Let’s Get it Started

Ask any elite athlete about their training regimen, and the word diet is sure to come up. Perhaps more than anybody, athletes understand how the foods they choose to fuel their body affects their performance.

This is not a story about diets, but it is a story about fuel. Powered industrial trucks (like forklifts) are invaluable tools in the workplace, but like humans they need fuel to perform. And like elite athletes, they need the correct fuel to perform their best.

The care and feeding of your forklift​

Different forklift classes require different types of fuel, which includes liquid fuels, batteries, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). When it’s time to refuel your PIT, you should know which type of fuel it requires, and the risks associated with each. This information should be clearly stated in your vehicle’s operator’s manual.

Consult your operator’s manual for instructions on how to safely change and dispose of used fuel.


No smoking around fuel, regardless of the type of fuel you are using.

Fuel it up​

Liquid Fuels

When refueling with liquid fuel, such as gasoline or diesel:

  • Always stop and turn off the engine before refueling.
  • Do not overfill the tank.
  • Make sure there is adequate ventilation.
  • Wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect yourself from ingesting it or inhaling the fumes.

Battery service

As an operator, it is unlikely that you will need to refill a battery. However, if you do, observe the following precautions:

  • Wear acid-resistant PPE, gloves, long sleeves, and pant legs to protect yourself from battery acid.
  • Use only the type of battery charger recommended by the manufacturer.
  • If low on electrolyte, add only distilled water. Bring the level up to approximately ¼ inch above the battery plates. This will leave room for expansion, as the electrolyte is heated during the charging process.
  • Make sure you have adequate ventilation when charging. Charging emits hydrogen gas which is extremely flammable.
  • An emergency washing station is required if you regularly replace or refill and charge batteries.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

Many forklifts are powered by LPGs such as propane or butane.

To change the LPG tank:

  • Purge the fuel supply hose:
    • start the engine, shut off the fuel supply valve on the tank, allow the engine to run until out of fuel
  • Remove the empty tank
  • Get help to lift a full bottle onto the cradle
  • Make sure the bottle is properly oriented in the cradle, with the locating pin aligned


Because of their chemical properties, LPGs are extremely cold. If gas escaping from the tank touches your skin, it can freeze your skin immediately and cause frostbite. When handling or refilling propane tanks, wea goggles and thermal protection for your hands and skin.

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