What is The Difference Between Counterbalance and Reach Forklifts?

With an extensive range of material handling machines on the market, it can be difficult to choose the type that is right for your operations. Each of the forklifts is designed to fulfil specific requirements. Understanding the difference between counterbalance and reach forklifts is a good start in choosing the lift equipment to meet your operational needs.

With the above in mind, we take a closer look at the difference between counterbalance forklifts and the reach trucks used in warehouse operations.

Counterbalance Forklifts

These machines have two forks for load applications. The forks are located at the front of the trucks and are used to slide underneath the load, such as a pallet. The forks form the base or lift platform.

These trucks are called counterbalance forklifts because of the heavy counterweight on the rear. A typical unit has a seating area for the operator, forks in front, and the weight system in the rear. The weight in the rear balances the vehicle when the truck has a heavy load in front. This helps to prevent the vehicle from tipping over because of the heavy weight that must be lifted.

The units can be used indoors or outdoors. Of course, smooth drive surfaces are best for maximum operation safety. In addition, large turning spaces are needed because of the truck sizes. Though smooth operation surfaces are the best, some units are made also for rough outdoor terrain operations.

Everything from electric to gas, diesel, and petrol types are available. Three- and four-wheel units are used. The counterbalance lift trucks are exceptionally powerful and made for heavy load lifting applications.

Reach Trucks

The name already explains the purpose of these forklifts. The main function is for higher reach. As such, the trucks are designed to reach exceptionally high shelves and are perfectly suited for warehouse operations. Due to the smaller size and no weight on the rear, the units require less turning space. The units are more manoeuvrable and can move in narrow aisles. To prevent tip-over, the units often come with stabilising legs while the battery types also have the battery in the back to act as a type of counterbalance.

Some units have tilt seats for better viewing of operations. Others do not have an enclosed overhead guard, which also helps to improve viewing. Some types come with fitted cameras to show what is happening above the operator cabin. The low clearance of the reach truck is why it is best for indoor usage. The reach truck lifts the cargo within its wheelbase. This means it requires less space for cargo or load lifting than the counterbalance type.

So, Which is Best?

Here it is not a question of one type being better. Both types are useful. The best type for the job depends on factors, such as:

  • Indoor or outdoor usage?
  • Distance to be travelled.
  • Type of cargo (size, weight, and shape).
  • Undercarriage clearance height required.
  • Space availability for turning and lifting.
  • Types of operations.
  • Heights to which the cargo must be lifted.

With counterbalance forklifts having greater ground clearance, these units are better suited for outdoor work where terrain surfaces may be uneven. However, with the small turning space available indoors, the reach trucks are best for such applications. Electric battery powered units are great for indoor and dock yard use, whereas such units may not work outdoors where recharge facilities are far and in between. Electric battery units are not suited for working in rainy weather.

Whether you need reach trucks or counterbalance forklifts, you can rely on the Toyota brand for quality machinery and service. Give us a call to discuss your load lift requirements.