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What Is a Mini Forklift?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 17, 2024
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A mini forklift is any type of small forklift. These machines range from the very small, often desk-sized toy models to the functional “very narrow aisle,” or VNA, forklifts used in industry. Most of the time, the term “mini forklift” refers to a remote or radio controlled toy forklift, though it can also be applied to most any smaller-than-normal forklift tool.

Forklifts are important tools in contexts where there are a lot of heavy goods to be unloaded, unpacked, or stored. They are motorized vehicles that are usually only big enough to accommodate a single driver. The forklift gets its name from two fork-like tines that extend from its front. These tines are usually connected to a hydraulic lifting system that the driver can manipulate up and down. Forklifts are indispensable in warehouses where large quantities of goods arrive by truck and must be unloaded, packed, and stored, often on very high shelves.

Mini forklifts are usually miniature versions of full-sized forklifts. Most of the time, a mini forklift is operational to some capacity, but is not usually useful in a warehouse setting. This is particularly true of toy-sized mini forklifts.

Many manufacturers sell remote-control mini forklift toys. These range in size from desk-sized models to models capable of lifting books, shoeboxes, and other small packages. Mini forklift toys usually mimic the look and functionality of a full-sized forklift but operate in a much different way.

For one thing, mini forklift toys are usually fueled by ordinary batteries, not gasoline. Their forking apparatuses may look like those on the real machines, but they are often made of plastic and are usually powered by a simple chain of basic robotics controls. On a full-sized forklift, the fork lifts in response to a rotating lifting chain, which is usually powered by a complex system of hydraulic pressure chambers.

Using a mini forklift is usually as easy as operating a remote control. Basic controls include forward, reverse, rotate, and lift. Mini forklifts that are functional usually also have controls for lifting, loading, and depositing goods.

The “mini forklift” designation is sometimes interchangeable with the “very narrow aisle forklift” title. A VNA forklift is a forklift designed to be operated in small spaces. These types of forklifts usually have less power and less lifting potential than a full-sized big forklift, but are nonetheless fully functional. They are commonly used in stockrooms and stores with narrower aisles, like grocery stores.

Some VNA forklifts are fully automatic, which means that they do not require a driver. Particularly in storage room settings, mini forklifts can be operated by computer system and are programmed to undertake certain loading and unloading tasks all on their own. Most automatic mini forklifts travel on rails or in grooves in the floor, which reduces the chance of accident or malfunction.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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