2 December 2023

Winter lift truck driving tips from Cat® Lift Trucks

Winter’s snow, ice and rain create extra hazards for forklift truck drivers working outdoors. Today we offer some advice from Cat Lift Trucks on operating safely in slippery conditions. We also highlight an important anti-slip function on Cat® electric counterbalance trucks.

Prepare in advance

In a previous article, we’ve advised on getting your materials handling operation ready for winter. Perhaps the most obvious precaution is to spread grit in areas likely to become slippery. Snow clearance may be possible on some sites. In fact, forklifts themselves can be fitted with ploughs and scoops to do this. However, you will need specialist advice on those attachments – and the drivers using them should receive suitable training.

Pneumatic tyres have advantages over others when it comes to gripping on snowy or icy surfaces. In countries which expect a lot of snowfall each year, use of tyre chains or studs should also be considered.

Before starting work, make sure your drivers are dressed warmly. Discomfort due to being cold can distract them from their task and lead to accidents. For the same reason, they should have a weatherproof forklift cabin, warmed up with a heater.

Cabin windows must be cleaned and demisted for optimal visibility. Winter weather can reduce vision, so drivers need all the help they can get. Lastly, make sure the front and rear lights are switched on – so the driver can see, and the lift truck can be seen.

Drive carefully

To reduce the risks of slipping, sliding and skidding, it makes sense to slow down in slippery environments. In particular, take care on slopes – where traction can easily be lost. Remember that time gained by going fast may be hugely outweighed by time losses and damage resulting from an accident. At its extreme, that may even involve tipping over of the forklift.

Avoid sudden and sharp steering movements, especially on inclines. Instead, make turns gradually and smoothly. The same goes for braking. Don’t step heavily on the brake pedal. Anticipate the need to stop – and then slow down gradually over a longer distance.

Something else to bear in mind is that ice or snow on your lift truck’s forks can make the load slip. Ideally, it should be cleared off before picking up a load. Be careful with forward tilting of the forks if they’re likely to be slippery. When stacking, get the load almost into position before tilting to offload it.

Use technological aids

To maximise grip on slippery surfaces, most Cat electric counterbalance trucks offer electronic differential locking. It’s optional on all our electric trucks including Cat 4.0 to 5.5 tonne models.

When needed, this function locks the front wheels together to increase traction. At small steering angles, locking is activated automatically. With the addition of an optional extra pedal, drivers can choose to activate the lock at all angles.

All-wheel steering, such as the OmniTurn system on these Cat forklifts, is another aid to better grip. They are also equipped with intelligent curve control. This smoothly adjusts the lift truck’s speed when turning – keeping it within safe limits calculated according to the steered angle. It also minimises side forces. Its controlling influence prevents drivers from making excessively fast turns which would increase skidding risks.

Don’t be caught out by winter

Click here for more information on preparing your materials handling staff, lift trucks and warehouse for the colder months.

Download "Forklift driving in snow" infographic

EP35 driving in snow at our Järvenpää factory
EP35 in snow at our Järvenpää factory
Cat electric forklift carrying load on slippery surface
Cat electric forklift
EP45 Cat Forklift on Slippery surface
Cat electric forklift on slippery surface