What Is a Diesel Forklift?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari
Some forklifts, especially larger models, are diesel-powered.
Some forklifts, especially larger models, are diesel-powered.

A diesel forklift is a vehicle used to lift pallets or other heavy objects, and it runs off diesel fuel rather than a battery or gasoline. Diesel engines are usually used in larger machines designed for use in heavy-duty applications, so a diesel forklift is likely to be much larger than other models. It is also likely to be able to lift much heavier loads, though this is not always necessarily the case. The use of diesel fuel in an engine gives the machine several advantages and disadvantages over gasoline-powered engines as well as batteries.

Diesel engines do not use spark plugs; the fuel is instead heated within the cylinder, and in most cases, the burning of diesel fuel is more efficient. It also produces more torque, which is why it is advantageous for larger, work-oriented vehicles. A diesel forklift is likely to be used in agricultural or industrial settings in which power output and torque production are important. Diesel fuel can tend to be more expensive than gasoline, however, which means it is not always cost-effective to run a diesel forklift.

Like other types of forklifts, a diesel forklift may feature either pneumatic or solid rubber tires. This usually depends on the applications for which the forklift will be used; even floors in warehouses or factories will usually require solid rubber tires, while uneven surfaces often found on construction sites or agricultural settings will require pneumatic tires to encourage stability and maneuverability. The size of the machine may also dictate which kind of tires are used. A telehandler forklift is a common type of diesel forklift used primarily in outdoor settings, and it features pneumatic tires for stability and steering. This type of forklift is used to lift loads to much higher heights than conventional forklifts.

One of the disadvantages of the diesel forklift is the production of exhaust fumes. These fumes tend to be thicker and more prevalent than fumes from gasoline engines; battery-operated lifts produce no exhaust. The presence of this thick exhaust can make diesel lifts a poor choice for indoor settings, though many modern models have cut down on exhaust production significantly. Diesel exhaust is very harmful if breathed in or if it comes in contact with the eyes. This is usually not an issue in open-air settings, though a machine that causes excessive exhaust can also become problematic outdoors.

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    • Some forklifts, especially larger models, are diesel-powered.
      Some forklifts, especially larger models, are diesel-powered.