what is a forklift driver?
Forklift drivers perform an essential job in hardware stores, warehouses, and storage facilities. In this position, you'll get steady work and enjoy a positive job outlook.
Learn everything you need to know about becoming a forklift operator.
what does a forklift driver do?
Most warehouses have a heavy lifting team, but some products are too heavy for anyone to lift. Forklift operators use heavy machinery to lift the heaviest loads.
As a driver, you use the forklift to:
- Lift pallets
- Transport materials
- Stack products
- Place deliveries on top shelves
- Load pallets onto trucks
- Remove items from storage
You don't need a lot of education or experience to be a forklift operator — if you can drive and use machinery, you're the right person for the job. However, it's essential to use safety precautions whenever you operate a forklift. Some people skip a few steps to save time, resulting in damaged products and safety incidents.
In addition to moving goods, you are responsible for inspecting the machinery, keeping track of inventory, and letting the supervisors know whenever you have an issue. You keep a log and report any issues with the inventory, like damaged or missing products.
Other responsibilities include keeping the floor clean and taking care of spills and obstacles before you get on the forklift. Your supervisor will give you on-the-job training to ensure you know how to use the forklift correctly. Once you have this knowledge, you can work in just about any warehouse or storage facility.forklift jobs
average salary of a forklift driver
The average base salary of a forklift driver in Australia is $57,000 a year. At the bottom of the scale, some operators make $27 an hour, while some make even less than that.
However, others make $32 an hour or more. If you're working full time, you'll get a full yearly salary with the possibility of bonuses. Some work part-time, but operators have plenty of opportunities for advancement. No warehouse or storage facility can operate without forklift drivers.
factors that affect forklift operators' pay
Anyone required to operate a forklift must have a forklift licence (LF). This can be done by attending a course for 1 or 2 days. Following this, you can also get an older picker licence (LO) as these are very much in demand.
There are different types of forklifts, and the more you have exposure to them, the more in demand you are.
If you want more details on this, feel free to use our salary calculator tool.
types of forklift operator
Operating and driving forklifts put drivers' lives at a certain level of risk. In Australia, it's classified as high-risk work requiring an employee license before starting working.
Here are the different types of licenses that an aspiring forklift operator can get in Australia:
- Forklift License (LF) - This license is given to those who attended training on forklift trucks and other types of machinery with a mast and elevating carriage with a pair of fork arms. Anyone can take the licensure in 1 to 2 days.
- Order Picker License (LO) - This license is given to drivers and operators who maneuver an order picking forklift where the control and the load carriage move together.
working as a forklift driver
Being a forklift operator sounds like a straightforward job, but it's a little more complicated than you might realize.
Here's what you need to know before you apply for a job.
duties & responsibilities
Working safely is your most significant responsibility as a forklift operator. You operate heavy machinery that could severely injure or kill a person if you use it improperly.
For example, if you fail to make sure a pallet is secure before you lift it with the forklift, the load could fall off and injure someone on the floor. The forklift could also tip over if you try to carry a load that's too heavy.
Obstacles, slippery surfaces, and other hazards could cause you to lose control of the forklift.
As the forklift operator, it's your job to prevent these accidents. That means cleaning up obstacles, keeping an eye out for co-workers, and never going against safety protocols, even if they seem pointless.
- Unloading pallets from supply trucks
- Placing pallets on high shelves
- Removing heavy loads from the shelves
- Transporting goods to different areas of the store
- Loading pallets onto delivery trucks
- Placing goods in the back of customers' vehicles
- Keeping logs and incident records
- Inspecting the machinery for damage
- Reporting any issues to your supervisor or the mechanic
- Keeping track of inventory
If you work in a hardware store, you'll need to interact with customers in a friendly, polite manner. Customers will need you to unload flooring, appliances and furniture from the top shelves. You also have to unload the delivery truck and move pallets for your co-workers. When you work in a store, it's even more important to follow safety protocols — you can't expect customers to be responsible around the power equipment.
Even a minor injury could result in a lawsuit. Other responsibilities might include setting up safety flags or acting as a spotter when one of your co-workers drives the forklift.
Forklift operators work indoors and outdoors — often a combination of both. If you work in a warehouse, most of your work will probably be indoors. You'll work in a well-lit environment with heat and air conditioning, offices, a break room, and indoor restrooms. You must go outside periodically to greet the delivery drivers and unload their materials.
Inside, you might have to deal with indoor obstacles like narrow aisles and floor spills. Every facility is different, so some warehouses have more driving space than others. Working indoors is a little riskier because your co-workers don't have room to spread out.
If you work in a garden centre or a place that stores pallets outdoors, you'll spend a lot of time in the elements. You have to bundle up when it gets cold, then spend time in front of the fan when it gets hot. Good employers provide lots of water for their forklift operators. If it’s raining or snowing, watch out for slippery surfaces. However, you'll also get the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air and spend time outdoors when the weather is nice. In addition to lifting pallets, you load and unload the truck when it arrives.
If your warehouse isn't open 24/7, you'll get day, afternoon, or night shifts. Some facilities offer a combination of shifts, while others give you one consistent shift daily. You might be able to choose your shift, but many supervisors give you the shifts that work best for the company.
