Have you ever wondered: Is online forklift certification legit?
In this post, we’ve prepared the answer to that question and more, like:
- What it means to be forklift certified
- Whether forklift certification is worth it
- The different ways to get forklift certified
- How long it takes to get a forklift license
Let’s dive in!
Online forklift schools or forklift courses are legit and can get you trained to operate a forklift. But unless they observe and evaluate you operating a forklift in the workplace, they cannot certify you.
According to OSHA, you need classroom instruction, hands-on (practical) forklift training, and in-person evaluation at the workplace to get a legit forklift license.
So, taking online forklift training is legit, but it only satisfies one OSHA requirement: Classroom instruction. It doesn’t provide practical training and evaluation of the operator in the workplace.
A simple internet search of “can I get forklift certified online” or “forklift certification online” will reveal several forklift certification classes.
You can get your forklift license training online. But you cannot use an online forklift license to operate a forklift in the workplace without your employer’s approval.
Again, this is because the employer or a hired trainer is ultimately responsible for ensuring you can competently and safely operate a forklift under actual working conditions.
So, before you operate a forklift, your employer must certify that operators in their employment have:
- Received the required operator instruction
- Demonstrated competence in safe forklift operation in the workplace and using the same type of lift truck they’ll be using during actual work
Simply taking online forklift training classes does not fully “certify” you to operate a forklift.
Thus, you may want to avoid online classes for forklift certification unless you’re sure they’ll also observe you at work and evaluate your forklift operation capability.
But even if the online forklift certification doesn’t offer workplace evaluation, as long as the forklift training program adequately covers the required OSHA topics, it can be considered “legit.” How?
Online forklift certification courses aren’t different from in-person training. You’ll go through the same program and take a final test/examination. If you pass, you’ll be issued a certificate of successful completion of the formal instruction portion.
To operate a forklift, you’ll present this certification to your employer for confirmation of operator training, then the employer can arrange an in-person evaluation.
To be forklift certified means that your employer has determined and can attest that you’re qualified to safely operate the type of forklift you’ll be operating in the workplace.
According to OSHA requirements, three things are required to be forklift certified:
- Receive a formal instruction
- Get hands-on (practical) training and evaluation. This includes demonstrations by the qualified trainer and practical exercises by the trainee
- Receive employer approval based on operations in the workplace
Forklift “formal instruction” means classroom teaching, consisting of a “lecture, interactive computer learning, discussion, video, and/or written material” [OSHA standard 1910.178(l)(2)(ii)]. To be complete, the instruction must cover topics provided by OSHA for forklift operation.
Hands-on training involves “demonstrations performed by a qualified trainer and the trainee performing practical exercises” [OSHA standard 1910.178(l)(2)(ii)]. This means a trainer must demonstrate how to operate a forklift and observe you actually doing it.
Lastly, your employer (or a contracted qualified trainer) will need to do two things:
- Confirm that you’ve received the OSHA-required forklift instruction and hands-on training
- Evaluate you (or hire a 3rd party to evaluate you) as you operate a forklift in the workplace
If the employer or trainer is satisfied, then you’re forklift certified!
In terms of compliance with OSHA regulations and workplace safety, forklift training is definitely worth investing time and money in.
But maybe the deeper question is: “Should I get forklift training before I apply for a forklift operator position?”
OSHA asserts that only an employer can certify a forklift operator for qualification and safe operation of a forklift.
OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.178 (l)(1)(i) says:
“The employer will ensure that a powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate the truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of classroom training and practical evaluation.”
To ensure that you’re competent to operate a forklift, the employer can arrange classroom training (which you can do online) and then conduct a performance evaluation using onsite equipment.
So, while you won’t be able to get completely certified independent of your employer, there are some advantages to completing forklift training before applying for a position:
- Shows prospective employer initiative
- Prepares you for the reality of operating a lift truck (maybe it’s not what you expected, and you don’t really want to do it!)
On the other hand, some disadvantages of completing your training before applying can include:
- Can be expensive
- Upon hire, your employer will most likely put you through their training, so you may spend more money unnecessarily
- It doesn’t get you 100% ready to operate a forklift. OSHA says that only an employer can certify you to operate a forklift after they observe you operating in the workplace
In general, forklift certification is worth it, but you don’t need it if you’re not going to operate a forklift anywhere yet. Wherever you’ll be a forklift operator, the employer will require a fresh certification.
It’s common for individuals to wonder how to get forklift training or employers to wonder how to get their forklift operators OSHA certified. You can take the training in two ways:
These courses include classroom work/instruction, a written test, and hands-on training and evaluation.
But which forklift method is right for you? Let’s discuss these methods in detail below.
In-Person Forklift Training
In-person training is like high school, where you may listen to a lecture, watch videos, view PowerPoint or projector presentations, and ask questions. You might also interact and participate in group activities with other students.
