Top Skills Needed to Become a Forklift Operator

Covid-19 pushed consumers to change the way they shop. US online shopping is expected to hit a record $1 trillion in 2022 thanks to the pandemic-driven shift to online shopping, according to a report from Adobe Analytics. The forecast represents an increase of 13% from 2021, where Americans spent $885 billion. 

Because of this, warehouse workers are in high demand this year - meaning the market will need more forklift operators. Forklift operators, sometimes referred to as forklift drivers, are professionals responsible for transporting heavy materials using industrial machinery, typically working under the supervision of warehouse managers or supply chain managers. 

According to the BLS (US Bureau of Labor Statistics), there are currently ​​710,800 workers in this role in America, a number that is projected to grow throughout the next decade with about 86,300 new openings every year. With an average salary of $38,380 per year and many career growth opportunities, forklift operator roles are definitely interesting to consider.

Do you have exceptional spatial awareness and attention to detail? Are you interested in working in a warehouse environment? Then becoming a forklift driver may be a suitable job for you. Be aware that the job is not as simple as someone loading up the forklift and driving from point A to B. Forklift drivers have to be extremely careful, keep track of inventory and follow a schedule of when items need to be transported. 

What are the skills needed to become a forklift operator?

Technical Skills

There are various types of forklifts for different purposes. Some forklift drivers go on lengthy drives to move materials, while others spend their time shifting items from one shelf to another. Because these are considered heavy (and therefore possibly dangerous) machinery, a certification is required to perform this type of job. You will not only learn how to operate a forklift but also all the safety rules needed to do so. More about this topic here.

High Level of Attention

Warehouse environments are very busy, with colleagues moving around you all the time, often carrying weight. Forklift operators need to have strong hand-eye coordination and be aware of their surroundings at all times in order to operate their machinery without hitting boxes, equipment or other team members.

Commitment to Safety

Forklift drivers are responsible for helping maintain OSHA regulations in the workplace, keeping the company's operation injury and accident-free as often as possible. Great operators must have a true dedication to maintain a clean operation record. 

Basic Math Skills

Some math is involved in driving and operating a forklift - and having basic math skills is very important to calculate the overall weight of the load to make sure it’s in compliance with the machine’s capabilities, shipment costs, and other operating expenses.

Communication Skills

Forklift drivers must interact effectively with co-workers, vendors, and sometimes even customers - this means explaining what they’re doing, what they need others to do, and updating supervisors as needed. 


Priorities change quickly in a warehouse environment. No two days are the same and forklift drivers must be able to rapidly adjust to changing conditions and come up with creative solutions.


Many businesses depend on forklift drivers. When an operator comes in late, leaves early or doesn’t show up at all, the entire supply chain suffers. 



As a forklift driver, you have many opportunities for career growth. Some improve their skills and take up supervisory roles in the warehouse, others specialize in maintenance functions and become maintenance technicians.

Interested in finding a new opportunity? Shiftfillers is hiring forklift drivers to work for top companies across the country. Check out our openings today!