When operating or owning forklifts, safety should be top of mind. A forklift’s load capacity is an important topic to understand when operating or purchasing new equipment. This article will explain the key points of load capacity to help clear things up.

What is a Forklift's Load Capacity and Net Capacity?

The load capacity is the amount of weight that can be lifted by a forklift. Loads must be centered when lifting to max heights or carrying at max capacity. The net capacity or payload capacity of a forklift is the weight that a forklift can lift when accounting for attachments, mast style, or any other add-ons. 

How Do I Find My Current Forklift's Rated Capacity?

Locate the data plate, which spells out the load the forklift can safely lift, even when fitted with attachments. In addition to load capacity, the data plate will show information like the brand, model, serial number, max lift height, load center distance, tire specs, and forklift weight.

Toyota Data Plate example

Load Center

You might hear the term load center or see it on a data plate. The load center is simply the middle of a forklift’s load. To break this down further, it’s the distance from the front of the carriage to the center of gravity of the load. You can find this information on the forklift’s data plate. 

Lift Height

The max lift height affects a forklift’s capacity. Forklifts with higher masts will have a greater carrying capacity when operating at lower lift heights than at the maximum lift height. These high mast forklifts often have two capacity rating on the data plate; a maximum capacity up to a mid-level lift height, and a lower capacity rating at the max lift height.

The Impact of Attachments

Attachments for forklifts like clamps, multiple load handlers, rotators, and fork spreaders are very common to help operations meet unique needs or improve efficiency. Attachments have the potential of reducing the load capacity. When installing an attachment to a forklift, the data plate will need to be updated to reflect the new capacity specs.


If you aren’t sure what capacity you need, the best thing to do is to contact your local forklift dealership. Before you contact your dealer, there are four questions you should prepare to answers.

  • How heavy is your typical load?
  • What is the maximum height a load will need to be lifted to?
  • How wide is your largest possible load?
  • Will you need an attachment?