how to operate a narrow aisle forklift

How to Operate A Narrow Aisle Forklift: The Ultimate Guide

Do you have to navigate tight spaces in a warehouse? Then you really should know how to operate a narrow aisle forklift.

A Narrow aisle forklifts, such as the Aisle Master, have changed the game in offering unbelievable efficiency in the tightest of spaces.

Sleek, agile and built for sticky situations.

In this blog, we’ll go over the fundamentals of operating these clever forklifts with you.

No nonsense; just the facts, plain and simple.

Lets jump in.

how to operate a narrow aisle forklift

The Basics of a Narrow Aisle Forklift

Before you know how to operate a narrow aisle forklift, it’s important to understand a bit about the machines themselves.

Because warehousing now is all about optimising the space for as much stock as possible, the areas to operate forklifts are getting tighter.

Hence the development of narrow aisle forklifts.

What is a narrow aisle forklift?

It is a forklift designed to fit in locations that are too small for forklifts of typical sizes.

They are designed to turn on a dime and are agile and tiny.

Additionally, they are equipped with specific forks and controls to safely handle loads even in such tight bends.

Types of narrow aisle forklifts?

Reach Trucks: Reach trucks are ideal for retrieving and stacking. They can ‘reach’ high or far inside racks thanks to their extended mast. Combilift and Aisle Master dominate the landscape for these machines.

Turret trucks: turn their prongs without turning the entire vehicle. Perfect for positioning loads with extreme precision.

how to operate a narrow aisle forklift

Order Pickers: Think of order pickers as mobile elevators. While being raised to various heights, the operator picks orders while standing on a platform. Bravi Platforms are leading the way in Order Pickers.


We’ve delved into the world of Side Loaders/Reach Trucks in this Ultimate Guide blog for more information just for you.


How to operate a narrow aisle forklift: Pre-Driving Safety Checklist

No matter the machine, pre-driving safety checks are important for your safety and those around you.

Our blog on Top Tips for Forklift Safety in a workplace delves deeper into the importance of safe forklift driving.

But here’s some quick bits for your walk-around:


  • Visible Damages: Start with a visual sweep. Look for any dents, cracks, or oddities on the body. Damages can hint at deeper issues.
  • Tyre Check: The tyres are your forklift’s shoes. Check them for wear and tear. Bald spots or cracks? Time for a change. A steady grip is essential, especially in those tight aisles.
  • Fluid Leaks: Fluids belong inside the forklift, not on the floor. Check for any signs of leaks, especially hydraulic fluid, oil, or fuel. Leaks can lead to slips or machine malfunctions.
  • Brakes, Lights, and Horn: Apply hard pressure to the brakes. Make sure the lights are bright and clear by turning them on. Toot the horn to signal. It should be audible to everyone nearby and loud and clear.
  • Forks & Masts: The heart of the machine. Make sure the forks are straight and unharmed. By raising and lowering the mast, check to see if it moves smoothly and without any hiccups.

Keep in mind that a brief examination can prevent major problems in the future. Maintaining the proper operation of a forklift is important, but so is your safety and the safety of those around you.

Starting up & Basic Controls on your Narrow Aisle Forklift

Ok, now we want to get the machine started up and moving.

Again, we can’t stress the importance of taking a controlled and measured approach before you turn the ignition.

Starting the forklift

  • Before starting a forklift, perform a few short safety checks, just like you would before getting behind the wheel of a car. Make sure your seatbelt is buckled, your mirrors are set, and there are no obstacles in your path.
  • Turn the key to the “on” position and insert it, but don’t start the engine just yet. The dashboard should have any danger lights visible. If everything is okay, turn the key to “start.” Hear the purr of the engine? You may proceed. Never forget: It’s not a race. begin slowly.
  • Or if it’s an electric forklift, ensure there is no unusual sounds coming from the battery area,

Manoeuvring the narrow aisle forklift

  • Basic Movements: Turning in confined spaces? Reversing? And steering? A form of art. Always steer gradually, and when turning, always pivot from the back. Reversing? Maintain constant awareness of your tail swing and check your mirrors.
  • Speed: Keep it slow to maintain better control and lower the risk of accidents. The National Safety Council states that driving too fast is a major factor in forklift accidents.

how to operate a narrow aisle forklift

Having a spotter to help you navigate might be a lifesaver when navigating through very congested or confined spaces too.

They can spot potential hazards so you and your load arrive at your destination safely.


Our step by step beginner’s guide to driving a forklift covers all types of machines too, not just narrow aisle forklifts.

Advanced Driving Techniques

Once you’ve mastered the basic, you can then progress to more advanced driving techniques.

However, it’s important not to get ahead of yourself in terms of your ability.

Practice makes perfect, and you should only attempt these moves with proper experience and the necessary training.

Picking & Placing Loads:

  • Fork positioning correctly requires accuracy. Make sure the forks are evenly spaced and level beneath the load. This minimises wear and tear on your equipment while also ensuring a secure lift.
  • Ensure Balance and Stability: Not just tightrope walkers need balance. Verify the load’s weight and size before lifting. Never exceed the forklift’s weight capacity and keep heavy things near to the mast. Always keep in mind that an uneven forklift might cause accidents.

Operating at Height:

  • Moving upwards? Make sure the way is clear. Smoothly raise the forks while keeping an eye out for impediments above. And when going down, be sure there is no one below you as you carefully fall.
  • Never Move While Raised: It might seem like a timesaver, but moving while your load is elevated can be risky. The machine’s centre of gravity, or fulcrum point, shifts, making it more prone to tipping. Always lower your load before moving.

Emergency Procedures

  • Don’t jump out in the event of a tip-over. Stay inside, hold on to the wheel, and lean away from the fall while protecting yourself with the frame.
  • Routes for evacuation and emergency stops: Know the locations of all exits from the warehouse. Additionally, be aware of where the emergency stop buttons are. Every second matters during a crisis.


Although they need practice to master, these sophisticated approaches are essential.

Understanding these techniques can make the difference between a typical workday and a disastrous one, regardless of whether you’re utilising a Combilift, Aislemaster, or another brand.


And don’t forget the importance of maintaining your forklift in tip top shape.


Whether it’s a Combilift, Aislemaster, or any other brand of forklift available at Masterlift, operating a narrow aisle forklift is both a talent and a duty.

Safety is a lifeline, not just a trendy word.

Following regulations, keeping your equipment in good working order, and placing a high priority on continual training not only extends the life of your forklift but also protects your health and the health of your co-workers.

Check out our range of machines HERE or below.