side loader forklift

The Side Loader Forklift: An Ultimate Guide

A side loader forklift, or sideloader, is a materials handling equipment machine designed for increased manoeuvrability and really maximising the space of your warehouse.

There are designed for longer loads, are hugely versatile and come in various forms now, such as multi-directional, stand ups and narrow-aisle forms.

Our partner Combilift have revolutionised side loader forklifts with technology that is second to none.

In this blog we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about a side loader forklift – the types, their background, the advantages of a side loader forklift, where to use them and safety tips.

side loader forklift

The background of the side loader forklift?

The origins of side loader, or multi-directional forklifts, came from the timber and steel industries and the world has one of our partners, Combilift, to thank for this.

Back in 1998, Combilift founders and engineers Robert Moffett and Martin McVicar put their heads together and designed the world’s first internal combustion, all-wheel drive, multi-directional forklift.

22 years later, that same C-Series model is still going strong and was a ground breaker in the materials handling world, giving operators and warehouse owners unparalleled safety, mobility, efficiency and space.

Ultimately, it combined three forklifts into one – the side loader, counterbalance and narrow-aisle machines.

A side loader forklift or multi-directional forklift will have its cab positioned up front and to the left hand side of the machine, with the forks positioned in the middle, otherwise known as the well.

The forks and mast have the ability to extend out, lift the load from the side and retract it back into the well of the  machine, before transporting it with great stability and ease through narrow aisles to it’s end point.

This is done all while the forklift operator is facing forward and he or she has the ability to move the machine in any direction they want.

The real beauty of this design was how safer they were to conventional counterbalance forklifts that had restricted viewing and manoeuvrability.

While additional floor racking could also be added to warehouses due to the extra space afforded by the smaller operational space requirements.

Types of side loader forklifts?

A side loader is only one type of forklift, not to be mixed up. To know more about the rest, check out this Blog on the Different Types of Forklift.

There are three main types of side loader forklifts:

1. Multi-Directional Side Loader Forklift

The original side loader and what most people assume a side loader forklift is. These are designed to handle heavy loads in tight spaces and are very popular in the construction and manufacturing industries.

side loader forklift

They can move in any direction, as the name suggests, and are equipped with rotating masts that allow the operator to pick loads from awkward angles. You can get these in either three or four wheel options. The C-Series is the original time-proof machine.

2. Four-Way Side Loader Forklift

Not to be confused with a multi-directional forklift, a four way side loader is quite similar but have some very clear differences.

side loader forklift

Namely, a four-way is designed to move forwards, backwards and sideways and combines your need for a side loader with the manoeuvrability of a multi.

The Combi-SL gives powerful performance for extensive and demanding sites.

3. Stand-Up Side Loader Forklift

This type of side loader forklift allows the operator to stand on a platform at the back of the machine, providing greater visibility and allowing the operator to move from one location to another more quickly.

side loader forklift

Forklifts with stand-up sides are ideal for use in warehouses and distribution centres with tight aisles like you see in the picture above.

What are the advantages of a side loader forklift?

Increased Manoeuvrability

The enhanced manoeuvrability of a side loader forklift is one of its key benefits.

Side loading forklifts are the best option for warehouse and storage applications where space is at a premium since they can manoeuvre in small places and narrow corridors.

It is also simpler to reach things placed against walls or in confined spaces when the burden may be moved sideways.

More Visibility & More Safety

The visibility on a side loader forklift for its operator is much better than a conventional counterbalance.

Better visibility means a more safe workplace.

Check out our blog on Tips for Better Forklift Safety Tips in your workplace.

The operator of the forklift gets a clear view of the load and the surroundings because the weight is carried on the side of the forklift, which can help to reduce accidents and increase productivity.

Also, the operator is able to work more accurately and efficiently, which reduces errors and downtime.

Move Bigger Loads

Longer loads can be handled by side loader forklifts as opposed to counterbalance machines.

Things like larger steel pipes and logs can be moved more easily since the weight is carried on the side of the machine rather than the front.

side loader forklift

Side loader forklifts are a great option for heavy-duty applications like manufacturing and construction since they can manage bigger loads than conventional forklifts.

More Diversity

Compared to standard forklifts, side loader machines offer more flexibility.

They can carry out a number of jobs and handle a wide range of materials since they have the flexibility to move the load sideways, rotate it, and handle longer and heavier loads.

They are therefore a flexible and affordable option for a wide range of businesses.

Some other advantages are below.

  • Reduced need for manual labor, which can improve efficiency and reduce costs
  • Reduced risk of damage to materials during transport, thanks to the side-mounted lifting mechanism
  • Lower overall cost of ownership compared to other types of heavy equipment, due to the versatility and durability of side loader forklifts

Where would you use a side loader forklift?

A side loader from Combilift is versatile and can be used in a lot of different sectors and industries.

Here are some of the most popular:

Warehouses and storage facilities

When space is at a premium, a side loader forklift is a godsend!

They can turn on a sixpence, move in any direction and offer incredible lifting capabilities to move long, awkward loads through tight aisleways or across large sites.

Construction Sites/Oil & Gas

Side loader forklifts are also well-suited for use in construction sites where heavy, bulky materials need to be moved from one location to another.

Construction sites can be busy, messy and full of obstacles, so you or your operators will be delighted with the added manoeuvrability, visibility and performance.

Blocks, steel beams, timber – nothing is out of its limits.

Manufacturing Facilities

Side loader forklifts are also commonly used in manufacturing facilities where heavy materials need to be transported quickly and efficiently.

The increased flexibility and manoeuvrability of side loader forklifts make them an ideal choice for moving materials from one production line to another.

While the ability to handle long and heavy loads allows them to transport awkward and bulky materials such as steel coils, pipes, and timber with ease.

Ports, Shipyards & Salvage Yards

You will definitely come across side loader forklifts in ports, shipyards and salvage yards all over the world.

They are ideal for loading and unloading shipping containers and scraps cars and transporting them quick and easily around a port or yard.


Check out a full list of industries Combilift’s side loaders here.


If you want to know more on the other types of forklifts, check out our blog on What the Different types of Forklift are.

Otherwise, we hope you found this blog insightful.

Contact us if you want to know more on some of the Combilift machines we stock for sale and rental.