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We get a lot of interesting questions from both individual and corporate clients. In the arena of materials handling, one of the most frequently asked questions is why there is no forklift truck licence in the UK. The answer lies in knowing the history of forklift driving and workplace safety.

Prior to the early 1970s, there was no thought of formal training for forklift operators. Despite that, some of the larger manufacturers and logistics companies in the UK were training the drivers regardless. But in 1972, the Road Transport Industry Training Board put out a guide to basic principles for forklift truck training that went on to be known as the ‘red book’. The guide was quickly adopted by forklift operators on a voluntary basis.

Then, in 1974, the government passed the Health and Safety at Work Act, which, in part, required every employer in the UK to take every reasonable and practical step necessary to ensure the safety of workers. It was assumed that the mandate applied to forklift training inasmuch as courts were likely to rule that training constituted a reasonable and practical measure. Since then, forklift truck training has been a standard part of materials handling.

Why There Is No Licence

As to the question of why there is no forklift truck licence in the UK, it comes down to two things. First and foremost, there is no government agency or quasi-government entity with the legal authority to establish formal licencing requirements and issue licences. The government has no appetite to create such an authority because the number of forklift operators in the UK is comparatively small.

Second, the safety at work mandate established in 1974 is largely effective in making sure adequate training is provided. UK companies operating forklifts have no desire to put their businesses in jeopardy through inadequate training that may lead to a devastating accident. Therefore, companies comply for the most part. Creating a forklift truck licence is seen as another layer of bureaucracy that is unnecessary at this time.

The Forklift Driver Certificate

Although no forklift truck licence exists, we do have the forklift driver certificate here in the UK. The certificate is earned by undergoing a training programme accredited by one of six organisations approved by the Health and Safety Executive. Among those accrediting organisations is the ITSSAR, the organisation our training programmes and certificates are aligned with.

A forklift driver certificate is proof that an operator has undergone sufficient training and certification according to industry best practices. That certificate can be used as proof in the event a driver’s training is ever questioned by the authorities. It is also helpful to forklift drivers looking for work, given that more employers require certification these days.

The HGV Training Centre offers one-day, three-day, and five-day forklift training courses. We may not be able to offer you a forklift truck licence, but we can offer you world-class training and an accredited certificate.


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