How to get a forklift license

If you’ve worked in a warehouse or dockyard before, you’ve almost certainly seen a forklift. You might have even wondered how to get a forklift license yourself. With forklift operators in high demand, a forklift certification is a great way to stand out to employers when applying to jobs — it may even increase your pay.

The good news is that getting your forklift certification is fairly straightforward. All you need to do is take a course that is compliant with the standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), get some hands-on experience, and pass an evaluation. Specific requirements can vary by state, though, so make sure to look into whether there are any additional or alternate specifications where you live.

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Step 1: Formal instruction 

The first part of getting forklift certified involves learning all about different kinds of forklifts, operation, inspection and maintenance, hazards and safety, and other information you’ll need to do your job successfully. When it comes to choosing a specific course, there are plenty of different OSHA-approved options available both online and in person. If you work at a job where forklifts are regularly used, your company may even offer forklift certification training to you at no cost. If not, however, consider some of the following options:

Online forklift certification training

If you’ve been wondering how to get a forklift license for a while, you may have already heard about or looked into online certification courses. These can be a good fit for you if you want to study at home (or anywhere else with a good internet connection), go at your own pace, save time, and stay within a budget — many courses cost less than $60.

If you’ve never driven a forklift before, though, you should keep in mind that an online course alone won’t be enough to get your certification. You’ll also need hands-on instruction and an evaluation, either at the workplace or through supplementary on-site training. But if you can have that arranged, online learning is a perfectly good option.

A few popular online forklift training courses include:

On-site forklift certification training

If you’re the kind of person that learns better in a classroom setting, you may want to look into an in-person course. These usually cost a bit more (between $130-200 or so) and take a bit longer (half a day to a full day or more) than online classes, but they also typically offer hands-on training and evaluation — more on that in a bit — so you can get all of your certification done in one fell swoop. On-site training courses are available all throughout the country, including the locations below.


Forklift certification training in Dallas, TX

On-site training is available around Dallas at:


Forklift certification training in Chicago, IL

On-site training is available around Chicago at:


Forklift certification training in Atlanta, GA

On-site training is available around Atlanta at:


Forklift certification training in Los Angeles, CA

On-site training is available around Los Angeles, Inland Empire, and Orange County at:


Forklift certification training in New Jersey

On-site training is available in New Jersey at:

Step 2: Practical training 

The next key component of how to get a forklift license is practical training. After all, if you’re going to be operating a forklift, you need to have some hands-on experience first — forklifts are heavy machinery, and getting behind the wheel without previous supervision can cause harm to yourself, others, the vehicle itself, and other property at the workplace.

If you’ve signed up for an on-site certification course, like the ones above, with a qualified instructor, the practical training will likely be included. Another option is to be trained by your employer. In either case, you should make sure that the training is applicable to the type of vehicle you’ll be using — there are seven different classes of forklifts.

According to OSHA, practical training must consist of “demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee” — in other words, the trainer will show you how to operate the vehicle, and you’ll practice doing it in return.

Some things you’ll learn how to do in particular include:

  • Visual checks: Inspecting different parts of the forklift, like the controls, fluid levels, and tires, to ensure that it’s safe to drive
  • Operational checks: Testing out different parts of the vehicle like the lights, horn, and instruments to make sure nothing is malfunctioning
  • Basic operation procedures: The processes involved with driving and operating a forklift, like steering, lifting, and parking
  • General safety: Following guidelines like yielding to pedestrians, keeping your body inside the vehicle at all times, and using your horn

You’ll also practice certain exercises, which might include:

  • Loading cargo
  • Driving with cargo
  • Driving without cargo
  • Navigating narrow aisles

With your formal instruction and practical training complete, you’ll be ready for your evaluation.

Step 3: Evaluation 

To become forklift certified, you’ll need to be evaluated by your employer or another qualified third party, such as a training center. If you’re working for a site like Instawork, an evaluation may be part of your onboarding process. This evaluation covers both the material you’ve learned in the course, and an assessment of your forklift operation skills.

Written test

Whether you take an online forklift training course, or do one in person with a trainer or your employer, you’ll take a written test on the information that was presented to you. Many people find this test fairly straightforward — it quizzes you on the basics, often in multiple choice or true/false format. If you’re nervous about the test, you can always find a practice exam online first. OSHA includes a practice quiz on their site, which covers topics like:

  • When and how often forklift operators need to get certified
  • Inspecting the vehicle for damage
  • Different types of forklifts and what they’re used for
  • Common dangers and hazards
  • How to refuel or recharge a vehicle

As long as you pay close attention during your formal instruction, you shouldn’t have a problem passing. If you don’t pass for some reason, though, you can always take the exam again — there are no limits on how many times you can retake it.

Practical test

The second component of your evaluation is a practical test. For this part, you will have a qualified trainer observe you as you drive and operate the forklift. Again, as long as you paid close attention to your training, this shouldn’t be too challenging. Many instructors use an evaluation form to judge your performance. You can find samples online, like this one from Oregon State University. Evaluators will watch out for things like:

  • Inspection of different parts and instruments
  • Ability to turn on and operate the vehicle
  • Confidence and precision in navigating around obstacles
  • Ability to properly load and unload cargo
  • Parking skills
  • Adherence to safety protocols

Once you have passed both your written and practical test, you’ll be granted a certificate or card confirming that you are qualified to operate a forklift, which is good for three years before you have to renew it.

The bottom line on how to get a forklift license

Becoming forklift certified will require some effort, but for most people, it’s very achievable. Whether you choose to take an online course and supplement it with practical training at your workplace or sign up for an all-in-one in-person training, the material you learn and exercises you do will largely be the same. With a little bit of attention to detail and practice, passing your evaluation should be no problem. 

Now that you know how to get a forklift license, it’s time to go out there and do it!


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