Correctly Stack Loads

Maneuvering a forklift and moving loads on the floor is considered relatively straightforward forklift work. However, stacking pallets on wall racking, aisle racking, and especially onto each other is somewhat tricky, especially for newer forklift drivers. This wikiHow will give some tips and advice on how to make it easier for you!


Stacking Loads onto Wall Racking

  1. Take care while driving. Generally, this is the simplest and easiest type of stacking. Stacking loads onto wall racking is usually pretty straightforward, and care must only be taken not to drive too close to the pallet racking structure when raising the load to avoid hitting the pallet racking structure or other pallets on the racking.
  2. Tilt the mast when necessary. When handling pallets with a good-sized pallet thickness around five or six inches (such as cheap or loscam pallets) the mast can be tilted slightly forward or backward when stacking onto wall racking.
  3. Move the forks into the right position depending on the type of pallet. Ideally, in any pallet stacking situation, the forks should normally be level. This position is known as "mast vertical".
    • While sitting in the operator's position, this position is often very difficult to judge, which is why pallets with a good thickness allow room for tilt. Skinnier type pallets used in exporting some goods may only be three or four inches thick, and are especially tricky to stack on wall racking. They require almost perfectly level forks in regards to tilt control.

Stacking Loads onto Aisle Racking

  1. Use the right forklift. There are specific forklifts that can be used for narrow aisles and wide aisles.
    • Reach forklifts and VNA type forklifts are specially designed for aisle and narrow aisle use. They usually utilize a pantograph, or "reach" feature, such as a moving mast or moving forks and carriage. This allows the forklift to reach in and put away a load in aisle racking.
    • Counterbalance forklifts can be used only in wide aisle racking. However, even then, they need a moderately experienced operator who can put away and retrieve the loads safely and in a timely fashion.
  2. Understand that this is similar to stacking loads on wall racking. Stacking loads onto aisle racking uses the same technique as wall racking, but with an extra degree of difficulty.
  3. Turn sharply as needed. When stacking loads on aisle racking, turn sharply in order to put the pallets away or to retrieve the pallets. You'll need to avoid colliding with aisles, other loads in the racking, and/or other parts of the racking when doing this.

Stacking Loads onto Each Other

  1. Understand that this task should be performed with more care. The difficulty of stacking loads on top of each other is dependent on the loads themselves. Stacking loads onto each other may be simple and straightforward with loads containing strong boxes square to a pallet of the right thickness. However, with loads that are not square to the pallet, and with skinnier types of pallets, the loads will be much more difficult to stack onto each other.
    • Stacking loads on top of each other in any case requires much more care. This is due to the load's tendency to become unstable due to height and also because of the chance of loads being damaged should the pallets be lowered too quickly on one another.
  2. Stack a load on top of another. Use mast vertical or a very slight forward tilt, as perfectly level forks are difficult to achieve. Using a very slight forward tilt will allow the back of the pallet to be lowered onto the load underneath first, followed by the front end. This allows you to see that the pallet is fully sitting in the load underneath.
  3. Unstack loads. Use mast vertical or a slight back tilt. Using a slight back tilt helps to stabilize the load back toward the forklift and into the load guard, reducing the chance of dropped loads.


  • Before attempting to stack loads, always ask your supervisor, colleagues, or other forklift drivers at your workplace how certain loads can be stacked on top each other, and to what height. For example, pallet loads of empty drums may be able to be stacked as high as four or five high. However, pallet loads of full drums may only be stacked three high.
  • To stack or put away a load, use mast vertical or a very slight forward tilt.
  • To unstack or retrieve a load, use mast vertical or a slight back tilt.
  • In wide aisle retrievals using a counterbalance forklift, full back tilt can be applied once the load has been cleared out of the racking. This will give you much more space to work with as you are trying to turn 90 degrees to exit the aisle. The reverse can be done in wide aisles as well. However, as it is considerably more challenging to do, usually it is not needed to be done (usually the reach forklift driver will put away all loads in the wide aisles for the counterbalance forklift drivers to then retrieve when needed.)


  • Never drive forward or reverse out when stacking a load with a load still being partially carried on the forklift. This can cause the entire stack to become unstable or fall with damaged product. This can also cause severe safety issues, depending on what goods are being transported (e.g. chemicals, glass, heavy loads, etc.)
  • Never stack loads on top of any load with a "Top Load Only" sticker. This form of signage is not to be ignored, as it means the pallet is likely to contain fragile goods inside that will break if a heavy load (or possibly any load at all) is stacked on top of it.
  • Never leave an unstable stack alone. Falling loads can cause death or serious injury to pedestrians or anyone in the area. Restack the loads until they are fully stable.