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What Is a Safe Forklift Speed?

Posted by: admin on December 20, 2020

Forklift Speed and Navigation

Forklifts are generally not associated with high speeds. Yet, because of their weight and the heavy loads they carry, they don’t have to go very fast to become unsafe. Improper steering can also cause safety problems. That’s why OSHA requires operators to be trained and certified in order to drive a forklift. shows your employees all the proper, safe operating techniques for OSHA compliance. With our training modules, your workers will gain insights into:

  • The top speed of a forklift
  • Safe forklift speeds – depending on the situation, safe forklift speed varies. For example, when approaching corners in a warehouse, it’s not a good time to test the top speed of a forklift!
  • OSHA safety standards, including subjects like how fast can forklifts go, maximum load capacities, pedestrian safety, and much more!

Sign up today with and ensure your workplace is safe – and OSHA-compliant! If your company has an accident or injury with a forklift, OSHA inspectors will demand safety training records. With, you have everything required to show training and compliance!

OSHA Guidelines for Forklift Speed Limits

There are two OSHA regulations that address concerns regarding what is a safe forklift speed: 29 CFR 1910.178(n)(8) and 29 CFR 1910.178(n)(15).

29 CFR 1910.178(n)(8) states that forklifts should be driven at a speed that will allow them to be brought to a stop in a safe manner. This applies to all types of forklifts and travel conditions and is one of the most important forklift speed limit regulations to follow.

29 CFR 1910.178(n)(15) is designed to minimize the risk of forklift accidents caused by turning a lift too quickly or too sharply. This regulation says operators should reduce speed to a safe level by turning the steering wheel at a moderate, controlled rate.

Does OSHA Define a Safe Forklift Speed for All Worksites?

OSHA does not define speed limits by miles per hour. Instead, OSHA leaves it to employers to set speed limits at their warehouses or jobsites. These factors should be considered when establishing maximum speed limits:

  • Type of forklift
  • Work environment
  • Surface conditions
  • Manufacturer’s speed limitations
  • Type and weight of the load being carried
  • Safe stopping distances
  • Pedestrian traffic and other safety concerns
  • Manufacturer recommended forklift max speed

Another factor to consider relative to OSHA forklift speed limits: forklift brakes don’t always work as effectively as those on other vehicles. And, trucks can easily become unbalanced if the driver suddenly applies the brakes too hard. This can cause a tip-over or loss of load, putting the driver and nearby pedestrians at risk. Determining the safe stopping distance can help set safe speed limits, so drivers don’t have to brake so hard.

Determining Safe Stopping Distances – How OSHA Forklift Speed Limits Impact Safety

Stopping distances are related to the top speed of a forklift. Safe stopping distances are affected by several factors. These include the weight of the truck, weight of the load, and floor grading. The following formula is often used for calculation purposes:

S = 0.394^2 / D-G where:

  • D = drawbar drag, as a percentage
  • G = percentage grade (e.g., 5 for 5%)
  • S = stopping distance in meters
  • V = velocity in km/h

This helps set maximum speeds on clean, well-maintained floors. It also shows how work site factors, such as floor surface, drawbar drag and grade percentage, can impact safe speeds.

How to Calculate Safe Stopping Distance Based on the Top Speed of a Forklift

How fast can forklifts go? It all depends on the type of forklift, the manufacturer’s guidelines, and other factors. We recommend that every employee should know the top speed of a forklift, regardless of the model they’re driving.

Another tool for calculating safe stopping distance comes from A Guide to Forklift Safety (page 10). This handy reference guide provides a useful chart for determining safe braking distances when traveling on an even surface.

Speed (km/h) 6 12 14 16 18 20 22
Speed in meters per second 1.7 3.3 3.9 4.4 5 5.6 6.1
Distance travelled while driver reacts to emergency (m) 2.5 5 5.8 6.7 7.5 8.3 9.2
Minimum Theoretical Emergency Stopping Distance (m) 2.8 6 7 8.5 9.5 11 12.5
Minimum Actual Emergency Stopping Distance – test results (m) 2.9-3.2 7-8 8-10 9.5-12 11-14 13-16.5 14.5-19


Too often, operators are expected to apply the right amount of braking to avoid accidents. This can be difficult to do when a sudden stop is needed. Setting speed limits based on minimum safe stopping distances can take this burden off operators and help prevent accidents and injuries.

