Published On: December 12th, 2023Categories: Career Advice, Mentoring

Forklift drivers are seeing a career spike, with demand projected to grow 7% from 2018 to 2028. As key players in material handling, forklift drivers (a.k.a. forklift operators) keep supply chains moving efficiently in warehouses and distribution centers. And with the growth of e-commerce and the expansion of distribution networks, skilled forklift drivers are needed now more than ever.

Becoming a forklift driver promises not just job security but also a chance to make a major impact on manufacturing regionally, nationally, and even internationally. Let’s explore what it takes to break into this career and how LSI Staffing can help you secure a stable, high-paying, and fulfilling forklift driver job.

Forklift Driver 101: Roles, Responsibilities, and What to Expect 

A forklift driver is responsible for operating forklifts and moving goods around warehouses and other industrial sites. They play a major role in the operations of warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing plants by unloading deliveries, stacking boxes for storage, and moving wooden pallets around the warehouse.

What does a forklift driver do?

Forklift drivers are typically hired to work within warehouses, on construction sites, at airports, in ports, and in many other industrial and commercial settings. Regardless of work environment, the primary function of a forklift driver is to safely transport goods and materials from point A to point B so that supply chains can run smoothly and efficiently.

In addition to the obvious function of operating forklifts, these folks also have a range of other warehouse duties such as:

  • Packaging shipments and checking inventories 
  • Loading and unloading containers and trucks 
  • Moving goods to designated areas 
  • Performing minor maintenance tasks on forklift trucks
  • Stocktaking and some administrative tasks relating to incoming and outgoing goods

What are the expectations and responsibilities of a forklift driver?

Employers expect forklift drivers to be reliable, punctual, and to hold a strong sense of pride in their work. As a forklift operator, you’ll need to manage your tasks efficiently, adhere to tight schedules, and maintain a high degree of accuracy in your work. You’ll also be working as part of a larger team, so effective communication and collaboration is key. Some days you’ll be working alone more than others, but the majority of your day-to-day will be spent working with other team members to safe and efficient loading and unloading.  

Key Skills and Certifications You Need to Succeed as a Forklift Driver

If you want to be seriously considered for a forklift driver job, you’ll need to have to know more than just how to operate the machinery. There’s a specific set of skills and certifications beyond equipment operation required to get hired and excel in this role.

Forklift Driver Skills and Qualifications

A successful forklift operator will have the necessary skills and qualifications that prepare them for the job, including training, certifications, and specific skills like:

  1. Operational Expertise: First and foremost, you need to know your way around a forklift. This includes understanding different types of forklifts, their functions, and safety protocols.
  2. Safety Consciousness: OSHA estimates that forklifts account for 61,800 minor injuries, 34,900 serious injuries, and 85 forklift related deaths every year. So, it’s mission critical for forklift drivers to always prioritize safety for themselves and their colleagues by knowing how to navigate busy work environments while minimizing risk.
  3. Physical Fitness: Forklift driving is a physically demanding job that requires having good hand-eye coordination and being able to sit or stand for long periods of time.
  4. Attention to Detail: Accurate inventory management and the ability to follow specific instructions are essential because even small mistakes can lead to significant issues in supply chain operations.
  5. Problem-Solving Skills: You should be able to think on your feet and handle unexpected situations effectively, like dealing with obstacles in your path or troubleshooting minor mechanical issues.

Forklift Driver Education and Training Requirements

As far as education requirements go, most employers require forklift drivers to have their high school diploma or GED. But you also need to obtain specific certifications to legally operate a forklift. These not only ensure that you’re qualified but also boost your employability.

  1. OSHA Forklift Certification: In the United States, OSHA requires all forklift operators to complete a certified training program. This program covers safety training, operation techniques, and hands-on experience.
  2. Specialized Certifications: Depending on the industry or the type of forklift you’ll be operating, additional certifications may be required. For instance, operating a rough terrain forklift in a construction site may require different training compared to a standard warehouse forklift.

