How to Get Forklift Certified: A Guide to Forklift Operator Certification

Last update:
This post may contain affiliate links. We'll be compensated if you buy after clicking our links.

Wondering how to get forklift certified?

You’ve found the perfect guide.

You can be an aspiring forklift operator eager to find out how to get your license. Or a seasoned pro looking to renew your certification. 

Anyway, we’ve distilled our industry experience into this comprehensive resource. You’ll uncover:

  • The essential steps to become a certified forklift operator
  • How to find the best forklift training program that suits your needs
  • Tips for hands-on training and evaluation
  • Maintaining your certification for a successful career

By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly what to do to become forklift certified.

Ready to learn more about forklift certification? Let’s get started!

How to Get Forklift Certified: The Full Certification Process in 120 Words

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the law on forklift operator training and certification. They say 3 things must happen for you to get your forklift license. You must:

  1. Formally learn about forklifts
  2. Get practical, hands-on training with a forklift
  3. Have an employer certify that you can safely operate a lift truck in the workplace

Once certified, you must undergo refresher training to recertify at least every 3 years. You may have to have refresher training sooner under several circumstances.

You can get forklift certification in several ways. The most common are:

  • Your employer
  • Online training courses
  • Local community colleges
  • Forklift dealerships

However, it’s your employer who can confirm your competence to operate a forklift within the work environment.

Why Forklift Operator Certification Is Important

You must be certified before you can operate a forklift truck for several crucial reasons:

Regulatory and Ethical Responsibility

OSHA says certification is required to operate a forklift. If you’re not certified, using a forklift can result in hefty fines and penalties. But it’s not just a regulatory rule; it’s the right thing to do. If you’re not certified before operating a lift truck, you may improperly use it. That could injure or kill someone.

Improved Safety

Certified training enhances safety. OSHA cites a study that found forklift equipment operators made 70% fewer mistakes after forklift training. By reducing the risk of accidents, you and your coworkers are less likely to get hurt on the job.

Enhanced Productivity

Skill with forklifts leads to faster and more efficient work. Your ability to move goods efficiently benefits your employer’s operations. This can help you get a raise or a better position.

Better Career Prospects

Obtaining forklift skills can unlock new job opportunities for you. That can lead to higher-paying positions and a brighter future.

OSHA Forklift Training and Certification Requirements to Operate a Forklift

OSHA has specific requirements for forklift training. They lay them out in section 1910.178(l) Operator training. Here’s a summary of those standards:

Ensuring Competence

OSHA says that forklift operators must be certified to operate a forklift. Employers are responsible for ensuring this. They must also certify that forklift operators are skilled and safe under actual workplace conditions.

Training Process

New operators can use forklifts during training. But someone must watch them to avoid accidents. This training has three parts: formal teaching, hands-on practice, and a workplace test. Only qualified people can provide this training.

What the Training Must Cover

The training program must cover essential topics so operators can use a forklift safely. That includes how to drive a forklift, operate its controls, and how much weight it can carry. It also looks at workplace-specific issues. For instance, ground conditions, load stability, and people walking around.

Refresh Your Skills

Operators must take refresher training at least every 3 years. They need more frequent training under a few conditions. For example, if they’re unsafe, have accidents, or work conditions change significantly.

Avoiding Repeat Training

If operators already learned about a topic and can show they’re good at it, they don’t have to learn it again. This avoids doing the same training over and over.


Employers certify that operators have finished their training. They must also verify that operators can safely operate a forklift under actual working conditions. Once satisfied, the employer will issue a forklift certification. OSHA says this certification must have several pieces of information. That includes the operator’s name, when, and who trained them.

4 Steps to Getting Forklift Certified

Follow these 4 steps to become a certified forklift operator:

Step 1: Take and Pass a Compliant Forklift Operator Certification Class

First, find a forklift training program that adheres to OSHA regulations. You can take this training online or in a conventional classroom setting. Select the one that aligns with your preferences and schedule. It should also cover the type of forklift you’ll operate.

Once you’ve found a suitable course, enroll in it. Be prepared to pay a fee for this training. Make sure that the course encompasses all the necessary subjects.

Be attentive and focused during the training, whether online or in a classroom. If you choose the online route, carefully go through each lesson. If you opt for a classroom setting, actively take part. Don’t hesitate to seek clarification if any concepts are unclear.

Upon completing the training, you will typically need to pass a test. This will show your understanding of the material.

Step 2: Get Hands-on Experience Operating a Fork Truck

Now, let’s discuss getting your hands on a forklift. If you’re taking an in-person forklift certification course, like those at:

  • Community colleges
  • Job training centers
  • Union halls

You’re in luck. These locations usually have forklifts available for practice, giving you valuable hands-on experience. That’s a big plus for in-person courses. But, keep in mind the availability of these in-person courses. Depending on your location, they may not always be an option.

Another option is to explore local resources. Reach out to forklift dealers or rental companies in your area. Ask them about the possibility of conducting the hands-on evaluation. They might have experienced evaluators who can assist you.

Step 3: Receive a Final Employer-Provided Forklift Driver Evaluation

First, communicate with your employer. Let them know you’ve completed the required training and evaluation. This is a crucial initial step in demonstrating your readiness.