How to Control Forklift Speed

Forklift operators are responsible for driving lifts at safe speeds. Here are things you can do to promote safe forklift driving across your jobsite:

  • Post forklift speed limit signs where operators can easily see them. These serve as constant reminders to maintain safe speeds.
  • Install forklift speed bumps. These help control speed by forcing trucks to come to a complete stop to pass over them. Place them in crosswalks, pathways, blind spots and areas with pedestrian traffic.
  • Install speed limiting devices on your forklifts. These prevent operators from speeding by controlling the truck’s throttle system. They do not reduce the full lifting power of the truck.
  • Equip your forklifts with speed alarms. These alert operators when they go over the speed limit. Forklift speed alarms can be set up to create beeps when the forklift approaches the speed limit. When the operator exceeds the speed limit, the alarm will flash warning lights or create a loud siren noise.

It’s one thing to set truck speed limits. To have a safe worksite, you also need to make operators aware of the limits and enforce them.

Forklift Safety Best Practices

Enforcing forklift speed limits is a good start to avoid tip-overs and other types of lift accidents. You can also ensure that your workers use the following forklift safety best practices:

  • Always operate forklifts at a speed that allows stopping in a safe and controlled manner.
  • Drive slowly and with caution on wet, slippery floors.
  • Always watch your forklift max speed, and run your lift within allowable forklift speed limits.
  • Use extra caution on-ramps and graded surfaces.
  • Slow down and sound your horn when navigating intersections and blind spots.
  • Reduce speed around corners by turning the steering wheel in a smooth, sweeping motion
  • Keep a reasonable distance between forklifts.

Safe Forklift Speed FAQs

Here are answers to common questions about how to drive a forklift at a safe speed.

Q: How do I control my forklift speed?

A: You can control the speed of your forklift by properly using the accelerator and brakes. In addition, you need to account for your work environment. For instance, an operator who is driving a lift on uneven terrain should take extra precautions to control their speed. This is due to the fact that their lift may be more susceptible to a tip-over on uneven terrain than level ground.

Q: How long does it take to stop a forklift at full speed?

A: The length of time required to stop a forklift traveling at full speed varies based on the lift, its load, and other factors. Generally, forklift operators should maintain a distance of at least 20 ft. (or the equivalent of three truck lengths) from bystanders, vehicles, and objects.

Q: How fast can a forklift go?

A: The speed of a forklift varies based on the model. Typically, forklifts can travel up to 18 mph.

Q: Is operating a forklift at a fast speed dangerous?

A: Absolutely! The faster a forklift operator drives, the less time he or she has to react to potential hazards. Driving too fast increases the risk of forklift accidents.

Q: What will happen if a forklift operator drives too fast and causes an accident?

A: A speeding accident is a serious problem. If a forklift accident occurs due to speeding, the driver will need to complete recertification training. Also, an employer may be subject to OSHA penalties.

Slow, cautious forklift operation is paramount, regardless of jobsite. By enrolling your workers in a forklift safety certification training program, you can ensure they know the importance of driving a lift at a safe speed — without exception.

Do You Still Have Forklift Speed Limit Questions or Concerns? Can Help!

If you still have questions or concerns about forklift speed limits or other lift safety topics, can offer assistance. We can help you ensure that your forklift operators have proper training and certification before they get behind the wheel.

With, your workers can complete our training program anywhere internet access is available. Your workers can access all of our program materials via a smartphone, tablet, or desktop or laptop computer. Plus, our program is 100% OSHA-compliant and can be completed in as little as one hour. has the training and compliance resources you need for a safer, more productive workplace. From warehouse safety tips to lifetime support, we’re here to help you become OSHA-compliant today. To learn more or to enroll your workers in our forklift safety certification program, please contact us online or call us today at 1-888-699-4800.

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