Where to Get Certified to Operate a Forklift

OSHA forklift training requirements are fairly straightforward. Aspiring forklift operators must complete training, take an exam, and then pass an in-person driving test. When it comes to completing these training requirements, you’ve got a few options from which to choose:

  1. Technical and Vocational Schools: Many of these schools offer comprehensive forklift training programs that combine classroom learning with practical experience.
  2. Online Training Programs: These can be a convenient option if in-person training is inaccessible to you. Folks are still more than capable of learning safety regulations and basic operational knowledge in an online format.
  3. On-site Training: Some employers provide on-the-job training programs for new hires, which can be a great way to learn while getting hands-on experience.

Keep in mind that forklift certification isn’t just a one-time event. Regular renewals and updates to your training are necessary to stay compliant with regulations and up to date with the latest safety protocols and operational techniques.

Tips and Strategies to Ease Your Job Search and Nail Your Interview

Getting your foot in the door as a forklift driver involves more than just having the right skills and certifications. It’s about knowing where to look, how to present yourself on paper, and how to ace the interview. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the job search process and make a lasting impression on potential employers.

Where to Find Forklift Driver Job Opportunities

  1. Start with Job Boards and Company Websites: Online job boards are a great place to start to get a feel for what roles are out there, their requirements, and for setting salary expectations. Don’t forget to check out the career sections of company websites too, especially those in industries like warehousing, manufacturing, and logistics.
  2. Utilize Staffing Agencies: Staffing agencies like LSI Staffing specialize in connecting jobseekers with employers looking for specific skillsets. We can be a valuable resource in finding openings that match your skills and experience.
  3. Leverage Your Network: Sometimes, it’s about who you know. Reach out to former colleagues, supervisors, or anyone in your professional network who might be aware of job openings or can refer you to hiring managers.

How to Write a Stand-Out Resume and Cover Letter

  1. Tailor Your Resume: Customize your resume to highlight any relevant experience and skills to forklift operation, whether it be direct or related experience. Be sure to include any specific types of forklifts you’ve operated or any unique warehouse environments you’ve worked in.
  2. Put Your Certifications Front and Center: Clearly and prominently list your certifications, especially your OSHA Forklift Certification, so they’re seen right away.
  3. Write a Persuasive Cover Letter: Your cover letter is your chance to make a personal appeal. Use it to explain why you’re interested in the role and how your background makes you an ideal fit. Check out this resource for a solid starting point.

Preparing for the Interview

  1. Common Interview Questions: Be prepared to answer questions like:
    1. How do you ensure safety while operating a forklift?
    2. Can you describe a time when you had to handle a challenging situation while operating a forklift?
    3. How do you handle tight deadlines or fast-paced environments?
  2. Responding Effectively: When answering, focus on your experience and skills. Use specific examples to demonstrate your competence and reliability as a forklift operator.
  3. Make a Good Impression: Be punctual, dress appropriately, and show enthusiasm for the role. Good communication skills and a respectful, professional attitude go a long way.

Why Choose LSI Staffing?

Finding a job is hard. LSI is here to make it simple and fast. We match people just like you with real opportunities in production, warehouse, distribution, and logistics fields—all industries where forklift drivers are needed and in growing demand.  We understand the specific needs of employers in this sector and can match you with opportunities that suit your skillset.

We know you have options. LSI is an industry leader because we treat jobseekers like you with respect and work hard to ensure you find the right job for you. So, how are we different? 

  1. We Offer More Opportunities: LSI has access to jobs that aren’t advertised on internet job boards. Companies come to us in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Alabama, and Minnesota looking for employees with your skills.
  2. You’re in the Driver’s Seat: It’s your job search. You should have control. That’s why we offer a variety of positions including permanent, temp-to-hire, and temporary roles in office, distribution, and manufacturing settings.
  3. Decades of Experience: Since 1986, we’ve matched thousands of people just like you with new career opportunities. Our team is reliable, responsive, and ready to get to work finding you the perfect job today.

“I absolutely love my new job. This is a great company to work for. Thank you for making it possible, I really appreciate it.” ~ Jillian, LSI Candidate

Find Your Next Forklift Driver Role With LSI Staffing

Ready to drive your career forward? With the right approach and support from LSI Staffing, you’ll be well on your way to a rewarding career in this high-demand field. 

Reach out today and let us help you find your next forklift driver position!