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The Basics of Operating a Reach Truck: A Beginner’s Guide


A reach truck is a staple in warehouses, manufacturing plants, and other industrial settings where there is a need for high stacking or narrow aisle applications. This high-lift truck is designed to operate in confined spaces and over long distances. It has a unique design with a telescopic mast that reaches out and retracts to carry and place pallets of goods. While it is a versatile machine, there are some basics that every beginner should know before operating a reach truck.

In this article, we will go through the basics of how to operate a reach truck, including its functions, safety features, steering mechanism, and tips on how to maintain its longevity.

What Is a Reach Truck?

A reach truck is a type of forklift used mainly in manufacturing and warehousing operations. This industrial truck differs from the standard counterbalanced forklift in that it is specially designed to operate in tight spaces, particularly narrow aisles and high shelving units. The name “reach truck” comes from the telescopic mast, which extends forward, allowing the operator to reach items that are sitting on top of shelves and racks. This design also allows for increased capacity, which means that reach trucks can handle heavier loads than standard forklifts.


A reach truck is designed to lift and transport pallets of goods from one location to another. It is perfect for high stacking and narrow aisle applications due to its unique design. The telescopic mast extends forward, allowing the operator to reach items on high shelves and racks with ease. The reach truck also comes with a hydraulic system used to control the fork’s movement, lift height, and tilt angle. In addition, a reach truck comes with a variety of attachments such as a sideshifter and a clamp attachment that can be used to handle different types of loads.

Safety Features

Operating a reach truck may seem simple, but safety should be the top priority of every beginner. A reach truck can cause serious injuries if not operated correctly. Some of the safety features to consider when operating the reach truck include:

1. Seat Belt – every operator should wear a seat belt to prevent being thrown out of the cab in the event of an accident.

2. Safety guards – the reach truck must have safety guards to prevent the load from tipping over while in transit.

3. Emergency stop button – every reach truck should have an easily accessible emergency stop button that can be used in case of an emergency.

4. Horn and lights – the reach truck should have lights and a horn to alert people in the workplace of its presence. The horn should be used when reversing, while the lights should be on when working in low light.

5. Operator visibility – the reach truck should have good visibility for the operator to reduce the risk of accidents.

Steering Mechanisms

Unlike the standard forklift, the reach truck uses a unique steering mechanism. The reach truck is designed to be compact, and its steering system allows precise movement both forward and backward. The reach truck’s steering system is designed to give the operator full control over its movement. The operator can control the steering by using a wheel that is located above the floor, or by using a joystick that is mounted on the armrest.

Maintenance Tips

Proper maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity of every reach truck. Regular maintenance will not only result in better performance but will also reduce the need for expensive repairs. Below are some tips on how to maintain a reach truck:

1. Check the battery – the reach truck runs on a battery and should be charged at the end of each shift. The battery should be checked regularly to ensure that it is performing well, and if it is not, it should be replaced immediately.

2. Replace worn-out components – some parts of the reach truck will wear out over time, and they need to be replaced. Common parts that need replacement include the hydraulic hoses, tires, and brake pads. These parts should be replaced as soon as they start showing signs of wear and tear.

3. Lubricate parts regularly – the reach truck has moving parts that need lubrication to function correctly. The operator should lubricate these parts regularly to prevent friction and premature wear.

4. Inspect the reach truck daily – the reach truck should be inspected daily before use to ensure that it is in good working condition. The operator should check the tires, brakes, lights, and hydraulic system among others.


Q: How long do reach trucks last?

A: On average, reach trucks can last up to 10 years depending on the frequency of use and the level of maintenance it receives.

Q: How fast can a reach truck travel?

A: Reach trucks can travel at speeds between 3 and 7 miles per hour.

Q: Can you use a reach truck outside?

A: Reach trucks are designed to operate indoors, and they should not be used outside. The wheels are made for smooth surfaces and can get stuck or damaged on rough terrain.

Q: What is the maximum weight a reach truck can lift?

A: Reach trucks can lift up to 5,500 lbs.

Q: How long does it take to train a beginner to operate a reach truck?

A: The training duration depends on the individual and the complexity of the machine, but on average, it takes between three and five days to fully train a beginner.


Operating a reach truck takes a bit of practice and training, but with the right knowledge and attention to safety, you can master the basics of operating this versatile machine. Remember, safety should always be your top priority when operating any industrial equipment. Regular maintenance and timely replacement of worn-out components will not only keep your reach truck working properly but will also increase its lifespan.
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