Many people prefer getting forklift certified through in-person training. In-person training can be through:
- A vocational school or technical college
- A material handling dealership
- Internally (i.e., a program that your employer administers for their forklift operators)
- Staffing agencies
Pros of In-Person Forklift Training
- Personal attention. Access to instructors who tailor teaching to individual learning styles.
- Interaction with other students. Access to a well-rounded learning experience by studying alongside others.
- Hands-on training. Get practical forklift experience with an actual forklift.
Cons of In-Person Forklift Training
- More expensive than online training
- Less convenient because it may be difficult to find a local technical/vocational institution or a local company offering the program
- Not self-paced like online training. Classes can last for 4-8 hours across 1-2 days
Online Forklift Training
Online training, like in-person training, involves classroom instruction but is done on the internet. You can find an online forklift certification program by just searching “forklift certification” or “forklift licensing” on the internet.
Usually, the online forklift training company will give you a login to a site where you can see all the classes and learning resources included with your purchase.
You then watch videos, read, and complete interactive exercises to learn and retain the forklift operation information. The course will have an end-of-section test of your knowledge and a final exam for certification.
Pros of Online Forklift Training
- Self-paced. You can complete the course in as little as an hour or take as long as you like.
- Convenient. You can access online course materials at home on your computer or smartphone.
- Unlimited access. Once you get access to the course materials, in most cases, you won’t need to renew your subscription.
- Less expensive. Compared to in-person learning, with some as low as $40.
- Instant results. Once you complete the final exam, you can generate a “certificate” immediately.
Cons of Online Forklift Training
- No practical, “hands-on” portion. Most online forklift training programs only have the classroom bit.
- Limited support. If you have questions about forklift operations, you may have to research on your own.
- No interaction with other trainees. Since you’re learning at home (or on your device), you may have limited to no interaction with other trainees.
How to Become a Certified Forklift Operator
Here are the 6 steps for how to get OSHA forklift certified if you plan on going the “self-study” route.
1. Determine the Type of Forklift You’ll Be Operating
To be forklift certified, your certification must cover the particular type of forklift you’ll be operating. For example, if you’ll be operating a reach truck, you’ll have to have training specific to reach trucks.
Thus, you’ll want to determine what type of forklift you’ll likely be operating in whatever position you end up applying for. Then, you’ll want to confirm that your chosen training program covers that type of lift truck before proceeding.
2. Find and Register For a Forklift Certification Course
As we’ve discussed, you can get forklift training via online or in-person courses. The easiest way to find these programs is to perform a quick Google search for “forklift operator training” or “forklift training near me.” Then, evaluate the results accordingly until you find a program that meets your criteria.
3. Complete All Forklift Operator Classes
Once you find a forklift training provider, you can start forklift operator training with coursework that includes driving techniques, forklift operation safety, OSHA rules, and forklift maintenance.
Check out Conger’s OSHA-compliant forklift operator safety training course
The coursework might include written materials, watching videos, lectures, and discussions. The coursework training must meet OSHA’s standards and often lasts 6 to 8 hours.
4. Take the Forklift Operator Exam
After classwork training, the training provider will give you a written exam. Typically, you need to score a minimum of 75% to 80% to continue your training. Any score below this will require you to repeat the training. You can take our free forklift certification practice test as many times as you like to prepare for the real thing.
5. Complete the Hands-on Practical Training Portion
If you pass the final exam, you will then undergo hands-on training on real forklift equipment to demonstrate your forklift skills. If you’re already working at a company that operates forklifts, the employer will likely organize this hands-training at your workplace.
This training might include forklift operation, driving, inspection, loading materials, navigation, lifting loads, working on inclines, and more. Your trainer will grade you on forklift skills, safety, and efficiency.
6. Final Evaluation and Certification
After both training sessions, you’ll be evaluated based on your overall performance, driving rating, written exam score, and hands-on training. If the trainers feel your overall score is satisfactory, you’ll be forklift certified.
Note: Only your employer or a qualified third-party trainer can make the final determination to certify you to operate a forklift.
The certification also comes with a forklift operator license (certification card) you can show employers when applying for forklift operator jobs. The certificate and license will include your name, training and evaluation date, forklift type, and trainer/evaluator.
Check out our How to Get Your Forklift License post for more information on how to become a certified forklift operator.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about forklift certification and online forklift training.
How Long Does a Forklift Test Take?
First, there isn’t a single standardized test for forklift certification, so the length can vary. Overall, the classroom training has around 25 questions or so on average (20 multiple-choice and 5 written answers) that you can get done in no more than 1 hour. The hands-on evaluation/test part may sometimes be completed as quickly as 15 minutes. The complete forklift training and certification can take 1 to 2 days.
How Hard Is It to Pass a Forklift Test?
How hard or easy to pass a forklift test depends solely on the individual. The difficulty is somewhere on the high school level.
Practicing is the best way to find out whether it’s hard to pass a forklift test. You can try our practice test for forklift certification, which is designed to be approximately as difficult as the “real” thing.
