While the emerging new fuel technologies are grabbing the headlines, the consensus in the forklift truck industry seems to be that these developments are still years away from meaningful acceptance and in the meantime truck users should concentrate more on reliable, recent technical improvements and common sense practices.

“What the focus should be on in the next few years is ways of making existing systems more efficient, reducing emissions and costs to customers over the lifetime of the machine,” says Chris Meinecke, Chief Operating Officer of Briggs Equipment. “The trouble is that customers are still short changing themselves over truck acquisition costs because there is a constant battle between lifetime costs versus headline or initial truck cost. Modern businesses are pressing for the lowest cost in the short term owing to the economic climate, but are unaware that they could end up spending more money in the long term.”

Mike James, General Manager of Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks, gives a remarkable example of how playing closer attention to the efficiency of their trucks can make a worthwhile return. A 2-tonne LP Gas truck, for example, can reveal a more than 50% difference between best and worst performers. In cash terms, over a five-year period that can amount to more than £10,000 on a single truck. Truck reliability is another issue where it pays to examine reliability issues more closely. All truck makers claim that their machines are reliable but how many back that up with remarkable guarantees? One company that definitely does is Mitsubishi, who by reducing the number of moving parts can now offer a manufacturer’s five-year warranty.

Sometimes a single change to the engine’s ancillary components can make a big difference to energy performance. Last year, for example, Linde updated its range of H40 to H50 IC trucks by featuring a displacement pump for the first time in the lifting hydraulic system, which delivers an 18% cut in truck energy consumption. Monitoring devices can also help. It may sound basic and obvious that one simple measure to cut CO2 is to switch of the truck when not in use, but this can be difficult to enforce unless businesses are using an intelligent system like Briggs’ Speedshield, which monitors movement, usage and idle time. Big cuts in energy consumption and truck numbers can also be achieved by looking at the versatility of a truck. Linde and Jungheinrich, for example, offer an indoor/outdoor reach truck that can work out on a yard as well as on the warehouse floor, so removing the need for two separate trucks. But perhaps the epitome of versatile trucks is the articulating kind from Translift Bendi, Flexi Narrow Aisle and Aisle-Master. These trucks can work happily inside and outside warehouses and match the space-saving capability of much more costly, dedicated VNA trucks. Such trucks have allowed operators to close down satellite warehouses. Until recently, however, they would not be seen in high energy-consuming cold stores, which typically use reach trucks and VNA machines with heated cabs. Now, however, cold store operators can have articulated trucks fitted with heated cabs and so operate in much smaller aisles than reach trucks. Given that energy costs account for 20-25% of total cold store running costs, that is a saving hard to ignore.

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