What Is the Average Salary of a Forklift Operator?

Do you want to work as a forklift driver? Have you ever wondered how much these workers earn and what type of training is needed? If you're interested in pursuing this career, read on for current salary figures and training information. Schools offering Supply Chain Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

Forklifts, also known as powered industrial trucks, transport, stack and lift heavy material. Forklift operators maneuver these trucks with hydraulic lifting systems to load and unload heavy and large objects. You can work in warehousing and storage facilities, at docks and terminals, construction sites, storage yards and other locations that require material to be stored or transported. To enter this career, you'll need to become trained and certified in its operation and safety.

Average Salary Overview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary for industrial truck and tractor operators, including forklift operators, was $32,090 in May 2012 (www.bls.gov). Overall, annual salaries ranged from $20,390 for the bottom 10% to $46,450 for the top 10% of workers. The middle-half salary range was between $24,500 and $37,680 a year, according to the BLS.

Salary by Industry

The BLS reported the top-paying industry for industrial truck and tractor operators was the water transportation support activities industry, with an average annual wage of $60,030 in May 2012. Those in the electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry earned an average annual wage of $50,200, while those working in natural gas distribution earned an average wage of $54,910.

The industry with the highest level of employment was the warehousing and storage industry, which had a mean wage of $31,520. Other industries with high employment levels included employment services and building material and supplies dealers, with mean wages of $27,040 and $24,790, respectively.

Salary by Location

According to May 2012 BLS figures, mean wages for the locations with high employment levels included $36,240 for California, $28,240 for Texas, $30,190 for Illinois, $32,270 for Indiana and $31,580 for Ohio. States with the highest mean wages included the District of Columbia ($41,530), Hawaii ($40,640), North Dakota ($40,590), Wyoming ($39,890) and Alaska ($39,150). States with lower mean wages between $20,320 and $30,190 included Idaho, South Dakota, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and Texas.

Job Requirements and Training Information

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), forklift operators must be at least 18 years old and be properly trained and certified before they may operate an industrial truck at a workplace (www.osha.gov). Many employers require forklift operators to have a high school diploma or equivalent.

Training and certification courses can be found at community colleges, technical schools and businesses, which are members of power industrial truck organizations. Such programs combine classroom instruction with hands-on training in areas such as safety and operation guidelines, mechanical parts, forklift types, steering, forklift parts and workplace practices.

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