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Guide to hiring fork lifts

26 April 2016

Renting a fork lift truck can open you up to a number of pitfalls, so do your homework before signing on the dotted line, advises Peter Harvey of the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA).

When it comes to obtaining new fork lift trucks on finance, there are a number of dos and don’ts to bear in mind that could save you a great deal of time, money and hassle further down the line.

It sounds obvious but it begins with finding a reputable supplier – ideally one that is part of a recognised trade body and works to a nationally agree Code of Practice – so you’ll have someone to arbitrate in case of a dispute. (If you need a starting point, you’ll find a link to registered FLTA members at the end of this article).

You’ll also need to make sure you are using the most appropriate form of finance and – more importantly in the case of long term rental – what penalties you might face at the end of the term.

Many owners and operators find the FLTA Good Hire Guide provides a useful insight into fork lift truck hire. It contains a wealth of information including the main differences between different types and lengths of hire contracts, plus a helpful list of details to look out for in formal contracts and conditions of hire agreements.

This includes checking information on agreed service levels, breakdown response, truck replacement services, and what repairs are – or are not – covered in the hire charge.

Towards the end of the guide, there’s also a useful checklist of 12 things to look for when selecting a hire company.

Truck rental dos and don’ts


Ensure you have a written hire agreement that you have read and understand.

Check the truck on delivery and record any damage or deficiencies. 

Confirm that you and your hiring company have a copy of the same handover certificate.

Ensure all operators are aware of how to operate and look after the truck.

Establish and maintain a system of recorded daily or pre-shift checks.

Deal with faults and damage as they occur. Do not allow them to deteriorate. 

Ensure that your truck is serviced in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements by allowing hiring company access to complete work when necessary. 

Make your operators and supervisors aware of the costs resulting from damage. 


Hire a truck on verbal agreement.

Allow untrained personnel to operate the truck.

Authorise the truck for use on unsuitable ground or in unsuitable areas.

Permit overloading.

Ignore inappropriate use of the truck.

Neglect unwanted drips of oil and other fluids. (These are symptoms of something more serious developing.)

Overlook minor scratches to forklift. (These are the tell-tale signs of careless operators. The next scratch or dent may cost a lot of money.)

A truck may be on hire typically for five years or more and during this time predictable deterioration, known as ‘wear and tear’, will naturally occur. 

‘Fair wear and tear’ is an important area that requires greater scrutiny as it can put hirers at risk of large and unexpected end-of-contract repair bills and potentially acrimonious disputes with the hire company involved.

Discussed in The Good Hire Guide, ‘fair wear and tear’ refers to a truck being used in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines; it should not be confused with damage.

Expectations when hiring and leasing cars are very well understood. From restoring damaged body work to incurring mileage penalties, drivers are usually fully aware of the costs they are likely to incur at the end of a hire or lease term. 

However, that doesn’t appear to be the case at the end of a fork lift truck contract. Truck users should be aware that when a fork lift truck is damaged, it can cost much more to fix than might be expected.

Safety-related structures, such as an overhead guard, often cannot legally be repaired. Replacement prices vary between models, but could well cost several thousand pounds.

Seats are among the most frequently abused items. While genuine wear is accepted at the end of a contract, holes and rips are not. They are chargeable damage and fitting a replacement will cost several hundred pounds.

To help clear up the confusion, the FLTA has produced an independent and unbiased 32-page illustrated guide which defines the term ‘fair wear and tear’ in relation to the hire of fork lift trucks.