How to Get Forklift Certified: License Requirements, Training & Cost

For everyone who wants to get their forklift certification, you’re almost certainly asking how you do it.

Of course, the exact requirements vary a bit (or sometimes a lot) depending on what country you’re in, but today, I’ll be focusing on the United States of America.

Throughout this article ‘license‘ and ‘certification‘ will be used interchangeably, but they mean the same thing, in this article at least.

Getting forklift certification is not as complex as it used to be several years ago. In fact, it is far less arduous both in terms of how long it will take to achieve the license and how much it will cost.

The certification process is usually a quick and straightforward process, especially for operators who are already experienced in forklift operations.

So let’s dive into what it takes to get forklift certified.

Why You Should Get Forklift Certification

Why? Simply put, it’s the law. and because safety matters.

It is required by OSHA that each employee, who tends to operate a forklift, must be forklift trained and certified.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a government agency established by Congress in a law called the ‘Occupational Safety and Health Act‘. That act was signed into law by President Nixon in 1970.

The purpose of OSHA is to create health and safety regulations in order to ensure that everyone is able to work in a safe environment without fear of becoming sick, hurt or injured.

Of course, because the forklift is an incredibly dangerous piece of equipment that could easily be a killing machine in the wrong hands, OSHA has passed several laws to ensure that the injuries and deaths caused by them are kept to a minimum.

One of these laws is that everyone who operates one must have had sufficient forklift training, at the end of which you get given your forklift license.

In this article, we’ll explore how and why you should go about getting your forklift license. After all, if you (or someone else) are operating a forklift without the correct safety training and certification, OSHA could punish the employer with hefty fines that could seriously impact their business.

OSHA forklift license

Certification for forklift is essential to operate a forklift truck

So How Do I Get Forklift Certified?

As well as being a legal requirement, forklift training is also immensely beneficial to any wannabe employees. Any employer will be more likely to hire someone who already has their forklift certificate as it means that they don’t need to provide any training themselves.

There are two ways to get your forklift license.

  1. Training in-person.
  2. Online certification.

Although this training can be done online, it is better to do it in person.

1. In-Person Forklift Certification Training

In person, training can be set up either by an individual or an employer. Doing it is rather simple. I’ll explain in more detail later, but for now, it’s essentially: register when you’ll be doing it, go to a few classroom lectures, do your performance test, and finally get evaluated by your instructor.

This training course usually lasts 2 days but can last longer if the training is really high quality or if you’re a bit of a slow learner. Finding a nearby training school is easy, all you have to do is type into Googletraining schools near….‘.

 

2. Online Forklift Certification

If in-person training is not possible for you, online training is also an option.

With online training, you still get the formal training and evaluation, but you don’t get the most important part… the actual driving!

OSHA regulation requires all forklift drivers to have the formal/educational, driving test, and evaluation. Because of this, the online version is not able to fully certify you.

An employer who employs someone with only online training will have to provide practical training themselves- although the online training is better than nothing, in-person training is the best. I certainly would recommend the in-person training any day!

OSHA forklift certification

Get forklift certified online

Forklift Certification Training: The Steps You Need to Take

If you do opt for the in-person training (which you should), here is a guide on how it works, both what you should do before applying, and what you will do after applying.

1. Self-Assessment

If you’re unemployed and looking to change that, you’ll need to ask yourself what sort of forklift truck you plan on operating. By doing this, you can receive the training on THAT specific type of forklift.

Once you know, simply ask my trusty friend Google to find nearby training schools. Once you’ve found one, you can make sure that you meet all the requirements- which are normally just to make sure that you’re in decent physical and mental health.

The most common type of forklift truck is called the ‘counterbalance forklift truck.‘ With this type of forklift, the forks are at the front of the truck. This means that you can drive right up to whatever it is that you want to pick up. When most people think of ‘forklifts’ the ‘counterbalance forklift truck’ is usually the image that pops into their head.

If you’re already employed, your employer must, by law, provide you with whatever forklift training you need.

 

2. Enroll in a Forklift Training School

Now you’ve found a school, it’s time to get in there!

The school uses the standards provided by OSHA to provide you with all the knowledge that you need to know. As mentioned earlier, going to a school is better than doing it online.

OSHA forklift training certification

Forklift operators certificate training

3. Classroom Lectures

The first part of your forklift certification training will be to sit through classroom lectures. BORING! I know, I know, but NECESERRY!

The classroom bit usually lasts a total of eight hours (not all at once).

The topics that you’ll learn about within the classroom include: OSHA regulations because you have to understand the laws in order to obey them, general workplace safety, safe forklift driving, and plenty of other topics necessary for safely operating a forklift. You’ll also learn about the techniques you’ll need to prevent accidents and mishaps.

Accidents and mishaps are horrible. They can lead to lost time (which is the best case scenario), injury, property damage, and if you’re super unlucky, death is not completely off the cards!

I know that might be difficult to hear but about 85 people each year die from forklift accidents.

 

4. Written Examination

To show that things didn’t go into one ear and out the other, you’ll have to pass a written examination, usually done as a questionnaire.

The passing grade is normally around 75% but may be higher if the training standard of the school is higher than normal. Doing this exam ensures that you have the knowledge required to drive a forklift safely.

 

5. Practical Driving Test

Once you’ve passed the forklift training test, it’s time for the fun part… driving the forklift!

