How a Forklift Mast Works

A forklift mast refers to the verticle assembly that lifts, lowers or tilts a load.
A forklift mast refers to the verticle assembly that lifts, lowers or tilts a load. (Image: forklift image by Goran Bogicevic from

Forklifts, or lift trucks, are industrial vehicles designed to transport and lift materials. The forklift mast is an integral part of a forklift’s frame.


The mast is the vertical assembly responsible for lowering or raising a load. A forklift mast is made up of interlocking rails necessary to provide lateral stability. These rails are guided by rollers or bushings.


Forklift masts consist of metal plates used to move materials and are hydraulically driven. Hydraulics refers to the transmission of power via the use of pressurized fluid — in this case, oil. Hydraulic cylinders that link directly to the forklift motor drive the mast, enabling it to lift, lower or tilt a load. The pressurized oil drives the cylinder piston to move in strokes, or linear motion. The mast is typically operated via a lever in the cab, or the area in the forklift used to house the operator and forklift control components.

Swing Mast

A swing mast refers to a forklift truck with a mast that can swing in a 90-degree angle in one direction. This allows the swing mast to work in aisles narrower than 6 feet wide. The added flexibility of this mast design enables the forklift to stack pallets in a direction perpendicular to the truck’s path of travel.


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