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Can You Drive a Forklift into a Box Truck?

Yes. A forklift can be driven or used to load a box truck; however, the box truck will need to be dock height Class 6 or a larger truck with 22.5-inch wheels and tires. Forklifts are known to efficiently load and unload box trucks and other vehicles such as tractor-trailers, railway cars, and elevators.

If you are going to use a forklift, then you need a box truck that sits up higher with roll-up doors, instead of the type that swing-out. In addition, you also need to be certain that the truck floor can handle the extra weight of the forklift. When ordering your body, you have choices for the weight rating of the floor.

A good number of reinforced floors can be identified by the lift truck option. For used truck purchases, just find the final vehicle manufacturer certificate and identify the body manufacturer. You can then reach out to them to determine the weight rating of the floor.

Moving goods into your box truck can indeed be a major challenge. However, by abiding by correct forklift safety procedures when loading and unloading items, you can ensure that the process runs smoothly and efficiently and without causing any harm or damage.

First and foremost, the forklift operator will need to be over 18 and their employer will also need to provide a document that shows that the operator has gone through the proper training.

Tips to Guarantee Safety When Driving a Forklift into a Box Truck

To guarantee safety when using a forklift to load and unload a box truck, it’s imperative to adhere to a strict set of guidelines to ensure a safe, efficient, and damage-free transfer of goods. Those guidelines include;

  1. Ensure The Box Truck Is Safely And Securely Parked And Ready To Be Loaded Or Unloaded

It is imperative you first find out the kind of safety systems your warehouse has for box truck docking. Owing to how old your facility is, it may not have certain safety interlocks that more modern warehouses feature. However, here are simple guidelines to consider;

  • Set the vehicle’s brakes up.
  • Ensure to check the vehicles’ wheels.
  • Post signs warning not to move the box truck.
  • Check that the height of the box truck entrance door clears the forklift height by at least 5 cm (2 in.).
  • Verify that the floors can support the combined weight of the forklift and the load.
  • Inspect the interior of the box for the following: trash, loose objects, and obstructions; holes or weak floors; poor lighting; and low overhead clearance.
  • Install anti-slipping material in any area that could be a hazard because of weather conditions.
  • Ensure that docks and dock plates are clear of obstructions and not oily or wet.
  • Protect gaps and drop-offs at loading docks.
  • Make use of dock levelers.
  1. Use The Right Forklift

While this may seem unusual, have it in mind that a lot of mistakes are made here. Owing to that, it is important to make sure you are deploying a forklift that has the lifting capacity to pick up the pallets in the box truck. Also, make sure you take into consideration the height of the forklift to validate you have enough clearance to enter the box truck with the mast elevated enough to pick up the pallets.

According to experts, a clearance of 2 in. is substantial. In some cases, a three-wheel forklift, with its greater maneuverability, may be ideal for unloading smaller box trucks. However, a four-wheel, higher-capacity forklift may be necessary for unloading heavier loads.

  1. Communicate With The Box Truck Driver

Have it in mind that one of the biggest forms of accidents in transferring loads from or to a box truck is the driver pulling away and not knowing that the forklift operator is still in the process of carrying a load out of the truck. Owing to that, it is pertinent that forklift operators and truck drivers first establish communication and steadily check-in to verify they are both on the same page.

You need to understand that the driver can most often not see the forklift driver, so an alternate form of communication will need to be set up.

A good number of modern warehouses have safety signal lights that let drivers and forklift operators know when it’s safe to start unloading the box truck or to drive away from the dock. In some other places, the box truck drivers are mandated to leave the keys with a warehouse manager or the forklift operator during the unloading or loading process.

  1. Inspect The Box Truck For Damage

It is important to note that the condition of the box truck’s floor can in many ways impact the forklift’s ability to maneuver.

Owing to that, ensure to verify that the box truck has the weight-bearing capacity to withstand the combined weight of its load in addition to the forklift weight. Additionally, check the box truck walls and ceilings for damage that could impede the vehicle’s integrity.

  1. While You are Loading Or Unloading

During the process of loading or unloading, here are a few things to keep in mind;

  • Ensure to take notice of potential ‘box truck creep,’ that is, forward movement of the box truck caused by the forklift repeatedly entering and exiting the box truck and shifting the box truck’s position.
  • Be careful when using dock boards or dock plates. Note that they can shift and cause an unstable surface for the forklift to travel over. Ensure to be very careful if dock plates are wet, snowy, icy, slick or if oil or hydraulic fluid has leaked on them. If the warehouse has automated dock levelers, ensure you understand how to use them and set them to the proper height. Consider using fork height travel interlocks (if available) when loading or unloading over dock plates, particularly if using walkies or pallet jacks.
  • The forklift should be operated carefully while inside the box truck. Note that any sudden starts or stops and jamming into pallets can cause the box truck to creep or make the box truck’s jacks unstable.
  • Before removing a load, you must make sure it is centered on the forklift and that the mast is tilted back to stabilize the load. Have in mind that any uneven load can cause the truck to tip over. Ensure to load or unload pallets in an organized, orderly manner to avoid overloading one side of the box truck.
  • Be very careful when backing a forklift out of a box truck. Ensure to take note of pedestrians, walls, and other obstacles, and maneuver carefully over dock plates.
  • Remember to keep the work area clean. Packing materials such as shrink wrap and metal pallet straps can in many ways affect your forklift’s operation and cause damage to the wheels and drive system.
  1. Properly Train All Operators

You have to understand that loading or unloading a box truck requires an extra level of skills. Aside from the potential dangers of the process, have it in mind that it requires adequate knowledge of the safety features of the dock and the ability to communicate with box truck drivers.


While manual labor can be used for light loads or the occasional heavy load, if you carry out a lot of deliveries and have a lot of heavy items, you will most definitely want a forklift to help you put cargo in and remove it from the box truck.

If you are going to use a forklift, then you need to pay attention to certain tips to ensure safety and a smooth process. Whether you have one “quick” load to transport or if you are in for a full day of hauling, when it comes to operating a forklift, note that they deserve your care and respect during each use.