and cleanliness. A well-maintained battery ensures uninterrupted operation throughout the shift.

Lights and Horn

Test all the lights, including headlights, brake lights, indicators, and reverse lights, to ensure they are functioning correctly. Check that the horn is loud and audible to ensure proper communication with others on-site.


Check all the controls, including the accelerator, brake, and steering wheel for smooth operation. Ensure that all functions respond as expected, without any delays or abnormalities.

Safety Features 

Verify that all the safety features are operational, such as the seatbelt, parking brake, mirrors, and backup alarm. These features are critical to prevent accidents and protect the operator and others in the vicinity.

How often should I service my forklift?

forklift being serviced

The frequency of servicing a forklift depends on several factors, including the type of forklift, its usage, operating conditions, and manufacturer’s recommendations. Here are some general guidelines to help you determine how often you should service your forklift in New Zealand.

Manufacturer’s recommendations

The best starting point is to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the specific forklift model you own. These guidelines usually provide a recommended schedule for routine servicing and maintenance. Following their recommendations will ensure that your forklift operates at peak performance and minimizes the risk of sudden breakdowns or accidents.

Hours of usage

The number of hours a forklift is used is another important factor to consider. Most manufacturers recommend servicing forklifts after a certain number of operating hours. Typically, this falls within a range of 150 to 250 hours. For higher usage applications, such as forklifts used in busy warehouses or distribution centres, more frequent servicing may be necessary.

Operating conditions

The environment in which the forklift operates plays a significant role in determining its service intervals. Forklifts operating in dusty or dirty environments, extreme temperatures, or high humidity may require more frequent servicing. These conditions can accelerate wear and tear, resulting in reduced performance and potential safety risks.

Safety compliance 

In New Zealand, workplace health and safety regulations require regular inspections and maintenance of forklifts to ensure they are safe to operate. The specific requirements can vary depending on the industry and work environment. Generally, inspections are required at least every 6 to 12 months, but it’s recommended to conduct routine checks more frequently to address any potential issues early on.

Signs of wear and tear

Regularly inspecting your forklift for signs of wear and tear can help identify the need for servicing before it turns into a major problem. Look out for issues like fluid leaks, unusual noises, decreased performance, or difficulty in operation. If any of these signs appear, it is advisable to arrange for a service immediately, regardless of the scheduled maintenance interval.

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