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The legislative information contained on this web site is my interpretation of the law based on many years in the health and safety business. A definitive interpretation can only be given by the courts. I will therefore not be held responsible for any accident/incident/prosecution arising as a consequence of anyone using any information obtained from this web site.

penalty point system - Forklift operator's test

penaltiesI have often been told by people who have received previous training and testing that they scored "so and so percent" on their test. I'm not quite sure why people say this unless there are instructors out there who don't explain things properly!

Right from the start in 1969 there has never been a percentage score for the practical test of fork lift truck operator basic skills. There is for the written test but not for the practical.

In fact it's very simple. A trainee starts their test with zero points and attempts to score as few as possible as in fact, they are penalty points! The idea is to score as low as possible. After the test they get added up by the instructor and the total must not exceed 40. If a trainee scores 41 or more they are deemed to have failed the test. I assume that the percentage thing came about as part of "folk law"? In other words if I only score 10 points and I'm allowed 40 that must be 25%. This is erroneous thinking and such comments would not be understood by an accrediting body.

I do not propose to list all of the faults and all of the associated penalties here but rather to make certain comments about they way a test can be approached. (Full details of the new, 2017 penalty point marking sheet can be found here). My advice would be never to start a test with the intention of doing a "clear round" - i.e. zero points. I think to manage that feat you have to not only be good but also to have one of those really good days that we all get occasionally!

There are three types of error that can cause penalty points on a truck test:

Serious Faults

Under this heading would come potentially dangerous things such as lack of observation, failing to secure the truck whilst stacking and other various things which may cause serious problems in the real world. Having an extended load centre would be another example and there are more.......

(From 2017 onwards if a trainee scores more than three of these serious faults they will fail the test regardless of their overall score).

Mid range faults

I don't know what else to call these but they would be errors in judgment such as touching things during the test when negotiating the chicane for example. There are also plenty of other opportunities to touch things that one shouldn't whilst stacking! Making a poor stack would fall into this category so long as the stack was not actually dangerous. By "touching" I mean lightly!

Some faults that used to score one point now score three points, (2017 onwards),and these include shunting in the chicane and shunting when lining up at the stack although one free shunt is still allowed.

Minor faults

These are awarded for minor things that are not deemed to be dangerous but may show a slight lack of judgment. Riding the footbrake or trying to drive against the handbrake are examples of this.


Although not very common in my experience, a trainee can be disqualified for one of six different things. It should also be noted that there is a time limit on the test and one can be disqualified for exceeding this.

Webmaster note: In my personal experience there are going to be a lot more disqualifications when using the new ABA test from 2017 onwards. Out of the thousands of operators I trained who were successful, many scored more than three serious similar faults. I'll be interested to see how this develops.

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