What's the difference between a forklift licence and a fork lift certificate?

Q: Where do I get a driving license to operate a fork lift truck?

A: You don’t, because there is no such thing as a fork lift truck driver’s licence!

One of the most widespread myths about fork lift truck operations is that there is a ‘Fork Lift Truck Driver’s Licence’, which must be renewed through refresher training every three years.

When you look through a local paper’s job pages, you’ll quickly find managers and supervisors looking for forklift truck operatives who ‘must have an up-to-date forklift licence’.  And you might be trying, like many other people, to search the internet for information about obtaining one of these elusive cards.

But the fact is: in the UK there is NO SUCH THING as a Fork Lift Truck Licence, and current HSE guidance contains NO requirement for routine refresher training within any type of fixed timescale.

What does this mean to me?

Health and Safety rules requires employers to make sure their employees have adequate training on each type of equipment an operator may be expected to use at work.

Wallace is ITSSAR and Accrediting Bodies Association recognisedTraining to prepare to use equipment such as forklifts must be documented so there can be written evidence stating what machines can be operated and any restrictions that may apply. This written evidence is known as a Training Certificate, but it is NOT a licence.

How long is a certificate valid?

Employers can choose how ‘old’ a certificate can be for them to recognise it.  If they are prepared to accept the written document no matter what its age, then it remains valid. 

However, usually, because it is good practice to make sure that the performance of their operators is formally monitored, employers usually like a certificate that is no more than around 5 years old and for the operator to provide proof of regular refresher training.

The Health and Safety Executive actually calls for regular MONITORING and ASSESSMENT to identify whether additional training is needed.

Is my certificate valid anywhere in the UK?

Some operators hold fork truck permits obtained in other countries that have national licensing schemes. However, these may be quite incompatible with British best practice, and cannot be taken as carte blanche to operate any particular truck anywhere, so effectively they are not valid.

Similarly, the idea of a UK national ‘driving licence’, entitling you to operate fork lift trucks, is fraught with danger.

Remember, operators must have their knowledge and skills reassessed when moving to a new working environment or when using different trucks.  Busy employers may be tempted not to properly assess new recruits or agency staff.

Whilst in-centre training, like at WALLACE Park Royal facility, can give full knowledge and understanding of what’s involved in operating the machine(s), when operators start to work at their new site with probably a different layout and maybe using an alternative make and model of forklift than used on training, it is vital that operators receive induction, support and an assessment by the employer to ensure safety for all concerned.

Make no mistake – it is absolutely vital that all fork lift truck operators, however experienced, receive appropriate training from a properly accredited provider, like WALLACE, as and when it is required.  The HSE guidance is clear: monitoring and assessment are key.

In need of refreshment or forklift refresher training?

An employer must consider – on a regular basis – the training requirements for every fork lift operator. But it doesn’t mean that every operator should automatically receive refresher training at some regular fixed interval – which could be wasteful of time and resources. What is needed is a regular reassessment of the operator – from which the employer can see if there are any weak areas that necessitate further training. For example, instead of training a whole team, a supervisor or manager can target those individuals most in need… or can pinpoint a particular problem affecting everyone – and address that specifically. As a result, the training is more appropriate, more meaningful and much more cost-effective than a blanket refresher course on a one-size-fits-all basis.

WALLACE School of Transport is happy to deliver assessments, training and refreshers at company client’s site or premises.

Recognition is a good thing

The Health and Safety Executive recognises a number of bodies as being competent to accredit training organisations for the training of fork lift truck instructors and operators, for example RTITB and ITSSAR.  RTITB - setting the standardsWhen selecting a trainer or training company for your training needs, it is prudent to check that they are accredited by one of these bodies, that the accreditation is current, and that the size of course is relevant to be delivered under this accreditation scheme.

Regretfully, some employers and operators due to budgetary constraints are tempted to arrange an inappropriate refreshers and end up with an unaccredited certificate (or indeed don’t know to ask at the time of paying for training, or they don’t remember to ask, if a record of training will be added to the RTITB –NORS or ITSSAR-TOPS registration scheme).


Wallace is ITSSAR and Accrediting Bodies Association recognisedThe government's Health & Safety Executive Accrediting Bodies Association (ABA) has implemented a mandatory database for all Mechanical Handling Equipment & Workplace Operators.

For ITSSAR the new scheme is called TOPs (Trained Operators Passport Scheme) and for RTITB it is called NORS. 

Each operator is allocated a unique ID number that remains with the operator for life (i.e. when the operator adds additional qualifications these also get recorded against the operators’ registration number).

Certification for operators trained through accredited training providers, like WALLACE, can be found and traced through these HSE approved databases.

If you would like further help of clarification of these guidelines please don’t hesitate to call us – 020 8453 3440

Photo: Ruth WallacePublished on 2016-06-22 00:00:00 By Ruth Wallace


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I passed my bus licence first time as a result of the excellent training from Jon and Krishna who patiently built my confidence and skill in a very enjoyable way. Thanks

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Could I take this opportunity to thank you all at Wallace for the assistance in passing my LGV Class C driving test. Special thanks to my trainer at Slough who made me feel at ease and certainly trained me to a high standard. This development will now take my new business to the next level. Many thanks. Wayne Booth Director, UpSafe Scaffolding Ltd

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After a bit of research, I ended up choosing Wallace and I'm glad I did. My first phone call was very informative and I had only to choose when to start the training. Got all the books from them, studied everything and passed my theory test first time. Went to do some practical training with Gerry the instructor and got my skills polished to a very high standard. Anticipate, not react. The best advice I could ever get. Passed my practical first time and also the following CPC theory and practical tests. If someone asks me where to go for a truck licence, my answer is 1000 times Wallace School of Transport. They care for you as if you were family. That counts more than anything.

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