Once the trainees have mastered steering the machine both forwards and backwards in an open space it is time to teach them how to steer in very confined spaces such as those that they will find in their normal working environment.
Although there are many ways of doing this the most common involves a figure of eight with the trainees starting out driving around a single drum or cone and gradually working up to a tight figure of eight.
To start with, a single drum or cone is placed on flat ground and the truck is positioned some 3 to 4m away from it. The instructor then explains that the turning point of the forklift is an imaginary line running through the front wheels/axle.
The trainees are instructed to drive towards the drum maintaining a close distance to it, typically 50 to 75 mm. The steering wheel should be turned in the appropriate direction when the turning point of the truck is level with the middle of the drum or cone.
On a counterbalanced forklift truck it is usual to get the trainees to turn to the left during the first exercise as visibility to this side of the truck is better. If a reach truck is being used then, for the opposite reason, this exercise should be done to the right-hand side.
Whichever direction the trainees start with, after this they should have practice going in the opposite direction. In the training world the right hand side is referred to as the "hard" side on a counterbalanced truck as the drivers seat is offset to the left.
The idea is that the trainee should be able to travel round and round the obstruction at a nice steady pace maintaining a consistent 50 to 75mm distance away. Whilst doing this trainee should be encouraged not to forget what is happening behind him/her and to take frequent glances over their shoulders.
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