- On average, forklift drivers make around $15 per hour
- An experienced forklift driver can make up to $20 per hour
- You'll need to get a certification to drive a forklift
What do forklift drivers do?
Forklift operators drive around forklifts (shocker, we know), moving materials around warehouses, storage yards, factories, construction sites and other work sites The machine itself has a hydraulic lifting mechanism, and forks for moving heavy and large objects. It's a fork that lifts things - get it?
Working a job like this might seem easy, but the work can be very repetitive. Driving a forklift isn't all cake, roses, and gas pedals. It's going to be hard work. Not everything can be lifted with a forklift, so you may have to carry heavy objects and stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl in awkward positions.
You might be outside in extreme temperatures, and depending on what kind of materials you're moving, you could be around fumes, odors, loud noises or harmful chemicals. Most forklift drivers work 8-hour (or longer) shifts, but that doesn’t mean the job is a nine-to-fiver. In places where customers are around, most forklift work is done after hours. In 24-hour warehouses, shifts can be around the clock.
Operating a forklift is considered a "hazardous occupation," according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. As with any big machine, accidents happen. They can, however, usually be avoided by observing proper operating procedures and safety practices. You'll need to be constantly vigilant and aware of your surroundings to keep yourself and your co-workers safe.
How much do forklift drivers make?
The average hourly pay for all forklift drivers is around $15 per hour, but will vary by experience and location. Skill level is the biggest differentiator in pay. The longer you've been on the job, the closer you'll get to that $20 per hour mark.
What are the education requirements?
For most forklift driver positions, you'll need to be at least 18 years old to get the job. Most employers will prefer that you have a high school diploma or GED. Depending on what kind of warehouse you'll be working in, you may need additional certification on how to handle toxic chemicals or dangerous equipment. Most training requirements are going to be the same across the board because of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They have a really, really long list of rules that the employer must comply with in order to allow you to drive a forklift. Training is usually provided by the employer, and will be reoccurring. Your employers will have to provide proof to the government that you've received the training and been evaluated at least once every 3 years.
Career paths for forklift drivers
To start from scratch (if you've never been behind the wheel of a forklift) you'll have to get some experience in a warehouse associate or material moving position before being promoted to a better paying and more highly skilled job. If you're a stud behind the wheel, you may eventually advance to become a supervisor or manager.
The future of forklift driver jobs
According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), job opportunities for fork lift drivers are not going to be growing. If you're looking for a job with lots of growth potential, this just isn't it. Improvements in equipment and processes will continue to reduce the demand for forklift drivers. On the bright side, there's still some potential in warehouse forklift positions in retail and other growing industries.
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