Forklift Operator How to Hire, Salary Data, and Job Descriptions

Forklift Operators work in warehouses and other industrial sites where they use forklifts to move goods from one location to another. They typically use forklifts to unload deliveries from trucks, stack crates, and pallets of merchandise in the proper storage locations, and move outgoing goods from the warehouse onto trucks. A forklift operator must keep an eye out for damaged boxes or goods and any shortages and report findings to warehouse management. They may also check the quality of goods and merchandise and note any defects or inconsistencies.

A forklift operator must use caution and care to ensure the safety of those around. They also need to work efficiently and manage their time wisely. Reliability is important as the forklift operator is responsible for materials and products being in the right place at the right time. Some forklift operators inspect machinery on a periodic basis to ensure it is in top working order. They note any repairs that need to be made and may perform maintenance. They also keep logs of repairs maintenance, as well as inventory and activity records. Attention to detail and driving a forklift are needed skills. They must be in good physical condition, have good depth perception, and have excellent coordination. Operating a forklift requires a valid certification. 

Sample job description #1

The Forklift Operator/Material Handler is responsible for the moving and storage of finished goods and raw materials. The Forklift Operator/Material Handler is also responsible for loading product for customer orders.

Responsibilities

  • Remove finished goods/raw materials to/from production lines and place in warehouse or production areas
  • Responsible for equipment
  • Establishes and maintains First In, First Out (FIFO) system of inventory with consideration for all products stored at all warehouses
  • Adheres to all work instructions, Good Manufacturing Practices, and housekeeping procedures
  • Loads and unload trailers
  • Maintains a clean and orderly warehouse
  • Responsible for the accuracy of all transactions and product scanning
  • Loads finished goods for shipment to customers with industrial truck/material handling device
  • Responsible repairing any damaged units
  • Verify that the quality of the product sent outbound meets customer expectations.
  • Responsible for maintaining ISO standards
  • Responsible for reporting food safety issues to personnel with authority to initiate action
  • Responsible for Downstream Equipment Operations when necessary
  • Other duties as assigned

Qualifications

  • Team oriented
  • Self-motivated
  • High School Diploma or GED equivalent
  • Must have flexibility of job assignments
  • Must be able to communicate effectively
  • Must be able to operate a forklift
  • Must be able to read shipping and receiving documents
  • Basic computer skills
  • Physical effort required, continuous mental and visual attention required
  • Lift up to 40 lbs.
  • Must be able to walk up stairs
  • Manual dexterity
  • Exposed to dust, odors, oil and noise
  • Required to sit, stand, and move about the facility — ability to operate a forklift up to 95% of scheduled working hours
  • Overtime required per schedule, 7-day week operation

Sample job description #2

What you’ll do on a typical day

  • Efficiently sort, handle, load, and unload palletized and non-palletized freight
  • Use appropriate motorized and manual equipment, including pallet jack, forklift, and by hand
  • Secure freight inside trailers using appropriate tools and supplies
  • Work in a safe, efficient manner, adhering to company safety policies
  • Use mobile handheld devices to scan and track shipments
  • Work on a dock that is not climate-controlled for extended periods of time

At a minimum, you’ll need

  • To be at least 18 years of age
  • Ability to do basic math calculations, with and without a calculator
  • Availability to work a variety of shifts, including days, evenings, and weekends, due to varying freight volumes

It’d be great if you also have

  • Dock/warehouse experience in the transportation industry
  • Forklift experience in a freight/less-than-truckload environment
  • Experience loading and unloading trailers
  • Desire to succeed with a strong attention to detail

This job requires the ability to

  • Lift freight and other objects of various shapes, sizes, and weights (up to 50 lbs. frequently and greater than 70 lbs. occasionally)
  • Sort, handle, load, and unload palletized and non-palletized freight using appropriate motorized and manual equipment, including a pallet jack, forklift, and by hand
  • Safely walk and stand for extended periods of time on a loading dock that is not climate-controlled and may be slippery
  • Reach (including above your head), bend, climb, push, pull, twist, squat, and kneel as necessary

Sample job description #3

Essential functions

  • Read production schedule, customer order, work order, shipping order, and/or requisition to determine items to be moved or distributed
  • Bring overhead product down to pick bay
  • Stock and restock product in proper locations including overhead locations
  • Rotate stock according to date coding
  • Become proficient with NTS on both handheld and screen mount Telxons
  • Convey materials and items from receiving or production areas to storage or to other designated areas
  • Receive, record, put away, and rotate product. Sort and store perishable goods in refrigerated rooms
  • Use computer and/or Radio Frequency Unit to record and track product
  • Other duties and special projects as requested
  • Must maintain good attendance
  • Maintain safe work practices
  • Maintain safeguards of confidential company information

Minimum requirements

  • High School diploma or equivalent required

Qualifications

  • A minimum of one (1) year of previous experience in a distribution center or warehouse atmosphere, including receiving, pulling orders, packing, and shipping preferred
  • Previous experience operating powered industrial equipment (i.e., Reach Truck, pallet jacks, stock pickers, etc.) REQUIRED
  • Ability to communicate well with internal customers and management
  • Ability to follow safe working practices, as instructed
  • Ability to efficiently work independent of direct supervision

Physical requirements

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an associate to successfully perform the essential functions of this job. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. Must be able to carry, lift, and/or move up to 75 pounds. The associate is frequently required to stand, walk, and climb. While performing the duties of this position, the associate is subject to a warehouse environment where temperatures can vary from very cool to very warm. The associate is rarely exposed to outside weather conditions. The noise levels in the work environment are typically moderate to high.

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a forklift operator is $36,500 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$36,300$49,100
Los Angeles, California$40,950$55,400
Denver, Colorado$34,150$46,150
Washington, DC$41,600$56,250
Miami, Florida$34,000$45,950
Orlando, Florida$31,350$42,400
Tampa, Florida$31,650$42,800
Atlanta, Georgia$33,200$44,900
Chicago, Illinois$38,150$51,650
Boston, Massachusetts$41,250$55,850
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$32,900$44,500
New York City, New York$43,450$58,800
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$35,350$47,850
Dallas, Texas$34,450$46,600
Houston, Texas$34,150$46,150
Seattle, Washington$39,700$53,750
National Average$31,050$42,000

Sample interview questions

  • Do you have any prior experience operating heavy machinery, either professionally or in your private life?
  • Can you name a time when you pinpointed a mechanical issue with a vehicle or device in your possession? What did you do to rectify it?
  • You are transporting a pallet of goods to a waiting delivery truck when you see that there is a significant spill of some kind in your path. Do you drive over the spillage or attempt to go around it?
  • Have you ever quarreled with a superior at a previous job? If so, what was the nature of the dispute and how was it resolved?
  • How would you respond if you saw a coworker operating a forklift carelessly or while chemically impaired in some way?
  • If the forklift you were operating appeared to be behaving unreliably, would you immediately turn it off, or would you first attempt to return it to its proper place?

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