What Is a Pneumatic Forklift?

Alex Newth

One might think a pneumatic forklift is one that runs on pneumatic power, but this is not the case. More commonly referred to as a pneumatic tire forklift, a pneumatic forklift uses pneumatic tires, not pneumatic power. While the power source is no different from other forklifts, the lifting potential when compared to cushion and electric forklifts is generally doubled. There are several types of pneumatic tires, and some can enhance the lifting potential of the forklift, but the tires themselves tend to last a shorter time than other tire types.

Indoor forklifts typically use solid rubber tires, but other models use air-filled tires.
Indoor forklifts typically use solid rubber tires, but other models use air-filled tires.

The pneumatic tire on a pneumatic forklift is shaped the same as a standard air tire and has a large air band inside the tire. Unlike other forklift tires that have metal bands and rubber inserts, these tires are mostly filled with air. The tires come in two main types — bias and radial.

In bias tires, the cords that create the tires are criss-crossed. These pneumatic tires are much cheaper, because they consume more fuel, are not as durable and decrease lifting potential. Radial tires, where the bands are in a straight line, are more expensive but offer benefits such as longer tire life, better lifting, less fuel use and better traction. When using high-quality radial tires, a pneumatic forklift is generally able to lift twice as much weight as a cushion or electric forklift. Depending on the model, the forklift will be able to lift from 15,000 to 30,000 pounds (6,803 to 13,607 kilograms).

The lifting potential of a pneumatic forklift is better, but because the tires are based on air, they will wear away quicker than cushion tires. They will commonly wear two or three times as fast, but getting higher-quality pneumatic tires will allow them to wear slightly slower than this. Using pneumatic tires with the best sidewall protection and tread depth will help the tires last the longest.

Along with better lifting potential, pneumatic forklifts can be used in different terrains than other forklifts. Cushion and electric forklifts are made only for inside and warehouse usage, which limits their usefulness. Pneumatic models can be used outside without adding extra wear to the tire. Some cushion forklifts can use pneumatic tires, but most are not meant for it, so this can cause problems. The tires also are non-marking, so they will not damage floors or ground surfaces, but this also decreases the longevity of the tire.

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