A tractor forklift is a large, heavy-duty machine designed to lift pallets or other heavy objects using forks mounted to a hydraulic lifting system. The lift is mounted to a tractor, which usually features pneumatic tires for better traction and steering outdoors or on uneven surfaces. Many tractor forklift models feature diesel engines for greater power and torque, and the tractors may or may not feature outriggers that can be extended and placed on the ground for greater stability when lifting exceptionally heavy loads. The driver of the forklift usually sits in a protective enclosure.
One of the most common settings in which to find a tractor forklift is a farm or ranch, or other agricultural settings. The forklift may be an external attachment mounted to a regular tractor used in the agricultural setting, or it may be a machine specifically designed as a forklift. In either case, the tractor forklift is likely to feature large, pneumatic tires with aggressive treads for traction off-road, and in many cases, the rear tires are much larger than the front tires. This encourages better maneuverability as well as traction; the larger tires also help to provide some counterbalance to the loaded forklift, though the tires and wheels are not exclusively responsible for counterbalance.
The size of the tractor and of the forklift unit will dictate how heavy of a load can be lifted. In many cases, drivers are equipped with charts that help them determine if a certain pallet or item can be lifted safely, and some tractor forklift units may be equipped with sensors that will warn the driver if a load is too heavy. Most tractors can handle a fairly significant load due to their size and power output, though it is possible to overload the lift, which can lead to injury or damage to the goods being lifted.
It may be necessary for the driver of the tractor forklift to obtain specific licenses and training to drive the unit safely. A commercial driver's license is often necessary, as is a training course on safe operation of the lift and the tractor. Many companies that own tractor forklifts will provide such training, though other training methods are available if a person does not have access to such machinery. Drivers will be trained in safety maneuvers, plans for dealing with an accident should it occur, proper maintenance and operation, and so on.