Forklift Operator

Average Forklift Operator Salary Nationwide


Overview and Basic Information


Forklift operators drive forklifts (shocker, we know). They move 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.


Working a job like this might seem easy, but it can be pretty repetitive. Driving a forklift isn’t all sunshine, roses and gas pedals, though. You’ll be doing some hard work because not everything can be lifted with a forklift. You might have to carry heavy objects and stoop, kneel, crouch or crawl in awkward positions.


You also 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.


According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, operating a forklift is considered a “hazardous occupation.” As with any large machine, accidents can happen. They can, however, usually be avoided by using proper operating procedures and safety practices. You’ll need to be constantly aware of your surroundings to keep yourself and your coworkers safe.

Example forklift operator job description

Our warehouse is in need of a forklift operator to move packages and material around our facilities. You’ll drive a forklift with the greatest care to help ensure our warehouse is efficient and safe. You must be alert, coordinated and responsible and have previous experience driving industrial vehicles. The forklift operator needs a valid drivers’ license and must pass a mandatory drug screening.

Typical duties include:

  • Unload materials and merchandise from incoming vehicles and move them in a safe manner to assigned storage areas in the warehouse

  • Locate and move stock to pallets or crates for storage or shipment

  • Identify damages and report shortages or quality deficiencies

  • Transport raw materials to production work areas

  • Inspect machinery to determine the need for repairs and perform regular maintenance

  • Keep updated records of inventory and activity logs

  • Follow all company policies and OSHA guidelines to the letter


  • High school diploma or equivalent

  • Past experience as a forklift operator

  • Attention to detail and familiarity with industrial equipment

  • Excellent physical condition and coordination

  • Valid drivers’ license

  • Forklift certification

  • Pass a mandatory drug test

Common questions about forklift operator jobs

How much does a forklift operator make?

The average annual salary for forklift operators is about $36,000. Most forklift operators work full-time, and overtime is very common (you’ll be paid time-and-a-half for hours worked over 40 each week). Because materials are shipped around the clock, some forklift operators work overnight shifts.

What are the education requirements?

No formal education is typically required, but some companies prefer to hire machine operators with a high school diploma or GED. Training is usually done on the job.

Career paths for forklift operators

The career path for a forklift driver is varied. As you gain experience, you could be promoted to shift leader. With additional training and expertise, you could become a forklift operator instructor or machine maintenance engineer. You could also work your way up to warehouse manager.

The future of forklift operators

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall job opportunities for forklift operators are predicted to rise 6% from 2016-26. The demand for warehouses will continue to grow as more people buy things online. However, more warehouses are using automated machines (robots!) to improve efficiency. 

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