Forklift Turning Radius & Aisle Requirements | Recommedations

Forklift Aisle Requirements – Best Warehouse Layouts

Written by editor on October 8, 2011 – 12:07 pm - (81156 views)

They following is an approximate guide for the various types of lift trucks.  Be sure to note that “clear aisles” means the dimension between products (pallets) stored in the aisle.  This is generally 6″ narrower than where the rack is placed in what is call “rack to rack” or “steel to steel” aisle dimensions.  The rack is placed a further 6″ back if the pallets are overhanging the pallet racking 3″ each side.

NOTE:  This is information is offered as a rough guide only.  When designing a warehouse or pallet rack layout, check with the lift truck manufacturer for the engineered right angle stacking aisle requirement to avoid costly errors.

Wide Aisles – Counterbalanced Forklifts

Wide Aisles are used for counterbalanced lift trucks.  The rule of thumb when sizing a lift truck such as a sit down 4-wheel or 3-wheel fork truck is:

Head Length of the Lift Truck + Length of Load + 12″ for Manueverability + 6″ Pallet overhang

Head length means the distance from the back of the forklift to the front of the load back rest.

Load length is the length of the pallet down the stringer (the long 2″x4″ that runs the length of the pallet) plus any product overhang.

Stand up forklift - RAYMOND - Dockstocker aka Pacer

Stand-Up Forklift

Remember pallets sit on a beam and overhang the beam by 3″ (usually if a 48″ long pallet).

4-Wheel Counterbalanced Forklift Aisles

Generally, 4-wheel counterbalanced trucks have aisles sized for 12 to 14 feet.

3-Wheel Counterbalanced Forklift Aisles

Many warehouse managers use 11 to 12 foot aisles

Stand-up Counterbalanced Forklifts

10.5 to 11.5 feet work

Narrow Aisles

Narrow Aisles refer to Reach trucks and Deep Reach trucks.  Generally, when we say narrow aisles we think a 9 foot aisle.  However, with Reach trucks, it is important to size the aisle both for storage and productivity.

If you measure an aisle at Home Depot, you will find that the aisle is 8.5 feet.  This is narrower than most warehouse managers would set the aisles, however, storage is the primary goal for Home Depot, not in-out pallet pallet moves and productivity.  So what you can use and what would work best for your operation, may be quite different.

Reach Truck 

crown reach forklift

Crown Reach Truck

Many warehouse manager use a 9.5′ aisle with an extra 6″ for pallet overhang, setting the pallet racks 10 feet apart.  Be sure you are using the correct method to place and retrieve pallets, however.  The length of a Reach Truck with a 48″ pallet is approximately104″.  Driven like a counterbalanced forklift, 104″ won’t work in a 108″ aisle (especially since the clear aisle would be 6″ less).  But driven like a Reach Truck is designed to be driven, a 9 foot aisle works fine.  So how do you drive a Reach Truck?


To properly take advantage of a narrow aisle Reach Truck, approach the racking holding the inside baseleg (outrigger)  off the front of the pallet rack’s column  by 8″.  Line the load wheel up just to the side of the of the upright column and turn your steering wheel 90 degrees.  This will cause the Reach Truck to pivot into place.  The pallet will be partially inserted into the pallet rack bay.  Now extend your pantograph (scissor reaching mechanism) and deposit the pallet.

Reach Truck Aisle

Use 9 to 9.5 foot aisles and add 6″ for pallet overhang (3″ a side).

Deep Reach Truck

Use a full 12″ to 18″ more when sizing a Deep Reach Aisle.  The lift truck is longer due to the longer scissor and has a heavier capacity design.

Therefore a Deep Reach Aisle is 10 to 11 feet wide

Very Narrow Aisles

Very Narrow Aisles are defined as an aisle narrower than a narrow aisle of 9 feet.  Turret trucks use 30%-40% less aisle than a narrow aisle Reach Truck, but the cost of the truck can be double.

Also, Very Narrow Aisles are usually guided.  Beware of operating VNA lift trucks in an unguided aisle.  Expect lower productivity, product and rack damage and poor visibility (due to the steep angle from the floor to the top beam) in the aisles.

Turret Truck / Swing Reach

A very narrow aisle turret truck uses an aisle of 10″-18″ wider than the width of the lift truck (assuming a 48″ L x 40″ W) load.

Clear aisles can be as narrow as 66″ (5.5 feet).

Rack to Rack dimensions require 72″ aisles (due to 3″ pallet overhang).

Order Picker / Order Selector / Stock Picker 

Yale High Level Stock Picker OS030EC

Yale Order Selector

A free wheeling cherry picker / orderpicker requires 18″ clearance per side when traveling down an unguided aisle.

A guided orderpicker can operate with 6″ clearance on either side of the truck.

The picker is generally the width as a pallet (40″), therefore:

  • Unguided Cherry Picker clear aisle is 76″
  • A Guided Cherry Picker clear aisle is 52″
  • When used in a Turret Truck Aisle, the order picker will use the same aisle dimension of 72″, but requires the picker to have a wider platform width.

Note: always contact your lift truck manufactured prior to anchoring your pallet rack.  Aisle requirements change with new models and operating requirements.  Also, pallet rack installation should be left up to the pros.  Consult your licensed local pallet rack installation company to be sure you are installing your racking to the local building code requirements.

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