How Do You Get a Forklift Operator’s Licence in the UK?


Operating a forklift truck safely and efficiently requires proper training and certification. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the process to obtain a forklift licence in the UK.

What is a Forklift Licence?

A forklift licence, also referred to as a forklift operator’s certificate, qualifies you to legally drive counterbalance trucks, reach trucks and other types of powered industrial trucks (PITs).

To operate a forklift in a workplace, you must hold a valid licence that matches the truck’s specifications, such as capacity, mast height and attachments. Forklift licences must get renewed every 3-5 years through refresher forklift training.

Forklift Licencing Bodies

In the UK, the main forklift licensing bodies include:

  • RTITB (Road Transport Industry Training Board)
  • ITSSAR (Independent Training Standards Scheme and Register)
  • ALLMI (Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers)
  • IPAF (International Powered Access Federation)

These set the standards for training courses and maintain a central register of qualified operators. RTITB certification is the most widely recognised across UK industries.

Forklift Licence Categories

RTITB issues licences across four categories denoting truck types and capacities:

  • Category 1 – Counterbalance forklift trucks up to 5 tonnes capacity
  • Category 2 – Counterbalance forklift trucks up to 10 tonnes capacity
  • Category 3 – All sizes of counterbalance trucks plus reach trucks
  • Category 4 – Sideloader forklifts
  • Category 5 – Telehandlers
  • Category 6 – Rough terrain masted trucks (with a lift capacity above 10 tonnes)

The more advanced your licence category, the broader range of trucks you can operate. However, you must still get separately certified for niche equipment like order pickers.

Mandatory Prerequisites

To enrol in a forklift training course, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Hold a valid UK driving licence for 3+ years
  • Pass an eyesight test confirming visual acuity
  • Obtain a doctor’s fitness certificate
  • Pass a drugs and alcohol screening

Forklift Training Course Syllabus

Accredited PIT training courses contain both theoretical and practical elements across these key areas:

Legislation and Regulations

  • Health and safety regulations
  • PUWER, LOLER and other laws
  • Forklift stability triangle

Pre-Use Inspections

  • Visual checks and maintenance
  • Load weight calculations
  • Fault reporting procedures

Safe Operating Techniques

  • Mounting and dismounting
  • Load handling procedures
  • Travelling and manoeuvring
  • Stacking/de-stacking at various heights

Practical Testing

  • Pre-use inspection demo
  • Observed operation with manoeuvres
  • Loading/unloading sequences
  • Answering verbal questions

Categories and Specialist Vehicles

  • Difference between licence categories
  • Introduction to niche truck types

To pass, you must demonstrate proficiency in all facets of safe operation.

Steps to Getting a Forklift Licence

Follow these key steps to get certified as a forklift operator:

  1. Choose an accredited training provider – Select a course relevant to the truck types you’ll operate.
  2. Pass the pre-course checks – Get medically cleared to operate forklifts.
  3. Complete training – Attend all theory and practical sessions.
  4. Pass assessments – Demonstrate your skills via verbal questioning and observed operation.
  5. Get your certification – Receive your licence, valid for 5 years.
  6. Renew through refresher courses – Enrol for a 1 day refresher before expiry.

Where to Take Forklift Training Courses:

You can find local RTITB accredited training centres via the RTITB website. These include private providers, colleges and in-house courses run by logistics companies.

Compare aspects like course duration, instructor qualifications, class sizes, pass rates and facilities. Look for centres focused on safety and hands-on skill development.

How Much Does Forklift Licence Training Cost?

In the UK, forklift training costs between £125 and £350 per trainee. The variance depends on aspects like:

  • Course duration
  • Level of instruction
  • Number of categories covered
  • Classroom rental
  • Licensing fees
  • Transportation (if conducted on-site)

Many employers cover training costs for their workforce. Independent operators must cover their own licence expenses.

Maintain Your Forklift Operator Qualification

Once certified, follow these practices to uphold forklift credentials:

  • Renew your licence every 5 years
  • Take annual refresher courses
  • Perform daily pre-use checks
  • Report any incidents or penalties
  • Inform administrators of changes to your driving licence status

Careful attention to ongoing qualifications ensures you operate forklifts legally and safely.

Gaining a forklift operator’s certificate requires passing accredited training on truck features, safe handling procedures and observed operation. Licences must get renewed through refresher courses. Choosing a qualified training provider and staying current on qualifications lets you thrive as a skilled forklift driver.

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