You can expect overnight shifts if you work at a facility open 24 hours a day. Since these places tend to get busy, you'll log overtime hours throughout the year.
When you get the job, expect to work on nights, weekends, and holidays. Some part-time workers only have weekend shifts, so you could go to school, raise your kids or find another job during the rest of the week.
Part-time workers could get up to 7 shifts per week. Full-time workers usually get five shifts per week, but every company's schedule differs.
You'll get more shifts if you log overtime hours. Some warehouses close during major holidays, but others expect you to work on Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve, and Christmas.
No warehouse, storage facility, or big box store can survive without forklift operators. If you adhere to their safety procedures, you have a reasonable amount of job security.
education & qualifications
Forklift operators don't necessarily need a lot of education. Many employers will accept a high school diploma. For this reason, this job is popular with people who just graduated from high school and need to get some job experience. Forklift operator jobs are also great for older adults who haven't attended college or earned a two-year degree.
If you can drive, operate machinery and obey company regulations, you qualify as a forklift operator. You should get a two-year degree if you want to advance in the company, but other than that, your employer gives you all the training that you need.
Forklift licenses are one of the few exceptions to this rule. Fortunately, most employers offer on-the-job training if you don't already have your license. Some previous experience increases your chances of getting hired, but many people get hired without prior experience.
Even if you don't have forklift experience, having a history of working with heavy machinery looks good on your resume. Your employer will also look for customer service experience if you're applying for a position that works directly with customers. This doesn't have to be forklift operation experience — you could have worked in a retail store or call centre.
When you get hired, you'll start with online training. This includes videos, modules, and quizzes to get you started. Afterwards, you'll get on-the-job training that teaches you how to operate a forklift, obey safety procedures and inspect the machinery to keep it in working order. You might get training for additional tasks like scanning barcodes, using the company's software, and inspecting packages for damage.
If a product arrives damaged, you must notify your supervisor before selling it to a customer. You'll also get training on spotting your co-workers, such as trade assistants and setting up safety barriers.
skills & competencies
For the most part, you only need basic skills to work as a forklift operator. This includes the ability to learn quickly and retain knowledge so that you can get on the floor as soon as possible. You also need a strong work ethic so the company stays on schedule.
Most facilities have a tight schedule to maintain to keep their customers happy. Time management is another important skill — you need to get as much done in your shift as possible without cutting corners and potentially causing a safety hazard.
Since you're using a forklift to lift heavy loads, your physical strength isn't the most important skill. However, it helps physical strength because you'll be lifting smaller packages. If you work in a store, you separate the freight and organise the boxes. You also need to be comfortable driving and using heavy machinery.
Forklifts can look intimidating, but your supervisor or plant operator will give you on-the-job training to ensure you're ready to use the equipment. You'll need good eyesight and spatial awareness to navigate through narrow aisles and load the pallets in the right area.
FAQs about working as a forklift driver
Is being a forklift driver a good job?
A forklift operator position is a great starter job. You won't make six figures, but you'll get experience and practical skills that you can use in other industries. This job is easy to learn and doesn't require much education or experience, making it an excellent entry-level job. You'll do well in this field if you take the safety policies and company regulations seriously.
Is forklift operator in demand in Australia?
Forklift operators are in demand in Australia. Even if you don't have prior experience, a company might hire you when you have the necessary licenses to operate the equipment. But, there is more demand for those who have experience and licenses.
What is the hourly rate for a forklift driver?
The average hourly rate for a forklift operator is $27. Some operators make less, while others make $32 an hour or more. On average, you can expect to make about $57,000 a year if you work full time. You'll also get benefits and opportunities for overtime, which gives you time-and-a-half pay.
Are forklift operators in demand?
Forklift operators are always in demand. Many industries deal with appliances, building materials, and other goods that are much too heavy for people to lift. As a forklift operator, you take care of these loads and move them to the right place.
Every warehouse and storage facility needs a team of forklift operators who keep their facility on schedule. If one person leaves, a new position pops up right away, giving you the chance to join the team.
How much do forklift drivers make in Australia?
In Australia, forklift drivers make about $27 an hour or $57,000 annually. This number could change if you live in an area with a high cost of living. If you have a lot of experience, you could make $63,000 a year or more.
working with Randstad as a forklift operator
Working as a forklift operator is a great way to enter the workforce. Even if you’re planning to work in a completely different industry, you can start operating a forklift and get some unique experience on your resume.
Some benefits of working as a forklift operator include:
- You’ll gain experience that opens up various other job opportunities related to warehouses, heavy machinery use, and customer service.
- You'll have an active job that helps you get fit and stay in shape. Plus, it doesn't involve backbreaking labour.
- Some employers offer plenty of opportunities for overtime.
- You can work days, afternoons and weekends — or even overnights if you prefer.
- You'll have good job security because thousands of facilities need forklift operators.
- This job has a positive outlook and plenty of advancement opportunities.
- Forklift operators have opportunities for both part-time and full-time work.
- Your employer gives you on-the-job training, so you don't need any extra education. Plus, you'll get paid for your training.
- Most employers offer higher salaries when you get certified.
- You'll learn additional skills like managing inventory, logging incidents, and entering data into the system.
Find the Randstad branch nearest you and contact us.