Got my forking raise at last!
Published: June 12th, 2013
Latest Issue, NZ Cargo Magazine used the all-new online booking form for specialised vehicle licensing, put in place by AB Equipment. Big Ed’s operator’s certificate was a little past its sell by date, so in addition to trialing the booking system, he also took the opportunity of sitting in on a day’s training with a bunch of other ‘nuggets’ to do a refresher.
Fred Murray is AB Equipment’s branch trainer du jour and he’s obviously an experienced hand when it comes to training. Fred has a quasi-militaristic bearing, which brooks no nonsense, but neither does it intimidate. In fact, he’s extremely approachable and inspires confidence in the newbies. The older heads meantime, can appreciate the fact that Fred’s a good bloke and knows his stuff – especially when the old heads might have forgotten some of what they learned way back when.
The day starts early and there’s no mucking about with getting to meet the class, trying to remember names and faces of people you’ll likely never meet again. No, us wannabe forklifters are here to learn and that’s what we do; from the instant we fill out your name and address details on the ‘open book’ guide papers as we sit down. There’s no outline of the day’s program, until we’ve gone through the basics of what a Forklift operator’s certificate is and does, and how it compares to the little ‘carry at all times’ plastic laminated card.
Fred explains the purpose of the guide paper, saying right from the start that we can take notes if we want to, but only little ones. The guide paper is full of little blank spaces, which Fred assures us will be easy to fill in as we go. These are the points, Fred says, which are critical when it comes to the theory papers we will do later on in the day.
Fred elaborates on the actual tests we will undergo. To satisfy Department of Labour (DoL) requirements, we will all sit a 40 question theory test. From this list, 32 questions are required to be correct as a minimum and of those 32, three are ‘compulsory get rights’ to pass. In addition to the theory test, Fred also takes us for a drive test, giving us 20 points each to start with, from which Fred will deduct a point for any infringement he might see. We’re each allowed four ‘misdemeanors’, so a ‘pass’ requires a minimum of 16 points.
More chat about DoL and Health and Safety requirements, interspersed with little anecdotes to emphasise the importance of safety first. Last year, for instance, there were four industry fatalities, two within the same week. In saying this, Fred adds, forklift ‘incidents’ occur every day, but these don’t often make the headlines. Too many of these ‘incidents’ are the result of forklift operators taking ‘shortcuts’ when they should know better.
“Sooner or later,” Fred says, “shortcuts will bite you in the bum. Do it all properly, and you won’t have to worry.” Fred explains the capacity of the tested vehicle and its type will be on the certificate, and in our case, it’s a common enough vehicle: a 1.8 ton, petrol powered, counterweighted vehicle with forks. Being rated on this vehicle means anyone of us – and the good Lord have mercy on your cargo – can operate a forklift with a nominal lifting capacity of 8 ton. Such a forklift would have to weigh 12 tons, giving a total mass (truck and cargo) of 20 tons, which Fred suggests is too much, but that’s what the DoL says we can drive – assuming we pass – so there we go.
Fred’s point of view with regards to the vehicles we would be qualified to drive underscores the sense of safety first and respect for your equipment which pervaded the course. Like any course involving a motorised vehicle, there should always be a heightened sense of awareness as to how responsible you, as the operator, should be. This sense of awareness, one would hope, will stay with you well beyond the length of the course and in the case of forklift operators, beyond the DoL’s recommended three years your operator’s certificate remains current.
At any rate, from 7.45 to 10am, we had a very comprehensive rundown on the theoretical aspects of forklift operation. This includes the dynamics of the stability triangle, the inertia forces which affect forklifts, the fundamentals of load centres and computing load heights as against cargo masses, and paying particular attention to identifying your forklift and its capabilities. All of which allowed us to fill in our guide sheets correctly and our reward for doing so?
Watching a 25 minute safety DVD produced for the Australian industry with quite possibly the world’s dorkiest Australian. Having sat through this DVD, which actually did demonstrate a good number of theoretical points in real world applications, the group was split according to requirements. Most were there to sit their F license endorsements, two were there as complete novices, while myself and one other made up those on refresher courses. Refreshers and newbies went to drive first, while F endorsees went through their theory papers of 40 questions.
For the Drive test, we used a Series 8 Toyota forklift and commenced our predrive walk around which, and we stress this most heavily, must be done before any form of driving is undertaken. With the inspection done, the fun began – want to guess who was first in the chair? Mm hmm – up I went, taking care to remember the ‘three points of contact to board from the left’ rule. Seatbelt present, so must be used. Brakes work and mirrors set. Note the location of fork controllers, paying attention to fork leveling button, the push to engage park brake and gear lever. All good to go, as they say in the Navy SEALS. The drive route would be out of a cone ‘box’, hard left turn, five feet forward, another hard left turn and arrive at ‘the stack’. Forks up to the third shelf, load the top pallet and unstack. Check behind and re-drive the course backwards with the pallet, taking care to avoid the cones on the turns.
Once back, take the pallet back to the stack, raise and reposition the pallet as before – head check to the rear again – and re-reverse drive back to the start. Pass or fail? Not to be known until both tests were done, so back to class and do the theory while the earlier theorists went out to flatten a cone or two. Actually, I won the award for the first and only cone clip, just a clip, not a ‘flatten’ – but still, a point off is a point off, grr!
As to the theory test, this is multiplechoice exam, which is interspersed with a few True or False questions. All made it through, but some didn’t make it through as cleanly as others. The bulk of the class scored 40 for 40, proving most of Fred’s teachings definitely went into the right brain cells. While Fred compiled the scores for the Drive test, we all marked each other’s theory test. For those who didn’t pass with flying colours, the camaraderie of the class was such that those who did, kindly guided those who didn’t through the correct answers after the fact. I heard a few “oh, cripes, of COURSE that’s right…” from fellow classmates.
Clients of AB Equipment then, have a very easy time of it when it comes to the once messy business of booking driver training and then keeping their certificates/licenses current.