Orders for forklift trucks fell 33.6 per cent last year, consolidating a 14.5 per cent fall during 2008, according to the British Industrial Truck Association. BITA members reported orders for a little over 17,600 new forklift trucks during 2009 – 8,900 fewer than in 2008.
However, James Clark, BITA’s secretary general, said there reasons for optimism. “In most truck categories there has been a noticeable slowdown in the rate at which order intake has declined over recent months. For some truck categories the market has stabilised and is hopefully set to begin to show a positive trend: the markets for powered pallet trucks, pedestrian stackers and low level order pickers display such a pattern.
“Unit orders for very narrow aisle (VNA) trucks, expressed on an annualised basis, have shown four consecutive months of modest growth since September 2009, demonstrating that the demand for space-saving warehouse trucks has taken root.”
Among the major forklift categories, the market for engine powered counterbalance trucks was hardest hit during 2009, with orders for diesel and LPG models falling by 42 per cent and 45 per cent respectively during the year.
“This fall is hardly surprising given that diesel and LPG counterbalance trucks are used in large numbers by some of the most badly affected sectors of the economy, such as engineering and the supply chain to the building industry,” said Clark.
“The market for electric forklifts has shown a little more resilience: unit orders for electric powered counterbalance trucks fell by 36 per cent during 2009 and the market for warehouse trucks by 25 per cent.”
Clark highlighted the trend toward truck users extending their existing truck hire contracts beyond planned termination dates, rather than replacing them with new stock. “Although used truck sales figures are not part of BITA’s recording process, we hear there have been significant increases in the sales of used equipment, which in turn, of course, reduces the potential for truck suppliers to sell new units.”