There are many factors to consider when choosing forklifts but one factor in particular needs special attention in an uncertain world of global financial distress. It is the comfort factor of having a reliable, reputable and well-financed supplier that will weather the worst of economic storms to come. Truck buyers, therefore, should make supplier strength their first concern when looking for a new fleet.

But apart from the comfort factor there is so much more that these reputable suppliers can offer to improve their clients’ costs. They can offer a product range that exactly matches customers’ needs, even if some trucks are not in their portfolio, like articulated forklifts.

Buyers should not settle for ‘it will do’, because it probably won’t, advises Briggs Equipment. It is important to look for a supplier with a consultative approach rather than a ‘salesman’. Customers should ensure that their suppliers listen to them and deliver a complete solution. Toyota Industries could not agree more. They have their own training academy to ensure that their team are trained to analyse applications and quickly become trusted advisers for their customers to ensure that they have the right equipment for the job.

Buyers, however, when choosing from a bevy of big suppliers, should not assume that they all offer the same quality of after sales service. While about 70% of all truck acquisition deals are contract rental, with full maintenance, and thus give the comfort of known running costs, there could be variances over service levels, with cost consequences that may not be fully recoverable from the supplier. It is important, therefore, that big fleet buyers grill their potential suppliers over issues of average response times, and first time fix throughout the whole of the UK. A response time of under four hours and 95% first-time fix would be excellent.

Big fleet buyers must also have an eye on meeting the 2019 deadline for a carbon neutral warehouse. The UKWA recently complied an excellent report on carbon neutral warehouses and the methods for measuring ways of cutting the carbon footprint. Large forklift producers like Toyota, Jungheinrich and Mitsubishi have research departments working on ways to reduce the environmental impact. Many look to new fuels and technology as the answer but there are high cost issues and their adoption could be five or more years away.

Immediate, effective measures are available, however, in many forms, such as advanced driver courses which can ensure that drivers are coached in how to drive in the most economic and environmentally friendly way. At a much smaller level, specifying the right chargers, i.e. HF, can make a big impact.

A far bigger impact still can derive from a simple change from one type of forklift to another. Conventional counterbalance trucks need a minimum of 3.5-mt wide aisles in which to operate. A switch to articulated trucks could reduce those aisles to 1.6 mt. This could lead to fewer trucks, and much lower utility bills. It could even allow closure of remote, satellite warehouses.

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