Did you know that the forklift operator position is one of the highest paid in the warehousing industry? This is because it’s a position that requires certification, which results in the starting wage being much higher than other roles due to the upfront work. 

Not only does a forklift certification set you apart on the job hunt, but it can also provide job security. With last year’s increase in e-commerce sales, forklift operators have been and will continue to be in high demand, meaning you’ll always have work, or be able to find work.

Tip: due to the fact that forklift jobs are higher paid, consider starting as a warehouse associate and make it known that you are interested in forklifts. If you show reliability as an employee (on time, no missed days, good performance, great safety record,  etc) it will open the door to new opportunities.


Obtaining your forklift operator’s certification takes time and effort but pays off in the end. To become a certified forklift operator, your first course of action is to complete an OSHA-approved certification course. These are offered by many vocational colleges and private companies. Courses usually take about 6-8 hours, and usually cost less than $200.

There are typically four parts of a forklift operation course.

  1. Obtaining your forklift operator’s license begins with classroom based training;
  2. Followed by a written test;
  3. When you pass the written test, you’ll receive hands-on training;
  4. Finally, you’ll receive a final evaluation based on your performance during the written test and hands-on training before obtaining your certification.​

​Obtaining a forklift operation certification doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be driving a forklift on your first day, though. Companies are required by OSHA to verify your skills, as forklifts are powerful pieces of equipment that can damage facilities or lead to serious injuries. As a result, each company will usually provide additional training to ensure everyone’s safety and acclimate you to operating in their specific location. ​


As a forklift operator, you can expect to move heavy materials using powerful industrial equipment and machines. This might take place in a factory, at a construction site, or in a warehouse. In fact, because there are so many different uses for forklifts, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has categorized seven classes of forklifts. ​


Class 1: Electric Motor Rider Truck
This type of lift is very versatile. Its tires are intended for use in a warehouse with smooth floors, and Class 1 lifts with pneumatic tires can be outside in dry weather.

Class 2: Electric Motor Narrow Aisle Truck
Class 2 forklifts are primarily used in warehouse settings. When a company is looking to save on storage space, they might utilize the narrow profile of Class 2 forklifts to minimize the area needed to navigate the vehicle.

Class 3: Electric Motor Hand or Hand-Rider Truck
These forklifts are primarily used for unloading pallets and other large, heavy items. Their controls are mounted on the tiller, which helps lower, lift, and steer the forklift.

Class 4: Internal Combustion Engine Truck – Cushion Tires
Class 4 forklifts are for transporting pallets indoors. Because their cushion tires are smaller than their counterparts, they’re better suited for low-clearance operations.

Class 5: Internal Combustion Engine Truck – Pneumatic Tires
These forklifts are both incredibly powerful and versatile. Pneumatic tires allow for them to be used indoors or outdoors, and their high lift capacity allows them to handle loads as small as a single pallet to as big as a fully-loaded 40-foot container.

Class 6: Electric and Internal Combustion Engine Tractors
These vehicles, which can be outfitted with either an electric or gas engine depending on the job. Battery-powered vehicles tend to be better for indoor environments, as it improves air quality and is quieter, whereas the robust internal combustion engines are more suitable for outdoor use.

Class 7: Rough Terrain Forklifts
These forklifts, which are equipped with large tires, are most commonly used at construction sites where the terrain is less predictable and subject to the elements.
It’s important to consider what kind of work you want to do as a forklift operator. When you look for a certification course, do research to know whether they’ll be equipped to train you for that kind of forklift.


Forklift operating jobs are currently in high demand and offer competitive pay. So, once you have your forklift operator’s license,  check out our latest job listings for forklift operators in the Midwest.
Additionally, becoming a warehouse associate is a great first step toward becoming a forklift operator. When you demonstrate your value to a company through outstanding work and reliability, they’ll be willing to train and invest resources in you. 

Let Summit Staffing help match you with your next warehouse job in Illinois, Indiana, or Wisconsin for a prosperous future! We specialize in the light industrial market, so whether you are looking for general labor, forklift, machine operating, or more, we’ll work one-on-one with our associates to make sure we have the right fit.

 Check out our office locations or contact us to learn more!

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