During this section of the course, you’ll have to do a series of tasks which include the following: starting the machine, loading things onto the machine, maneuvering in tight (and open spaces), lifting things, lifting particularly heavy things, and plenty of other potential tasks that you may become faced with in a workplace environment.

Forklift operator certificate

Forklift operators license test

6. Evaluation

The evaluation will be the final part of your forklift training. It’s basically the thing you’ve paid for! If you’ve passed both the written and practical tests, you’ll be certified to drive a forklift. You can put this certificate on your forklift resume when you apply for a job.

Unfortunately, this certificate expires after 3 years; after which you will have to do your training all over again. I know it’s annoying, but it’s the law!

Something else I feel that I ought to mention is that by the order of OSHA, this training must be given in a language that the learner understands. If you’re an immigrant who struggles with the English language, you’ll need to find a school that will teach you in the language that you understand best. Now you know what to do. Yippee!

It’s All Great, but How Much Does It Cost?

Right now, the next question on your mind is probably ‘How much does the training cost?’, after all, we all like to save an extra buck here and there. You may be unemployed, an employer, or just an employee who’s curious about how much his/her boss is spending on them.

Going to a forklift certification training school usually costs several hundred dollars. As well as money, it also costs time, at least 2 days. Despite the costs, (and trust me, as a cheapskate, I appreciate that this is a lot of money) it’s certainly worth it. With this training, you’ll be far more employable, far more likely to be promoted, far more efficient and productive at work, and most importantly, far less likely to become hurt by a forklift.

I admit it will be quite an investment, but having a job (which thanks to your training, you’ll be good at) will make it easier to pay off. The prices of each school vary quite a bit, so you’ll have to take a look online to know the exact prices of the school want – if there is a particular school that you want.

A terrible truth that I’m going to have to share with you is that you may have to do your training all over again in order to obey the law, because OSHA is quite strict about making sure that you’re safe. But when would OSHA ever tell you to redo your training?

  • Every 3 years your certificate expires. This means that you’ll have to renew your forklift certification at least that often, although doing it more often is better.
  • If you’re not acting in accordance to what you’ve learned during your time at the school. This could include goofing around, being too clumsy, not knowing how to operate the machinery, and doing important and dangerous tasks wrong.
  • As mentioned earlier, before you train in forklift driving, you have to decide what type of forklift you wish to train with. If the type of forklift you drive changes, you’ll have to redo your training in order to make sure that you are able to safely drive this new type of forklift.

    Because the second most common type of forklift is the ‘3-wheel counterbalance forklift truck‘, it’s most likely that this is the type you will need to be trained it. However, that’s not definitely the case because there are other types of forklift as well.
  • If you’ve become injured, injured somebody else, or had a near miss (and you’ve somehow managed to not get fired), for your own (and everyone else’s) safety, you’ll have to redo your certification training.

Getting your license can be expensive and time consuming. But is it worth it? Yes!

Even if you know how to drive a forklift, even if you’ve been doing it since you came out of your mother’s womb, without a license, you’re far less likely to get that job that you want. Not to mention that OSHA could (and is legally allowed to) inspect your workplace at any time! If an employer allows someone to operate a forklift without a license, they could get into serious trouble.

On top of that, certified forklift operators are more productive and efficient. Because of this, they are far more likely to be promoted.

Forklift certification online

Forklift certification test & training

If you’re either an employer who wants to be able to train your own staff, or you want to be promoted by your employer, a ‘forklift train the trainer‘ course is something to look into. On this course, you’ll learn how to train people how to safely use certain forklifts – being able to train people yourself could save your company money as you won’t have to send anyone to a forklift certification training school.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, getting a forklift license/certification is very expensive, but extremely worth it. When you’re looking for a school, it’s probably wise to look for something good quality, as opposed to something cheap. Put quality first! However, if the only schools near you are cheap, go to them. In-person training is always better than online training.

To get your certificate, you’ll need to apply to a school at which you’ll have to pass a written exam, preceded by 8 hours of listening to a teacher. After the written exam, you’ll have to do a practical exam. So long as you pass both, you’ll be able to legally drive a forklift at your workplace.

Annoyingly, you may have to redo your forklift training for whatever reason. If this happens you, you just gotta suck it up and deal with it. I wish you the absolute best of luck. Whether you’re unemployed and hoping to change that, an employer who’s obeying the law, or anyone else.

I understand that getting your forklift license can be an incredibly stressful, and expensive time, particularly if you’re unemployed and doing it so that employers will look at you more favorably. But I can guarantee that whatever stress it causes will be worth it.

Best of luck on getting your forklift certification, and if it applies to you, best of luck on finding a job afterwards!


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  1. Kairi Gainsborough

    I didn’t realize that you would need to pass a written exam to get your fork-lift license. It seems a lot like what people go through when they get their first driver’s license. I think it is a good idea to have a written portion. Not every scenario can come up while doing a practical driving test, so knowing that people know how to act but testing their knowledge on paper is a good way to do it.

    1. Exactly! You got it right.

  2. Alexandria Martinez

    Fortunately for my brother, he was given the chance to get his heavy vehicle license. He would really benefit from a high-quality training that includes learning all the important skills needed to operate a forklift for example. I think that the advice to choose a school that is pricier for the quality education is something my brother should keep in mind.

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