The forklift truck market has seen some significant changes over the past year, but customers are still looking for value and quality.
Forklift trucks are expected to work harder for longer and with less downtime than they were in the past. Good ergonomics are important to end users as well as good visibility. And increasingly, operators want sophisticated electronic and hydraulic systems.
“Low cost of ownership is driving end users to look at how they can reduce their operating costs, which in many cases leads to them considering switching from ICE (internal combustion engine) forklift trucks to electric forklift trucks,” says Daniel Heap, product strategy leader – counterbalance & big trucks at NACCO Materials Handling.
“Generally speaking, electric forklifts offer reduced operating costs due to the lower energy costs and lower levels of maintenance required. However, there are hurdles to overcome surrounding battery life, which drives concerns about residual values and battery changing. The other key change that will have an impact is how the market reacts to the cost increases for diesel products driven by emissions legislation. Reliability of materials handling equipment affects low cost of operation and productivity and is therefore a major focus for any Hyster design. Ergonomics is also a key consideration.”
Jonathan Morris, sales director at Jungheinrich, says reliability, safety, productivity, energy efficiency and delivering the lowest cost of ownership are always top of the agenda for Jungheinrich when it is developing a new truck.
He points out that the VFG Series 5 range of diesel and gas-powered counterbalanced trucks, introduced in 2012, features hydrostatic drive technology.
“Compared with the traditional ‘torque converter’ type of transmission system used in counterbalanced trucks, hydrostatic drive technology has fewer mechanical components and, as a result, requires less routine maintenance.
And he points out that the technology is also easy to work on.
“The hydrostatic drive technology ensures low exhaust emissions. The VFG Series 5s’s emissions are the lowest in their class and well below the limit required by the new EU IIIB legislation that is due to come into effect this year that will see the legal limit for exhaust soot particles reduced by 95 per cent.
Morris also points out that independent tests have demonstrated that hydrostatic trucks consume 2 litres of diesel or 2kg of gas less per hour than torque converter driven alternative.
For electric trucks, AC motors have become the standard as they offer a better efficiency ratio than DC equivalents and energy efficiency is improving.
Morris points to a ten per cent improvement in energy efficiency from the latest EFG Series 4 trucks compared to the models they replaced.
“Fourth generation technology also offers productivity benefits as it enables trucks to accelerate far more quickly than less advanced systems – enabling more loads to be moved per shift,” he says.
But operators have to consider more than just the truck in making the right choice for their application. “When selecting the right truck for their application, operators should consider the capacity of their materials handling partner to understand their specific needs and provide the right solution to meet their requirements,” says Heap.
And Morris points out: “Understandably, in these difficult times, the question of how the purchase of materials handling equipment is funded has taken on particular importance. When it comes to acquiring new trucks, a range of financial options are available but many truck users prefer to acquire their fleets on contract hire packages.
“Full service offers an easy-to-budget, steady cost stream with ‘no surprises’, but we would advise anyone entering a contract hire agreement to spend time carefully reading the contract they are offered.
“We advise customers to ask what is meant by ‘maintenance’? Does it include all repairs caused by wear and tear? We remind people that what is left out of a contract is often as important as what is included, and that they should never be fooled by an artificially low price. It could mean that either you are not going to get the full service or there has been some financial manipulation on residual values.
“Investing in a business remains crucial, but tying up working capital could mean missing out on other opportunities. “It is therefore essential that the truck supplier offers a range of options and a flexible approach to help truck users meet both the requirements of their business and the changing needs of the marketplace,” says Morris.
Trevor Clifton, technical manager at Briggs Equipment, highlights the fact that the UK is predominantly a rental market so it’s overall costs that determine overall competitiveness.
“As a result, many customers are looking at the overall cost of a contract over a longer period of time rather than the initial purchase costs. When this is taken into account established, quality brands such as Yale and Hyster often have a distinct advantage. Furthermore, border controls and market surveillance are beginning to put pressure on manufactures with questionable compliance.”
Morris says: “Users should look to source forklift truck fleets from organisations that not only offer an attractive purchase or rental price but can also demonstrate that they have the infrastructure in place to be able to guarantee the highest levels of service.”
