What is a rough terrain forklift?

A rough terrain forklift, sometimes called an all-terrain forklift, is among the largest of the forklift family.

A rough terrain forklift is considered a Class 7 forklift according to OSHA classifications. These rugged machines are designed to be driven over uneven and rocky surfaces, while still transporting a heavy load. Due to size, tires, and weight capacity, a rough terrain lift is primarily used outdoors.

Some of the top manufacturers of a rough terrain forklift include Bobcat Forklifts, Case Forklifts, Caterpillar Forklifts, JCB Forklifts, JLG Forklifts Linde Forklifts, Manitou Forklifts, and others.

There are 3 different types of rough terrain forklifts:

Telehandlers, rotating telehandlers, and straight mast forklifts. Each lift is designed to work in unimproved natural terrain and disturbed terrain construction sites.

These machines are designed to work where the going gets rough, as their name implies. However, the term “rough terrain” or “all-terrain” does not mean that it can be safely operated on every type of terrain.

A rough terrain forklift isn’t just a description of the machine’s robust nature. It also offers design advantages for enhanced maneuverability and performance, which we will review for you below.

Although they are built to work in less favorable areas, great caution is still required when traveling and raising loads in such conditions to prevent tip-over, a leading cause of lift truck fatalities.

As with any lift, raising a load must be performed where the machine can remain stable. Knowing how to lift the load and knowing the stability of the ground conditions is critical for safe operations.

The Different Types of Rough Terrain Forklifts:

1. Telehandler Forklift (Telescopic Handler)

Equipped with a telescoping boom, which enables it to pick up and place loads at various distances and lift heights in front of the machine. The ability to reach out in front of the forklift allows the operator flexibility in the placement of a load.

Telehandlers provide substantial lift heights compared to standard forklifts. Often known as compact telehandlers and high-reach telehandlers, they can lift full weight capacities from 18 feet (compact) to 56 feet (high-reach) in the air, with rated load capacities commonly ranging between 5,500 lbs and 12,000 lbs.

Popular all-terrain forklift models include power shift transmission and all-wheel steering as well as a number of additional steering features that allow the operator to position the lift as close to the work area as possible.

The newer designs incorporate the latest ergonomic features like larger and more comfortable cabs and tilting steering wheels. These features enable more productive work shifts by minimizing fatigue and repetitive stress injuries.

Most rough terrain forklifts within this range are run by a single joystick that controls all boom functions and hydraulics for simple and efficient operation. In addition to being used in rugged outdoor environments like construction sites, they can also be fitted with non-marking tires.

These tires make them well suited for signage installations, building and billboard maintenance, as well as arenas and special event venues.

2. Rotating Telehandler Forklift (Roto Telescopic Handler)

Similar to a standard telehandler, rotating telehandlers are popular for their ability to lift heavy weight to great heights and rotate on a turntable, enabling them to swivel 360 degrees to serve a wide work area from a single position.

Some rotating telehandlers have a second joystick to operate rotation separately. Additional features include four-wheel, power assisted steering, and minimized slip differential on the rear axle to boost traction and for additional safety.

Many of the rotating rough terrain forklift models come with stabilizers to ensure safe movement when shifting loads from one side of the machine to the other. Some offer a design that allows them to move heavy weights without stabilizers, reducing the time it takes to reposition for the next stage of work.

Smaller than the fixed-cab telehandler, the common load capacities for rotating telehandlers range between 4,000 lbs and 10,000 lbs, with lift heights from 15 to 80 feet.

The extended height can also be paired with a winch attachment and used as a crane. This replaces the need for an additional piece of equipment on construction sites or the exteriors of high-rise buildings.

3. Straight Mast Forklift

A straight mast forklift is designed to load and unload building materials within a certain range of rough environments like construction sites, demolition areas, etc.

But where a straight mast forklift really differs is in the maneuverability and accessibility it provides through large heavy-duty pneumatic cushion tires that enable the lift to easily traverse rough terrain on the job site. Most lifts in this category come with two-wheel and four-wheel drive.

And depending on the model selected and your intended application and work environment, straight mast forklifts can be powered by diesel fuel or propane. This enables them to be used outdoors as well as indoors.

Load capacities are similar to a standard forklift, ranging between 5,000 lbs and 36,000 lbs. Industrial-grade masts can provide a more substantial lifting capacity at height, with 6,000-lb and 8,000-lb capacity lifts.



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I have worked with many forklifts and equipment company's in the past and Forklift Select has been the easiest and the fastest to get it done. They got it to my location within 2 days. Everything was as they said it would be. The company and there staff are as Top Notch as it gets. 5 Stars in our book. Thanks Guys!