Next, present your certification. That may include a diploma or forklift certification card issued by your trainer.

Now, it’s time to request a workplace evaluation from your employer. This evaluation will occur in the work environment where you’ll be stationed. It’s meant for you to demonstrate your forklift skills. It ensures you can apply your training safely and effectively in your work setting. When your employer is satisfied, you’ll receive a forklift license.

Step 4: Keep Up on Your Forklift Certification

OSHA requires periodic refresher training and evaluation. That includes an evaluation component to gauge its effectiveness. This refresher training needs to occur at least once every three years. But several circumstances can bring about the need for refresher training sooner:

  • Someone observes you operating the forklift unsafely
  • You’re involved in an accident or a near-miss incident
  • An evaluation reveals that you’re not working the forklift safely
  • You’re assigned to operate a significantly different type of forklift
  • There’s a significant change in workplace conditions that could affect safe forklift operation

Where to Get a License to Operate a Forklift: Types of Forklift Training Explained

When you want to get certified for forklift operation, you have two main choices that can train and certify you. You can get training either online or in-person classroom style. Each has its good points and some not-so-good ones:

Online Courses

Online forklift certification programs offer flexibility. They allow you to learn at your own pace and convenience. They are often cost-effective and completed quickly. But, if they don’t provide a hands-on forklift component, employers can’t assess your fitness to use a forklift.

In-Person Courses

In-person forklift training is available at various locations. For instance, community colleges, technical schools, staffing agencies, equipment dealerships, and union halls. These classes include hands-on experience and guidance from experienced instructors. But, in-person courses may require more time and financial investment than online courses.

Employer-Sponsored Certification Programs

Your employer may train and certify you. One way or another, employers must ensure you’ve received forklift training and are competent to operate safely in the workplace. Otherwise, OSHA says they cannot put you behind the controls of one. Some companies have their certification programs. These may be courses that offer either online or in-person training. Or training conducted entirely in-house.

Online Forklift Certification Training: Scam or Legit?

Online forklift certification courses can be a viable option. But they have one major downside. They can only fulfill OSHA formal instruction requirements. But not the practical forklift training and employer evaluation. You must complete these latter two components in person. Also, know that some employers may not accept online certificates.

Forklift Certification Costs: How Much to Get a Forklift License?

So, let’s talk about the money part of getting a forklift license. Forklift certification costs vary depending on factors like format and location. Here’s a rough idea of what it might cost you:

Online Training Courses

These can be around $50 to $300 per person. The price depends on where you get the training and what kind of forklift you want to learn about.

Classroom-Based Training Courses

If you want to learn in person, you can pay $50 to $200 or more per person. Again, the cost depends on where you take the class, what type of forklift you’re learning, and the location.

How to Save Money on Forklift Certification Training

Now, here are some tips to help you save some bucks:

  • Shop Around: Check out different training providers. Find one that gives you good value for your money and quality training
  • Hunt for Deals: Look for discounts or coupons online or from local sources. You might get lucky!
  • Ask for Help: Some states offer grants or scholarships to cover your costs. It’s worth checking if your choices for forklift training certification are eligible for funding

Where to Look for a Job as a Forklift Operator

Are you looking to start or advance your career as a forklift operator? Let’s break it down:

Job Demand and Future

In 2022, there were about 879,500 forklift operator jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts these roles will grow by 4% until 2032. You can earn a decent living, too. The median annual wage for forklift operators was $41,730 in 2022.

Top Hiring Industries

Warehousing and storage companies employed the most forklift operators in 2020. They had 37% of the workforce. Temporary help services came next at 8%. Followed by wholesale trade (10%), food manufacturing (5%), and construction (3%).

Tips for Finding Jobs

Boost your chances of becoming a forklift operator by updating your resume. Be sure to add your new lift truck certification. Search for job openings on specialized websites. For example:


Participate in online communities and forums where forklift operators and employers come together. You can also consider trade associations. Don’t hesitate to contact local forklift dealers and rental companies. They might have job openings or valuable referrals. 

When you have a list of jobs, begin applying for forklift operator jobs. One thing is for sure. If you don’t get out there and apply for a forklift job, you won’t get one!

Nailing the Interview

Prepare by researching the company and the job. Dress professionally and arrive punctually. Bring key documents: resume, certificate, license, references. Impress with confident answers, citing past achievements. Show interest by asking relevant questions about the role and the company. You got this!

10 Tips for Successful Lift Truck Training

Want to excel in forklift training and enhance your skills as an operator? Follow these simple yet effective tips:

  1. Choose a suitable training provider for the specific forklift you’ll use
  2. Review course materials and objectives in advance
  3. Take thorough notes and stay attentive during training
  4. Cut distractions for better focus
  5. Get lots of practice during hands-on evaluations
  6. Focus on safety and stay confident while operating
  7. Seek feedback from trainers and colleagues, and learn from successes and mistakes
  8. Renew your certification every 3 years. Or with changes in equipment or work conditions
  9. Stay committed to learning and improvement
  10. Be aware of risks, report issues, and take pride in your role as a forklift operator

Frequently Asked Questions About Forklift Certification

What is forklift operator certification?

