Minimum ages for driving a forklift vary by the type of forklift qualification required. This section is for New Zealand, see the end of the article for other countries.
Driving a forklift on a road with a gross laden weight under 18,000kg
A driver must have a full class 1 licence before they can get an F endorsement, so the absolute youngest a driver will be is 17 years 6 months, but in reality that would require passing the theory test on their 16th birthday, completing either Street Talk or Defensive Driving Course, then passing their restricted and full tests in the minimum timeframes the first time. This is unlikely to happen therefore, more realistically, it’ll be 18+.
A driver can do either an F endorsement plus operator’s certificate, or if they already have the operator’s certificate, they can do the F endorsement upgrade (subject to meeting the requirements)
Driving a forklift on a road with a gross laden weight 18,000kg or more
A driver must have a full class 2 licence (here’s how) plus an F endorsement (the F endorsement is carried over if they already have it previously – no repeat of the course is required). A driver will be at least 18 years old because they must have their full class 1 licence at least six months before they can do a class 2 licence. They are more likely to be 19 or older.
Driving a forklift in an enclosed area, e.g. a warehouse
As at July 2021 a person aged 15 or over can be granted an operator’s certificate on completion of a course which follows the Approved Code of Practice (or achieves an equivalent outcome). This means that a 15-year-old can drive any forklift, including ones over 18,000kg gross laden weight, as long as they have a current forklift operator’s certificate, the company either provides an authorisation to operate or gives permission another way, and they don’t drive the forklift on a road or anything NZTA deems to be a road.
The option to use 15-year-olds gives companies more opportunity to use schoolchildren looking for work in the holidays or weekends.
Forklift driving ages in other countries
Australia: you must be 18 years old and have a valid photo ID
UK: you must be 16 years old, unless you work in a port or dock, in which case you must be 18.
Canada: you must be 17 years old with permission from a parent or guardian, otherwise 18 years old
America: you must be 18 years old. While it’s not technically in the OSHA regulations, child labour laws prohibit anyone under 18 from operating powered industrial lift trucks
South Africa: you must be 18 years old.
Europe: tends to be 16 years old, but check the specific country.