Warehouses optimize productivity and space by using various types of equipment. These are commonly racking systems, pallets, warehouse management systems, and also material handling equipment (MHE). One common type of MHE is a reach truck.

A reach truck is a type of forklift that is designed to operate in warehouses that have narrow aisles, due to their ability to easily rotate and their compact design. Reach trucks are equipped with a telescopic mast that allows them to access pallets up to 46 feet high and a pantograph mechanism that can retrieve pallets two or three deep. 

Reach trucks are often found in warehouses, distribution centers, container freight stations (CFS), and manufacturing facilities that have narrow aisles or high rack storage areas.

In these types of operations, reach trucks are expected to retrieve cargo from any type of pallet position and place them in the staging area. Alternately, they are also used to retrieve cargo from the staging area for putaway into storage racks. 

There are two major advantages to using reach trucks, compared to other types of forklifts. Firstly, they have a tight turning radius which is required for operating in narrow aisles warehouses.

Secondly, it allows the warehouse operator to maximize space by accessing otherwise inaccessible pallet positions that are high and deep, which a regular forklift is unable to access. 

Reach Truck Description

Reach trucks specialize in narrow-aisle warehouses and distribution centers. They can increase productivity and efficiency dramatically. Below, you’ll find an illustration of reach trucks that shows some of the important parts and components.

reach truck description

Reach Truck Description

  1. Cab
  2. Mast
  3. Scissors
  4. Outriggers
  5. Forks

Reach trucks can maneuver in narrow aisles, due to their compact design and reach high and deep pallets, due to their scissors and extendable masts. Some reach stackers can reach 5 high and 3 deep (meaning five racks high and three pallets deep).

Types of Reach Trucks

standing reach truck

Stand-Up Reach Truck

Stand-up reach trucks are designed for operators who need to get in and out quickly. They are designed for use in warehouses that do not have very high racks. 

seated reach truck

Seated Reach Truck

The main difference to the stand-up reach truck is that the operator is seated to offer the operator more comfort during the operations and greater upward visibility. 

Swing Reach Truck

Swing reach trucks are used for very narrow-aisle applications as they can easily access hard-to-reach pallets with their 180-degree rotating turret.

Reach Truck Features & Specifications

Reach trucks are made by various companies and come in different sizes and designs. Below are the general specifications and features of reach trucks.

Load Capacity (Maximum)Reach trucks can load between 1,000 to 2,000 kg (2,205 – 4,410 lbs). 
Aisle Width (Minimum)They can work in aisles that are as narrow as 7.2 to 8.3 feet (219 – 253 cm).
Lift Height (Maximum)Reach trucks that can achieve a maximum lift height of about 24 to 46 feet (7.3 – 14 m)
Maximum Travel Speed
(Full Load)
With a full load, they can reach speeds of up to 6.5 to 7.5 miles per hour (10.5 – 12.1 km/h).
Maximum Lift Speed
(Full Load)
Most reach trucks can lift a full load at about 40 to 70 feet a minute (0.2 – 0.36 m/s).
Power SourceReach trucks are electrically powered
ApplicationTypically used for narrow-aisle and high-reach scenarios
Operating PositionSeated or standing (depends on the reach truck cab design)

Option For Other Accessories (Maneuverability / Safety) 

Reach trucks are designed for operators to have an unobstructed view during operation. This means improved seat positions, transparent roofs, and better accessibility.

There are also improvements to steering, mast and fork controls, stability, and full-color display panels that have been incorporated into the design. Safety in terms of PIN code start systems, the use of a fork camera, and lights make reach trucks easier to use and also an attractive addition to any warehouse operation.

What Forklift Class Is a Reach Truck?

There are a total of 7 forklift classes and each class is attributed to different forklift types ranging from electric motor riders to rough terrain forklifts, and anything in between. 

reach truck picking
A Reach Trucking Picking a Pallet

Reach trucks are categorized as Class II forklifts and are labeled as “electric motor narrow aisle trucks”. Reach trucks qualify as Class II forklifts, as they are designed to operate in narrow aisles, to increase productivity and efficiency, and are also powered by an electric motor. 

Here’s a quick list of all forklift classes and bolded, you’ll be able to see in which forklift class reach trucks qualify.

  • Class I: Electric motor rider trucks
  • Class II: Electric motor narrow aisle trucks (Reach Trucks)
  • Class III: Electric motor hand trucks or hand/rider trucks
  • Class IV: Internal combustion engine trucks (solid/cushion tires)
  • Class V: Internal combustion engine trucks (pneumatic tires)
  • Class VI: Electric and internal combustion engine tractors
  • Class VII: Rough terrain forklift trucks

What Are the Minimum Aisle Width Requirements For Reach Trucks?

