Eureka Forklifts


Why are unloaded forklifts more likely to tip over

Unloaded forklifts: a tipping hazard in the workplace

Forklifts make up a large proportion of the essential tools in warehouses and other industrial settings, lifting and transporting heavy loads easily so you can ensure production schedules are met. Despite their stability, unloaded forklifts can be surprisingly prone to tipping over. We explore the reasons why this is and how to prevent accidents from unloaded forklifts from occurring in your workplace.

Understanding the centre of gravity

A forklift's stability relies on its centre of gravity remaining within what’s called the stability triangle. This triangle is formed by the three contact points between the tyres and the ground. Put simply, when the centre of gravity falls outside this triangle, the chance of the forklift tipping over greatly increases. 

Unloaded vs. loaded forklifts

When a forklift is loaded, the centre of gravity shifts downward because of the weight of the cargo. This lower centre of gravity helps to increase the stability of the vehicle. When a forklift is unloaded, the centre of gravity rises (away from the ground), making the forklift more susceptible to tipping over.

What are some factors that contribute to forklift tip-overs?

Several factors can contribute to an unloaded forklift tipping over:

  • Sharp, quick turns: When making sharp turns, centrifugal force can cause the centre of gravity to shift laterally, potentially exceeding the stability triangle and causing a tip-over of the forklift.
  • Uneven surfaces: Operating an unloaded forklift on uneven surfaces can tilt the machine and shift the centre of gravity, leading to instability, resulting in tip-overs.
  • Excessive speed: Driving an unloaded forklift at high speeds increases the centrifugal force, making it more likely to tip over during turns or manoeuvres. Remember, it’s a workplace, not a racetrack. 

What are some things that help prevent forklift tip-overs?

There are several safety precautions you can take to prevent unloaded forklifts from tipping over. Here’s a few:

  • Slow down, Speedy Gonzalez!: Always operate an unloaded forklift at a safe and controlled speed.
  • Avoid making sharp turns: Make wide turns to help minimise the risk of the centre of gravity shifting too far, causing a tip-over.
  • Drive on level surfaces: Whenever possible, operate your forklift on smooth and level ground.
  • Be cautious on inclines: Use extra caution when driving on inclines, particularly when your forklift is unloaded.
  • Secure your forks: Ensure your forks are lowered and tilted back when not in use.
  • Maintain your forklift: Regularly inspect and maintain your forklift to make sure it has the proper tyre pressure, brakes and steering functionality.
  • Be a smooth operator: Avoid any sudden stops, starts and drastic changes in speed.
  • Ensure proper clearance: Maintain adequate clearance from obstacles and other equipment.
  • Coffee is your friend: Stay alert, and focused, avoid distractions and maintain full attention while operating the vehicle.
  • Take breaks: Take regular breaks to avoid fatigue and help maintain your focus.

As you can see, unloaded forklifts can be more susceptible to tipping over than loaded vehicles if not operated properly. By understanding the factors contributing to instability and following safe operating practices, you can minimise the risk of accidents and make sure you and your workmates are safe. 


Remember, safety should always be the top priority when working with forklifts.


86 Delta St, Geebung QLD 4034
PO Box 90 Geebung, Queensland, 4034



Eureka Forklifts has almost 30 years experience dealing with forklifts in the SE Qld region.

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