Case study- Fuel savings prove compelling
Davies Turner has used a mixed fleet of materials handling equipment had operated across the two storage units at its site at Dartford in Kent. The company recently took the decision to switch to a single supplier.
Jungheinrich was awarded the contract to supply15 gas-powered counterbalanced and 7 ride-on pallet trucks.
With the counterbalanced trucks required to work around the clock, seven days a week, gas was the obvious choice of power source. Warehouse manager, Paul Scoble, says: “In many ways we would prefer to run electric powered forklifts, but trucks used as intensively as we use them need a regimented charging regime which, in truth, we would struggle to adhere to. This would lead to problems with the batteries so we went for gas.”
The counterbalance trucks chosen were models from the Jungheinrich TFG Hydrostatic range. The trucks are 1.6 to 2 tonne capacity but, for heavier load handling, Jungheinrich supplied a 3 tonne machine.
One of the key drivers was fuel consumption. Over the course of 2,000 hours of typical operation, the trucks save some £2,000 in fuel costs in comparison with similar capacity counterbalance trucks. The new trucks at Dartford are proving to be some 40 per cent more fuel efficient than the models they replaced.
Most of the counterbalanced and ride-on pallet trucks are in operation within the freight forwarding store where they are used to de-stuff and stuff incoming and outgoing containers and trailers.
The majority of the freight that passes through the facility is cross docked at ground level but items that are to be held for more than a few days are lifted up to a mezzanine floor storage area by the forklifts.
“We were offered cheaper deals but the fuel efficiency of the Jungheinrich TFG trucks and our previous experience of dealing with the company were compelling reasons to invest in a Jungheinrich fleet,” said Davies Turner director Alan Williams.
Technology- New generation from Linde
Linde is launching a new generation of counterbalance engine trucks, the EVO 2-5 tonne range, with a new common rail diesel engine that delivers its maximum output at lower RPM.
The company says that initial customer tests of the 5.0 tonne truck revealed that this was up to 28 per cent more fuel efficient than the previous model.
The range has been designed to exceed the new EC stage IIIB emissions legislation, which came into force last month.
The addition of a new diesel particulate filter for those engines above 37kW, mean that the trucks surpass the regulations by 83 per cent on particulate emissions alone.
Linde is also offering a 36KW model which is unaffected by the new legislation, for those lighter applications not requiring higher levels of engine power.
Allison Tucker, product manager of the EVO Counterbalance range, says: “As well as the truck being cleaner and more fuel efficient, we have also introduced an impressive number of additional features as standard, providing customers with a higher specification of truck with increased efficiency, enhanced safety and improved operator well-being.”
Linde is set to introduce new models to the market from its 2 to 5-tonne diesel and LPG counterbalanced trucks series in early 2013 — at the same time as Stage 3b of the European emissions directive (2004/26/EC) for vehicles in the 37 to 56-kW power range comes into force.
The engines of the diesel trucks are not the only new feature. All of the latest Linde H20 to H50 EVO diesel and LPG trucks are fitted with a variable displacement axial pump in the lifting hydraulics that pumps oil as required. The pump is intentionally oversized to ensure it achieves maximum lifting speeds even at low drive motor speeds. That means the new trucks reduce emissions and save up to 28 per cent fuel even at a high power output.
Safety for people and machinery
The new models also feature cornering speed adaptation as standard. “Curve Assist” automatically reduces the speed of the truck on corners in accordance with the steering angle, thereby providing additional protection for the driver.
Electronic engine protection comes as standard and protects the engine from damage by monitoring whether key truck parameters are exceeded or undershot. The trucks are also fitted with a new generation of seats designed to make the driver’s workspace more comfortable.
Technology- New three-wheeler from Crown
Last year Crown launched the SC 5300 3-wheel counterbalance lift truck series which comes in a range of capacities from 1,250 kg to 2,000 kg.
The truck has compact dimensions for the tightest applications and is designed for a range of indoor and outdoor applications – including dock work, container stuffing, loading/unloading, storage/retrieval, stacking and line feeding – across the entire industry spectrum.
