Logistics & Materials Handling Blog

What is a Counterbalance Forklift?

by Paul Hinz
Filed under: Forklifts

Counterbalance forklifts are the most common type of forklift utilised globally.

This week’s blog briefly explains what a counterbalance forklift is and then looks at some of the advantages they provide owners and operators.

What is a counterbalance Forklift?

There are two main variations of counterbalance forklifts:

  1. Combustion engine counterbalance forklifts
  2. Battery electric counterbalance forklifts

The term counterbalance forklift is derived from the units design where the forklift has a heavy counterweight that off-sets the weight of the load being carried on the tynes out in front.

In combustion forklifts the counterbalance is integrated to the rear of the unit, whilst battery electric forklifts are counterbalanced through the additional weight of the batteries installed into the unit.

Battery electric VS combustion engine counterbalance forklift

Without the counterbalance forklifts would become extremely unbalanced when picking up heavy loads with a heightened risk of the unit tipping forwards or over with the extra weight of the load on the tynes.

Advantages of Counterbalance Forklifts

Lift a Wide Range of Weights

Counterbalance forklifts are the most common type of forklift with units designed and engineered to safely lift a wide range of weights ranging from 1.8T up to 48T.

The larger the lift capacity of the forklift the larger the size of the unit as the in-built counterbalance must be large enough to offset the weight of the loads being picked up by the tynes and prevent the units from tipping over.

Hyster counterbalance forklift

Different Fuel Types

Another advantage of counterbalance forklifts is there are a variety of fuel types available to power them.

Fuel types include:

  • LPG
  • Petrol
  • Diesel
  • Battery Electric

The different fuel types available allow the unit to be customised to a particular application such as a diesel powered counterbalance forklift offers the necessary high power to lift and maneuver large heavy loads such as containers, whilst battery electric counterbalance forklifts are ideal for operating indoors where ventilation maybe a problem as they don’t emit any toxic emissions.

Hyster combustion engine counterbalance forklift

Increased Versatility with Added Attachments

Counterbalance forklifts add extra versatility to an operation as they can be fitted with a wide variety of attachments.

Attachments such as the examples below allow a counterbalance forklift to complete tasks it normally wouldn’t normally be able to complete thus increasing the units versatility.

  • Clamps such as bale or paper rolls allow counterbalance forklifts to safely pick-up and lift baled or irregular shaped loads including cotton, wool bales or rolls of paper that can’t be picked-up or lifted using standard tynes
  • Rotators and Bin Tippers allow counterbalance forklifts to pick-up, rotate and tip industrial bins safely and efficiently
  • Carpet Poles are an attachment that fits over a counterbalance forklifts standard tynes and allows for long lengths of carpet, textiles or materials to be wrapped around the central pole for easy and safe transport

Indoor and Outdoor Operation

Counterbalance forklifts can be fitted with a variety of different tyre options including non-marking, pneumatic, cushion and solid.

Depending on the application the best tyre option needs to be selected, for instance a forklift operating indoors in a warehouse may have non-marking tyres fitted so it doesn’t leave any marks on the warehouse floor during operations.

For counterbalance forklifts that operate outdoors pneumatic tyres may be fitted as they are heavy-duty, have deep treads in long lasting rubber that can withstand the harsher conditions of working outdoors across all surfaces.

Hyster counterbalance forklift outdoor operation

Increased Maneuverability

For indoor applications such as warehousing where utilising available storage space is a priority, 3 wheel battery electric counterbalance forklifts are the ideal solution.

Owing to their smaller size and tighter turning circle 3 wheel counterbalance forklifts allow warehouse storage to be designed with narrower aisles to maximize available storage space.

Hyster 3 wheel batter electric counterbalance forklift

Industry Specific Applications

As previously highlighted battery electric counterbalance forklifts are ideally suited to indoor applications as they can negate the need for ventilation as they do not release any dangerous emissions during operations.

This feature is particularly relevant for some industry specific applications such as medicine production, food and beverage storage where any emissions from a combustion engine counterbalance forklift may spoil or damage product, food and beverage ingredients or final product.

Hyster battery electric counterbalance forklift handling food

This week’s blog has provided a definition to answer the question ‘what is a counterbalance forklift?’ whilst also highlighting six advantages of counterbalance forklifts.

For advice on choosing the best counterbalance forklift for your application call our team on 13 22 54 or fill in a contact form and we will respond as soon as possible.