I nearly died driving a Forklift

It was January 1997 when I learned about Forklifts, inclines, and gravity.

I was preparing to move my family to North Carolina and had to dispose of a bunch of stuff out of the house. One of these items was the old water heater. Rather than haul it to the landfill and pay the disposal fee, I decided to take it to one of the warehouses of the company I worked for, Lofts Seed.

I loaded the heater into the back of my little red step-side pickup truck and headed off to the warehouse.

It was bulky and heavy, but I was able to get it up and into the back of the truck by myself.

If was a Sunday and no one would be at the warehouse. I called the warehouse manager to get permission to throw the heater in the dumpster. He said no problem.

When I got to the warehouse I decided to use one of the forklifts to carry the heater out back to the dumpster.

The dumpster I wanted to put the heater into was out back, next to the forklift ramp that led out of the warehouse.

I headed through the warehouse to the back dock door with the heater on top of the forks. As I headed to the ramp I started raising the forks into the air so that they would be above the top edge of the dumpster.

As I headed down the ramp, raising the forks higher and higher into the air, I turned the forklift to the left towards the dumpster.

Can you see it yet, forks about 12 feet in the air, big heavy forklift moving downward, then sideways on an incline?

I’m not a physicist, but I quickly learned about inertia, gravity, incline, weight, motion and instant FEAR!!!

As the forks reached over the top of the dumpster the forklift began to fall over to the right, down the ramp. Fortunately for me, and my desire to continue living, the forks caught on the edge of the dumpster, with me and the forklift sitting at about a 45° angle to the ground.

I managed to hang onto the steering wheel, hook my feet on the clutch and brake pedals so that I did not fall off and possibly under the forklift.

The front drive wheels of the forklift were off the ground, so I did not have to worry about it moving, yet I still reached down and shut off the engine.

I sat there, hanging onto the steering wheel and roll bars as I pondered what to do next. Wisely (where did that come from), I decided to climb up on top (actually left side) of the forklift and jump off, up the ramp. I felt there was less danger than climbing off, under and down the ramp.

I stood there for a few minutes pondering what to do next. More wisdom arose in me, so I called the warehouse manager.

“Hey John, this is Teddy. I screwed up. I accidentally flipped one of your forklifts over down the ramp. I don’t think it’s hurt, but there is no way I can get it back up on its wheels. What should I do?”

There was no laughter in his voice as he told me to, “Go home. Leave it where alone and we’ll fix it on Monday.”

I apologized for the problem that I created and left.

About a week later I came by his warehouse for a meeting. We sat in his office discussing a project we were working on. The forklift story came up briefly. He told me that his guys had to get a tow truck to pull it backup upright. I offered to pay for the tow truck. He told me he’d get the cost out of me somehow. He did ask me to promise that I would never get on any company forklifts. I promised.