There are various types of reach trucks and each model has different specifications and features. Each reach truck will have tolerances where it can operate effectively,  such as minimum aisle width. 

Reach trucks that have a total width of 3.5 to 5 feet generally require a minimum aisle width of 7.5 to 8.5 feet. Ensuring that aisles are wide enough is extremely important, as this could not only improve the reach truck’s efficiency and productivity but also reduce the risk of accidents. 

A good rule of thumb is to have at least 1 to 2-foot clearance to accommodate the reach truck’s turn radius. It is highly recommended to recheck the overall warehouse plan before purchasing any type of material handling equipment (MHE) and to do trial runs.  

What Is a Reach Truck Operator?

A reach truck operator is a forklift driver, who is in charge of operating a reach truck safely and effectively. Reach truck operators are tasked to move and pick pallets, load and unload pallets to various locations, park forklifts, and in some cases maintain the equipment.  

reach truck operator

These operators are often tasked to check purchase orders, packing and pick lists, invoices and also update MHE maintenance records. To become a reach truck operator, a certificate of training is commonly required for operating this type of forklift.  

Do Reach Truck Operators Require A License?

Reach truck operators are not required to have a driver’s license if they are operating the equipment on private property, such as a warehouse or distribution center. 

In place of a license, reach truck operators are commonly required to have a Forklift Operator Certification, which is a specialized training that teaches the following skills according to OHSA guidelines:

  • Pre-operation inspection
  • Operational inspection
  • Removal from service
  • Maintenance
  • Mounting and dismounting
  • Starting/stopping
  • Operating at speed
  • Steering, turning and changing direction
  • Traveling on inclines
  • Parking
  • Safe travel practices
  • Visibility
  • Tipover
  • Safe handling preparation
  • Approaching
  • Mast position
  • Fork position
  • Lifting the load
  • Lowering the load
  • High tiering
  • Truck trailers and railroad cars

Training is typically organized and offered by the forklift manufacturer or by a training agency. Regardless of skill level, training is offered to novice and experienced operators, and those that need refreshers. 

Reach truck training usually takes about 1 to 3 days, depending on the complexity of the course and the skill level of the operator. These training sessions can cost anywhere between $300 to $800. 

At the end and a training session, the operator will be handed a certificate that lists all of the training details of the program. 

What Is the Difference Between a Reach Truck and a Forklift

There are several key differences between a reach truck and a counterbalance forklift. The first key difference is function. Both of these MHEs are designed for different purposes.

On one hand, forklifts are designed to carry and move heavy cargo (including pallets) from one location to another and also load and unload containers. On the other hand, reach trucks are primarily designed to operate in narrow-aisle warehouses to pick pallets from hard-to-reach storage racks. 

This distinct difference is also reflected in the way both of them are designed. To maximize visibility, forklifts are front-facing while reach trucks have side-facing cabs (either in a stand-up or seated position). 

Forklifts are also designed to carry larger and heavier loads because they can be operated outdoors (some forklifts can even lift entire shipping containers). Reach trucks, on the other hand, are mainly designed to move pallets from racks to the staging area, and vice versa. 

Reach trucks have a capacity of about 5,500 lbs (2,500 kg), whereas forklifts can go all the way up to 50,000 lbs (22,500 kg). However, a typical forklift can only reach up to 19 feet high whereas a reach truck can go up to 46 feet. 

Lastly, forklifts are generally powered by either liquid petroleum gas (LPG), a diesel engine, or an electric motor, whereas reach trucks are only powered by an electric motor.

How Much Does A Reach Truck Cost?

Depending on the manufacturer and model, a narrow-aisle reach truck costs between $25,000 to $45,000.

Reach Truck Manufacturers

Various forklift manufacturers have narrow-aisle reach trucks as part of their lineup. Below, you’ll find some of the best forklift manufacturers that sell reach trucks. 

  • Toyota Material Handling
  • Komtsu
  • KION
  • Jungheinrich
  • Mitsubishi
  • Crown Equipment
  • CAT
  • Clarke Material Handling
  • Manitou
  • Anhui

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Andrew Lin

Co-Founder & Writer
at freightcourse

About the Author

Andrew is a multi-business owner with over 12 years of experience in the fields of logistics, trucking, manufacturing, operations, training, and education.

Being the co-founder of freightcourse has given him the ability to pursue his desire to educate others on manufacturing and supply chain topics.