Forklift operator certification is proving you can safely and effectively operate a forklift. It’s required by OSHA for those using powered industrial trucks in the workplace. Certification involves classroom or online training, hands-on practice, and a workplace evaluation.

What’s the difference between a forklift license, forklift certificate, and forklift certification card?

These terms all mean the same thing. OSHA mandates that only those with certification are eligible to operate a forklift. Employers must include your name, training, evaluation dates, and the trainer’s identity in your certificate.

What does it mean to be certified as a forklift operator?

Being certified for forklifts means a few things. It means you’ve received training that complies with OSHA’s standards. It also means that your employer attests you can safely operate a lift truck in the workplace. Getting forklift certified involves classroom learning, hands-on practice, and an employer evaluation. Once approved, you receive a document attesting to your competency.

Is OSHA forklift certification worth it?

OSHA requires forklift certification. It’s a regulatory obligation, not something optional. Aside from that, OSHA forklift certification is very worthwhile. It enhances safety, productivity, and job prospects. Certification also lowers the risk of accidents, injuries, and compliance issues.

Does OSHA certify forklift operators?

OSHA does not endorse or approve specific products or services. So there’s no such thing as an “OSHA certified” forklift operator training course. Instead, the term usually means that the program follows the rules OSHA lays out. For example, the training includes the truck and workplace topics OSHA lists.

What are the benefits of being forklift certified?

Getting forklift certified offers many advantages. For example, compliance with regulations for safe forklift operation per OSHA standards. It also helps reduce accidents, injuries, and losses. Training can enhance skills and knowledge. It can improve performance and efficiency. It can increase confidence and professionalism. And it can lead to expanded job opportunities and income potential.

What are the steps to become a certified forklift operator?

Becoming a certified forklift operator involves first enrolling in OSHA-compliant training. You’ll need to take formal instruction during this training. You’ll also need to gain hands-on experience with a forklift. Once trained, you’ll need to pass an employer’s evaluation in the workplace. Once your employer evaluates you, you’ll receive your forklift certification.

Do forklift operator requirements vary by state?

Forklift operator requirements can differ by state due to local laws. OSHA says state plans “must be at least as effective as OSHA in protecting workers and in preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths.” Check with your local authorities for updated information.

Do you need a driver’s license to get forklift certified?

You don’t need a driver’s license for forklift certification. OSHA doesn’t demand any specific license to operate a forklift. Instead, they require that only forklift operators trained and certified be allowed by employers to use a lift truck.

How old do you have to be to operate a forklift?

OSHA states that anyone under 18 cannot operate a forklift. There are some exceptions to this rule for agriculture. Running a forklift underage can lead to severe penalties. That includes safety risks and compliance issues. Ensure you meet the minimum age rule before pursuing forklift training or jobs.

Do you have to take a hearing or vision test to be forklift certified?

OSHA doesn’t require hearing or vision tests to get forklift certification. OSHA emphasizes that employers must ensure operators are competent in safe operation. Employers may consider medical qualifications based on recognized hazards. But they must explore accommodations for qualified individuals. That’s per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Do you need ongoing education or training to maintain a forklift license?

You must undergo forklift refresher training at least every 3 years. You may have to take it sooner if equipment or workplace conditions change. Refresher training helps operators stay updated on safety standards and best practices. OSHA says this can help prevent accidents and injuries.

How long does it take to get forklift certified?

The time it takes to get forklift certified varies. You can finish online courses in as little as one hour. Classroom-based courses take four to eight hours. The hands-on evaluation can take 15 minutes to one hour. These are ranges, as the duration depends on several factors. For instance, the number of forklifts, course format, trainer availability, and evaluation difficulty.

Can you get forklift certified online?

Online training alone isn’t enough for full certification. The formal instruction part can be completed online. But the practical experience and workplace evaluation can’t. A qualified instructor or your employer will provide these last 2 requirements.

When does forklift certification expire?

Forklift operators are certified for three years after the issue date, per OSHA standard 1910.178(l)(4)(iii). Certification may expire sooner if the operator has an accident or near-miss incident. Or if the operator is observed to operate unsafely. It can also be required when the operator switches to a different forklift type. Workplace conditions significantly change, affecting forklift operation, and can also necessitate refresher training.

How much does forklift operator certification cost?

The cost of forklift operator certification varies. Online courses are $50 to $300 per person. Classroom-based courses can cost $50 to $500 per person. It all depends on the provider, location, and forklift type.

Which forklift license is best?

The best forklift license depends on personal preferences, goals, and needs. Different forklift types have varying features, functions, advantages, and disadvantages. For example, consider your job position and industry. Think about your experience with different forklifts. Factor in your budget and availability for training. Also, gauge your interest and aptitude for learning new skills and technologies.

What Next?

You started this journey eager to learn how to get forklift certified.

Now, you’ve unlocked the essential steps and tips to embark on your certification path.

But this is just the beginning of your forklift journey. There’s a world of opportunities and knowledge out there.

Dive into our latest articles to stay updated and informed.

See you there!

Leave a Comment