How much does a forklift driver earn?

The answer depends on where you live and whether you work full time or part time.

Forklifts are heavy lifting machines that move loads from place to place. They are usually found at warehouses, factories, construction sites, etc.

Forklift operators operate these vehicles and ensure they are safe and efficient.

Forklift drivers earn between $13-$30 per hour depending on their location. If you want to become a forklift operator, you should start looking into the job now.

Today we’re going to be looking more into the job of a forklift driver as well as its average salary and what might affect this payment.

What Does The Role Of A Forklift Driver Entail?

The role of a forklift driver is to drive the vehicle safely and efficiently. This means ensuring all forklift safety procedures are followed and that the machine is kept in good working order.

Forklifts are industrial machines that lift heavy loads. They can weigh up to 70 tons.

They have four wheels with pneumatic tires which allow them to travel over uneven surfaces without sinking too deeply.

These trucks also have hydraulic brakes which help slow down the truck when it needs to stop. They can go up to 20 miles per hour but most are limited to about 10 mph due to the weight of the load.

The role of a forklift driver will involve many tasks such as:

  • Loading and unloading materials onto/off the forks of the machine.
  • Ensuring the machine is loaded properly and that there are no obstructions within the reach of the forks.
  • Making sure the machine is in good working condition.
  • Driving the forklift around the warehouse or factory floor.
  • Monitoring the speed of the machine and making adjustments if necessary.
  • Keeping an eye out for hazards like broken glass, loose wires, etc.
  • Maintaining records of the daily operations of the machine.
  • Reporting any problems or issues to the supervisor.
  • Following company policies and regulations.
  • Performing other duties as assigned by management.

Is There An Age Restriction For Forklift Drivers?

forklift drivers

There is an age restriction on driving a forklift in the USA, under the Fair Labor Standards Act. This act describes that the age restriction on driving a forklift is 18.

This means that anyone who has not yet turned 18 years old cannot legally drive a forklift.

However, there might be a few exceptions to this rule when thinking about agricultural operations.

You should check your state laws to see whether you are able to drive a forklift for these operations when under 18.

Moving back to non-agricultural operations, however, it is illegal for people under the age of 18 to ride, repair, tend to, or service forklifts.

Basically, anyone under the age of 18 is not allowed to touch a forklift, unless they want to break the law.

Average Amount Forklift Drivers Make

The US Department of Labor mixes all “industrial trucks or tractors equipped to move materials around a warehouse, storage yard, factory, construction site, or similar location” together.

This makes it difficult to determine the average amount a forklift driver will actually make, as they might make more or less than other jobs that have been grouped with them.

For example, a tractor driver might make considerably less an hour than a forklift driver, taking this average down.

So, while the average that we’re about to show you is technically for forklift drivers, it is also for lots of other jobs that could pay more or less than the forklift position, altering the accuracy of the average.

Anyway, now that we have explained the potential issue with this average salary, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average wage for this group of laborers is either $18.06 an hour or $37,560 a year.

Looking to a source that examines forklift drivers alone might be more accurate. For example, Indeed shows that forklift drivers earn slightly less than the average from the Bureau of Labor.

Indeed’s estimated hourly payment for a forklift driver is $16.12, or $37,609 a year. This was estimated by looking through over 130,000 salary reports!

Glassdoor estimates how much a forklift driver to make is even lower at $33,559 a year. This estimation has been taken from over 7000 salary reports.

PayScale also has different findings, with their estimate showing the average earnings of a forklift driver to be $15.18, or $35,612 a year.

Finally, Zippia shows the lowest earnings of all of these sources. They estimate that forklift drivers earn $13.70 an hour or $28,486 a year.

Bear in mind that all of these sites have different methods of calculating the average amount that a forklift driver earns. Overall, we can assume that they will get between $13 and $30 an hour.

Does The Salary Differ Between States?

forklift drivers

There is a difference in pay between states, and some differences are much more noticeable than others. Below is a table of all 50 states followed by the average pay for a forklift driver between hourly and yearly.

US StateAverage Hourly PayAverage Yearly Pay
District of Columbia$28.17$58,600
Hawaiino datano data
New Hampshire$20.70$43,050
New Jersey$18.21$37,870
New Mexico$17.03$35,420
New York$19.68$40,930
North Carolina$16.81$34,960
North Dakota$21.14$43,970
Rhode Island$19.72$41,020
South Carolina$16.55$34,430
South Dakota$17.63$36,680
West Virginia$17.45$36,290

As you can see, each state has different salaries that they deem acceptable for forklift drivers.

For example, Wyoming offers a much higher salary than Mississippi, with there being around a $7 difference per hour of work!

How Can You Become A Forklift Driver?

The first step towards becoming a forklift driver is to find out if you meet the qualifications.

These include having a high school diploma or GED (General Educational Development), as well as a driver’s license and suitable forklift operation certification.

The barrier for becoming a forklift driver is quite low as it is considered an entry level job, but bear in mind that you might need the correct certification and experience handling forklifts.

Typically a forklift driver doesn’t have to purchase the equipment themselves, the employer will typically take on the cost of acquiring the forklift, which is an added bonus for drivers.


Forklift driving is a very rewarding career choice, especially when compared to other jobs.

It provides a great deal of flexibility, which means that you can choose where you want to go and what you want to do.

However, this does come with its own set of challenges, such as dealing with heavy machinery, working long hours, and lifting heavy loads.

The amount a forklift driver gets paid depends on where they live and the company that they are employed by.

The average seems to be between $13 and $18 an hour, although this could be higher or lower than the actual amount that they receive.