Is a Forklift Theory Test Multiple Choice?
Forklift certification tests can take almost any form. Some tests are multiple-choice, like our forklift operator practice test. Many tests are a combination of 20 multiple-choice questions and 5 written answers in the form of sentences. But the form of any test depends on the forklift certification provider.
How Many Questions Are in the Forklift Theory Test?
The forklift theory test usually involves 25 questions. 20 are multiple-choice, while 5 require a written answer in the form of a sentence. To pass the forklift operator theory test, you need a score of between 75% and 80% (depending on the provider).
How Can I Pass My Forklift Certification Test?
Passing a forklift certification test isn’t any different from normal learning. You just need to understand the coursework covered and apply it to get the minimum required score.
Can You Fail a Forklift Test?
You can fail a forklift test by getting too many questions wrong on the exam and scoring below the minimum required score. You can also fail by performing poorly on the hands-on exam.
What Happens if You Fail the Forklift Test?
This depends on your training method (online or in-person). If you fail an online forklift test, you can generally retake it as often as you need to until you pass it. If the test is in person, the instructor will work with you to ensure you understand the question/problem and can pass the test. But you must meet the minimum required score to pass a forklift test.
Are Different Certifications Needed For Different Forklift Types?
Forklift certification depends on the particular type of forklift you’ll be operating.
If the forklift you’ll be operating is significantly different from what you’re certified on, you’ll need to undergo more training to be compliant. For example, if you’re certified to operate a sit-down internal combustion forklift, you would need more training to operate a reach truck.
Does OSHA Recognize Online Forklift Training?
OSHA doesn’t care what form forklift training takes, whether in-person or virtual. However, OSHA does care that the training covers the forklift training topics listed within their regulations. They also require hands-on forklift instruction and in-person evaluation of operator performance in the workplace, both of which cannot be performed online.
Does Forklift Certification Expire?
A forklift operator certification expires after three (3) years. Generally, an employee won’t need to receive additional forklift operator training or certification during those 3 years.
How Often Does OSHA Require Forklift Training?
OSHA requires forklift training and re-evaluation every 3 years OR if any of these 5 conditions are true:
- You’ve been seen operating the equipment unsafely.
- You get into a forklift-related accident or near-miss incident.
- Your evaluation shows a deficiency
- Your employer assigns you to a different type of forklift to operate
- There’s a change in your workplace that might affect safe forklift operation
How Long Does It Take To Get Your Forklift License?
You can usually get your forklift license in 1 or 2 days. You just need a few hours of classroom instruction, a written test, and a hands-on performance evaluation at the workplace. For example, Conger’s forklift operator certification course is about 8 hours long.
Does OSHA Require Forklift Certification Cards?
A forklift certification card is an operator’s proof of being forklift certified and fitness to use a forklift.
OSHA doesn’t care if it’s a card or if it takes some other form. But whatever form it does take, it must include the operator’s name, training, and evaluation date, forklift type, and name of trainer/evaluator [OSHA 1910.178(L)(6)].
How Much Does Forklift Certification Cost?
There’s no standard forklift certification cost. Training and forklift certification costs vary depending on the type of program.
Most online forklift training programs (just classroom training) can cost anywhere between $40 and $60, while in-person training may cost between $150 and $200. Courses that offer either online or in-person classroom training, plus hands-on training, can cost anywhere between $200 and $280.
Since OSHA requires employers to have certified forklift operators, some companies may pay for your training or offer it as part of the employment package.
Is a Forklift Certification the Same as a License?
Forklift certification is the same thing as a forklift license. According to OSHA, the forklift license, or forklift certification card, must bear the operator’s name, training, and evaluation date, forklift type, and name of trainer/evaluator. So, as long as that’s all present, it’s legit, and you can call it a certification, license, permit, etc.
Note that a forklift operator’s license differs from a driver’s license. Only operators with forklift training certification are eligible to operate a forklift truck under the law, and that certification must be renewed every three years.
Do I Need a Driver’s License to Operate a Forklift?
You do not need a valid driver’s license to operate a forklift. A forklift operator certification is completely separate from a driver’s license, so not having one does not affect the other.
Do Forklift Operator Requirements Vary by State?
First, all forklift operators must be forklift certified. But different states have different OSHA safety and health rules and programs. Also, different states might have different worker rights and employer requirements. To learn more about forklift operator regulations, contact your local OSHA office.
Is a Forklift Job Easy?
How easy or difficult a job is depends on what you compare it to. Compared to digging ditches, being a forklift operator is probably easy.
Overall, a forklift driver’s job involves much more than just driving. You’re responsible for lifting and moving objects using a forklift truck, often in tight spaces and with little room for error. This requires a high level of coordination and attention to detail.
That’s it: Everything you need to know about the legitimacy of online forklift operator training.
Now, we’d like to turn it over to you.
Are you considering a job as a forklift operator?
Are you leaning towards online or in-person operator training?
Do you have more questions?
Please share with us in the comments section.