What is A Forklift Mast And Why is it Important?
Some of you reading may be wondering “What is a forklift mast?”. While new forklifts are revolutionary pieces of machinery, it is important to understand some of the other less commonly known features of a forklift that makes them thrive in warehouse, storage and transportation industries. With this in mind, we have detailed:
- What is a forklift mast?
- Important considerations
- How many mast types are there today?
What is A Forklift Mast?
The mast, or sometimes referred to as the lift mechanism, makes a notable difference in the functionality of a forklift within a particular transportation environment. Essentially, the mast is the mechanical structure on a forklift that performs the action of raising loads to the necessary required heights. It consists of a fork and an elevation mechanism which lifts a load by hydraulic displacement and is able to be lowered by the natural forces of gravity.
One factor to consider when choosing the type of mast on a forklift is the amount of free lift, especially in a location with low overhead clearance. Free lift is essentially how high a forklift operator can raise the forks without the mast height changing. While free lift is hugely important if you’re working in tight and narrow spaces, the lift mechanism can limit visibility if it is located in the centre of the mast which, as a result, can cause visual obstructions or even accidents during usage.
Another factor to consider that affects forklift mast selection is the lowered height level, also known as the collapsed height. The lowered height is the distance from the floor to the top of the mast when the mast is lowered. The lowered height is particularly important for when a forklift is required to travel through confined spaces like doorways or garage areas where operators will aim to avoid clipping anything on the floor to protect the forklift.
On the flip side, the extended height of a mast is an important consideration when choosing your ideal forklift. In essence, the extended height is the distance from the floor to the top of the mast when it is fully extended. It is important to note that when a forklift’s mast is fully extended while carrying a load, the forks should never be able to reach the maximum extended height of the mast. 99% of the time, the forklift will be manufactured to prevent this from ever occurring however, if you are testing out a forklift and it reaches greater than the extended height limit, notify a health and safety officer and exit the vehicle safely and immediately.
Lift height isn’t the same as extended height because it is actually a measurement from the floor to the forks once the mast has reached its maximum extended height limit. As a general rule of thumb, the recommended lift height is six inches above your highest shelf so that the forklift has enough room to manoeuvre and place loads/pallets with relative ease.
Other external factors are important when choosing your ideal forklift and in particular, the warehouse you are operating in. For example, vertical space is a vital component for smooth functioning of your forklift. If you simply do not have enough room to extend the mast on your forklifts, clearly this is going to generate operating limitations for your day to day tasks. Other factors include, maximum height of your racking and size of the load you aim to handle.
How Many Different Forklift Mast Are There Today?
In today’s age, many forklift operators depend upon any one of four different forklift mast types in which we we detail below:
The single-stage mast, also referred to as a simplex mast, has one channel with a restricted lifting height and does not have any free lift. The mast must extend higher to stack loads, which is why it is usually seen in outdoor warehouse environments where overhead clearance isn’t a concern for the operator to effectively perform their task.
The two-stage mast, also known as a duplex mast, is a much more common variant of forklift andt is often used for stacking and double stacking during indoor applications with a limited overhead space. They provide excellent visibility as there aren’t as many mast sections impeding the driver’s view which helps improve health and safety standards as well as being much more efficient than single-stage masts.
The most common and versatile forklift mast is the three-stage variant (also known as the triplex mast). It’s free lift and better maximum height potential makes it a solution for stacking in most general warehouse applications. They are particularly useful for when a single or double stage mast just isn’t enough and a higher loading and unloading vehicle is required.
The four-stage mast, or quad mast, has the highest reach thanks to its four sets of moving rails. They are designed for very high stacking in specialised warehousing and storage environments. It’s also important to note that the four-stage mast can have restricted visibility, so this is something definitely to take into consideration, and will require specialist training in order to operate safely and effectively.
If you are looking for a forklift, you have certainly come to the right place here at Trucks Direct. We have a wide selection of new and used forklifts each with different mast types to suit your exact needs and requirements. For more information, be sure to contact us today where our highly knowledgeable team will get back to you.