How To Choose The Right Type of Forklift Mast

Forklift with mast sitting in dealership lot

The forklift mast is the upright portion of this heavy equipment that is used to lift, lower and position loads manipulated by the tines. Single-, two-, three- and four-sage masts are available and range in lift height. Here are three steps you should take to select the right mast.

Step 1: Consider the Forklift Mast Application

The first step toward selecting the right mast is to consider the lifting height you need. Masts are available in a wide range of lift heights:

  • Single-stage masts with limited free lift (4" to 6") are used for lower lift heights
  • Two-stage masts have a maximum lift of approximately 130"
  • Three-stage masts have a maximum lift of approximately 189" 
  • Four-stage masts have a maximum lift approximately 240"

Your lifting needs and the constraints of the environment in which operators will use a forklift should factor into your choice of a mast. It is also important to factor in lowered height, base capacity, and other specifications.

Step 2: Select a Forklift With the Right Mast

Understanding the basic functions of masts is helpful when buying a forklift. A single-stage mast has one channel with a fixed outer rail and a sliding inner rail. The inner rail uses chains to lift the carriage and forks. These masts must extend higher than other designs to stack loads, making simplex or V masts best for outdoor applications where height clearance is not a concern.

A two-stage or duplex forklift mast relies on a hydraulic cylinder to push loads upwards, making it possible for a load to rise while the mast remains stationary. The most common type of mast for forklifts are three-stage or triplex masts with large hydraulic rams, outer rails for free lift and inner sections that lift loads higher than two-stage masts. Quad or four-stage masts have four sets of rails to raise loads and can provide the highest reach.

Step 3: Check the Forklift Mast and Load Capacity Data Plate

The data plate displayed on every forklift includes the most important specifications about each piece of heavy equipment. Although the exact contents of plates can vary between manufacturers, a forklift data plate typically specifies the load capacity, lift height, load center distance, brand, model number and down ratings of lifting capacity with a mast or any attachments. These specifications should inform your choice of a mast.

Make sure that forklift and mast specifications also meet any requirements for a given application for safe operation. Only trained operators should use forklifts, and it is important to note that even more advanced training is typically required for four-stage or quad masts. Operator visibility can become restricted during very high lifting, and training is crucial to avoid dropped loads, structural damage, and other consequences.

By taking these steps, you should be able to determine the right forklift and forklift mast for any application. Find new or used forklifts and make an investment that promotes safety and preserves the condition of the contents of every load with Industrial Forklift Truck today.

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