Besides a skid steer bucket, the next widely used attachment on a skid loader is pallet forks. Even though they are a relatively simplistic attachment compared to other skid steer attachments such as a brush cutter or breaker hammer, there are several variables you will need to consider before purchasing.
These variables are based on the skid steer, wheel loader, or tractor that the pallet fork attachments will be connected to. The first specification you will need to know is the lifting capacity of your machine. This is the amount of weight your machine can safely lift without tipping or compromising the machine.
This is very important to know. Trying to attempt a lift with more weight than the skid steer can lift, puts the machine at risk of failure or worse yet puts the driver’s safety at risk. It always best to know this capacity along with the weight of the object you will be lifting. I always like to keep note in with my cab with the lift capacity minus the weight of my forks.
This tells me the amount of weight I can safely lift with my pallet forks. On a side note, you will also want to take into account the terrain you will be traveling over. If the terrain is at all on a slope of rough, you will want to decrease the amount of weight in each load.
Now let’s go over the different aspects of the forks themselves. Each set of forks has a load rating. Generally a set of light duty pallet forks will have a weight rating of 2,000 lbs. A set of medium duty pallet forks will have a weight rating starting at around 4000 lbs. and go up to around 6,000 lbs.
Heavy duty pallet forks generally will have a weight rating of between 7500 lbs. and 10,000 lbs. Normally when choosing a set of pallet forks you will want to choose a set as close to or a little over the lifting capacity of your machine. Generally you can get an idea of the duty rating on the forks based on the dimensions of them. 2000 lb. rated tines will be approximately 1 ¼” x 4”. 4000-5000 lb. rated tines will be approximately 1 ½” x 4”. 6000 lb. rated tines will be approximately 1 ¾” x 4”. 10,000 lb. rated tines will be approximately 2” x 5”.
Next, you will want to determine what length pallet fork tines you will need. General fork tines range in length from 42”-48”. However, they are also offered in 60” and up to 72” in length. For most applications, I would recommend the 48” forks, however in some applications where you maybe lifting a longer skid, the 60” and 72” forks come in handy. When the skid is longer in length, these forks will support the skid without it bending or falling apart opposed to what could happen if attempting with the shorter forks.
You will want to determine this before purchasing. The good news is that forks can be changed out without having to purchase the entire fork carriage. So if you run into this issue, make sure to have a separate set of longer tines available. Just remember that the load rating of the carriage generally matches the set up tines. So just because you put a 6000 lb. set of tines onto a fork carriage does not mean you can now lift 6000 lbs. You will be able to lift the lowest rating on the forks or carriage frame.
There are 5 different styles of pallet forks, low profile, walk through, standard, wide frame, and tall frame. Each has its pros and cons. Generally I would recommend the standard. In most cases they are the best all-around choice.
I hope this article helps you choose your next set of forks! Just remember if you’re not sure about the load, always error on the side of caution.