In the forklift market when the going gets tough the tough go down market, specifically buying cheaply refurbished trucks, but many buyers will be disappointed if they don’t know what to look for. Today, despite healthy sales for new and used trucks, the market is tough and so it has been ‘flooded’ with cheaply refurbished forklifts, some of which might fail to comply with EU safety standards, says Neil Warren, Jungheinrich UK’s Used Equipment and Short Term Rental Director. He also adds that it is fair to say that truck refurbishment standards and processes fluctuate wildly from dealer to dealer and that it is impossible for most users to know what the tell tale signs of a low quality refurbishment are.

If the refurbished trucks look amazingly cheap then buyers should be extra cautious. There are many levels of refurbishment and one may involve only a clean, servicing, repaint and fresh forklift forks. Some refurbs may not have any service history and may have worked in demanding conditions. Others may be on their third and fourth life contracts and some may have been imported into the EU when over 10 years old, during which time EU and ISO standards may have been revised twice since their manufacturing date. These machines often achieve their very competitive price at the expense of compliance with EU safety standards. Buying such trucks could come back to haunt employers in the event of driver accidents, given that it could be shown that there was a lack of duty of care when buying the refurbs.

To protect themselves, buyers should find a certified lift truck Thorough Examination engineer to take a look at the truck before purchase, given that most forklift users are not fully trained to spot the signs of wear and tear. Alternatively, they could deal with the truck manufacturers who have a large bank of second-hand machines. One comfort factor from this is that buyers will know that they are not buying antediluvian trucks. Toyota Materials Handling’s Training Academy Manager, Tony Dyer, for example, explained that most of their refurbished trucks average only five years old with the oldest no more than seven years. They offer three levels of standards and any parts they feel need replacing are replaced. A second level of preparation includes a new battery. They also encourage prospective buyers to see and try the refurbs in action at their nationwide centres. By buying directly from the large manufacturers, purchasers also have the comfort factor of knowing that the trucks are fully compliant with EU laws and safety standards.

Care is also needed if hiring second hand trucks whether refurbished or not. Over many years some buyers have felt aggrieved over what constitutes fair wear and tear and what does not. To clear the air, the FLTA has issued a 32-page guide which defines the term ‘fair wear and tear’. Even nicks and small holes in a driver’s seat would be chargeable on the return of the truck and a seat could cost £400. At the start of a hire contract, therefore, hirers should check the truck on delivery and record any damage or deficiencies.

In difficult and volatile times it makes sense to buy used and refurbished forklifts, especially over shorter hire periods, but the risks of being snared are higher with some suppliers than others so caution should be the watchword.

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