It has a 48-volt AC motor and uses the Access 1 2 3 Comprehensive System Control which provides key operating and diagnostic data, all in real time. It also has Crown’s Intrinsic Stability System which manages a range of functions:
* Travel speed – both straight ahead and when negotiating bends, is automatically governed according to load weight, lift height and steer angle to provide the optimum safe travel speed as conditions warrant.
* Tilt Interlock – optimises safety and productivity by limiting the mast tilt angle based on fork height and load.
* Intelligent ramp speed control – keeps a constant speed and automatically maintains hold on inclines.
* Hydraulic speeds –tilt and accessory actuation are controlled according to load weight and fork height.
The SC 5300 is designed to sit alongside the FC 4500 series of 4-wheel sit-down trucks which go up to 3,000 kg capacity; and the RC 5500 series of 3-wheel stand-up trucks which have a maximum capacity of 1,800kg.
Technology- Nissan upgrade TX Series
Nissan launched an improved version of the TX Series last autumn with models available in both a 4-wheeler and a compact 3-wheeler version.
The trucks have new AC 7.1 KW motors giving improved acceleration. Each of them is monitored by IP65 protected, AC controllers to allow for greater versatility and options in the workplace.
An LCD display can be customised with a number of preset parameters, matching truck performance to the needs and experience of the operator. These settings can be safeguarded with a four-digit PIN code, preventing unauthorised access to the truck.
The trucks have a real time energy consumption indicator enabling the operator to be more economic with their working time. An optional load weight indicator shows the weight on the forks which helps to prevent the occurrence of overloads.
There is also an auto tilt levelling option, available with both the mechanical standard and electric fingertip hydraulic controls, to support the driver when stacking at higher lift heights. This prevents damage to the cargo and speeds up loading time.
For increased manoeuvrability in narrow areas, the sensitivity and acceleration feedback have also been improved on the trucks’ drive performance.
The new TX 48 Volt – AC TECH series has been designed to incorporate Nissan’s Risk Reduction System and complies completely with the latest European machinery directive 2006/42/EC.
Market- Cooper SH consolidates
Cooper SH has consolidated its businesses into a new UK structure bringing the recently acquired Samuk business into the new operation.
The Samuk business, currently located at Peterborough, will be brought fully into the Cooper fold as part of the general handling division based at a new facility in the Midlands.
Samuk was acquired in September 2012 by a new holding company owned by Cooper SH directors, David Cooper and Tony Rooney. It relaunched in the UK with a new manufacturing agreement with Sino-American firm Zhejiang Maximal. Sir Neville Bowman-Shaw. He has retained a small shareholding in the new holding company and will serve as technical consultant.
Cooper SH is already the established distributor for Konecranes lift trucks and Mantsinen material handlers.
Within the new structure, the specialised handling division will focus on heavy lift trucks, port and container handling and, as before, will primarily represent a direct-sell operation. The general handling division will handle Samuk’s smaller counterbalance and related trucks through a dealer model, but Cooper SH will also offer dealers access to the Konecranes lift trucks up to 33 tonnes.
Rooney said: “The new structure will allow us to meet the diverse needs of the specialised heavy handling market which tends to be specification led. With the reach of our dealer network, we can satisfy the demands of the generalist volume based market.”
Market- Hangcha distributor
Eqstra Industrial Equipment has established a new company, HC Forklifts UK, to import and distribute the HC range of fork lifts manufactured by Hangcha, the Chinese forklift truck manufacturer.
Hangcha trucks were previously sold under the Samuk brand in the UK, but Samuk recently moved to a new relationship with Sino-American Zhejiang Maximal Forklift.
Eqstra has recruited Nigel Martin to head the new venture. Martin, who has four years’ experience of selling the HC product, is looking for dealers who would like to become involved with the HC brand.
Gary Neubert, CEO of Eqstra Industrial Equipment, said: “We are very impressed with the build-quality of the brand and we understand where it sits in the market place. It is already established in the UK through its previous distributor.”