Battle of the trucks

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Demand for cheap second-hand trucks is on the rise – but used forklifts won’t overtake new models. Alexandra Leonards argues that a combination of old and new could make for the most efficient operation.

Used vehicles now have a strong footing in the forklift truck market. But their position hasn’t always been so sturdy. Thanks to an expansion of the kind of businesses investing in used vehicles, their demand is growing. Companies that wouldn’t have even considered introducing a second-hand vehicle into their operations a few years ago, are now readily buying into the used truck market.

“The profile of the type of company that looks to the second hand market for its materials handling equipment has changed dramatically in recent years as all firms seek to maximise value across their forklift fleets,” says John Maguire, managing director of Narrow Aisle, the manufacturer of Flexi trucks. “Customers are now very open minded about buying used equipment and there is little or no difference in the type of company that acquires new or used trucks.”

No longer favoured by only smaller companies, with smaller budgets, used forklifts are now infiltrating the warehouses of much larger businesses. It is clear that past fears about the quality of second-hand trucks in comparison to their newer counterparts, have long dissipated.

“Historically, the biggest buyers of used materials handling equipment have been small- to medium-sized companies with a need to increase or upgrade their truck fleets but with budgets that do not quite stretch to new machinery,” explains Maguire. “But, these days, there is a trend for more and more large organisations to include used trucks in their overall fleets.”

Nowadays big retailers and third-party logistics companies in particular are embracing mixed fleets of new and used machines. “We are now supplying used truck fleets on long-term contract hire deals,” adds Maguire. “In fact, such is the demand for used Flexis – both from users and within the ‘trade’ – that the resale value of a seven-year old Flexi truck in the UK market is frequently over twice that of, say, European built reach or turret truck alternatives.”

Even still, used trucks are significantly cheaper than their original counterparts, often selling for around 60 per cent of the original cost of a truck. So, with such enticing prices, why should an operator ever bother with a new forklift? Well, there still exists a question about whether or not an older truck could ever be as efficient as a brand-new model. After all, an operator might find that a truck is cheaper to buy but more expensive to run because it uses older technology.

According to Brian Grady, sales & marketing director at Doosan Industrial Vehicles UK, it really comes down to the age of the truck. “A reconditioned truck can be more expensive to maintain over a five-year period, but if you are using it infrequently or less intensely, then once you take the capital cost comparison into account, it can be a good cost-effective choice over new,” explains Grady.

“However, in a high utilisation application it is far more critical to ensure your risk of downtime is minimal and so overall, the cost benefits weigh heavily in favour of new.” Doosan, for example, has a stock of used trucks that are under three years old. This means the trucks include the latest technology but have the benefit of a lower price.

It seems that, depending on its age, the price and efficiency of a used truck can be hugely beneficial to a business of any size. But are they as green as new trucks? “Because the heavy steel and cast-iron parts used in their original construction can be recycled with all new parts, the trucks deliver obvious environmental benefits and are supplied with an identical warranty to new Flexis,” says Narrow Aisle’s John Maguire. “Flexi trucks are built with a heavy gauge steel plate and one tonne cast-iron counterweights.

“This means the heavy chassis components – even when ten or more years old – are able to be re-used and brought up to the latest specification, saving a great deal of primary and secondary manufacturing cost that we can pass on to clients.”

Industries are facing increasing pressure to comply with new environmental legislation and rules. Being able to reuse materials in the warehouse is a great way to adhere to government and industry concerns about the environment. But when it comes to emissions, used trucks can only be as green as when they were new. “Legislation has compelled manufacturers to reduce emissions, leading many to fit diesel particulate filters (DPFs) which require regeneration cycles every 25 hours or so – and that’s a cost in downtime and fuel,” explains Doosan’s Brian Grady. “But there are forklifts on the market with diesel engines that do not require DPFs.

“We developed our own specially designed engine, the G2, which is ‘DPF-free’ – cutting out the need for a regeneration cycle and at the same time lowering fuel consumption and maintenance requirements.

“As this engine was introduced ahead of the market, about four years ago, some of these Doosan G2 engine trucks are now coming onto the used truck market – so if you’re lucky enough to get a reconditioned Doosan G2 engine vehicle then you have the greenest diesel truck available, and it’s DPF-free.”

Used trucks have to go through a stringent examination before going back on the market. At Linde, its engine powered trucks undergo a comprehensive testing using the most up-to-date diagnostic equipment to ensure the trucks comply with exhaust emission regulations. This means that used trucks have to meet the same requirements as new trucks.

Safety is one of the most important factors for a warehouse operator – and this has to be considered when deciding to introduce a used truck into operations. “When buying a used forklift truck it’s absolutely imperative to ensure that a Thorough Examination inspection has been carried out and that the vehicle complies with LOLER and PUWER regulations,” explains Grady. “Every truck is legally required to hold a current Certificate of Thorough Examination.” An old truck needs to comply with the same safety rules as a brand-new forklift.

Second-hand Flexi articulated trucks are all refurbished at Narrow Aisle’s UK facility, and are only available directly from Narrow Aisle or through the company’s authorised distributors. “The trucks feature all new component parts, only the chassis, counterweight and heavy fabrications are re-used and these components are tested and repainted to the highest standards,” assures Maguire.

When it comes to choosing a forklift truck, or multiple vehicles for the warehouse, there isn’t a simple choice between one or the other, old or new. The role of a new truck is completely different to that of a refurbished truck. Yes, old trucks are cheaper, but they can’t do what a brand-new forklift can. But then again, a used truck can be way more efficient for a warehouse when it comes to specific tasks. The trick is to combine the two in the warehouse.

“Where utilisation is low, or perhaps where a forklift truck is just a standby machine in a busy operation, then a good refurbished truck may well be the most cost-effective solution,” explains Grady. “In a larger operation a used standby truck often acts as insurance against downtime, so offering cover for breakdowns or vehicles undergoing servicing.”

He says that the largest segment of the used truck market by far is still the smaller operation that only needs to use a machine for maybe a few hours a day – or not even every day, just for occasional but essential handling requirements. “With applications where a truck is expected to perform long, arduous shifts and is in constant use, then a new truck reduces the risk of downtime,” says Grady. “A new truck also has the advantage of benefiting from the latest technology.

“Leading manufacturers… are continually investing in new technology, improving safety standards and introducing refinements that increase reliability and performance.

“Many manufacturers, including Doosan, are introducing new lower-cost machines for low utilisation applications. We have just launched our Doosan B15R-7 three-wheel electric counterbalance range this month for these applications.”

Used trucks are on the rise, but they’re certainly not overtaking new models, nor will they ever. Instead they are supporting the workload of new trucks. It’s a collaboration of the two that makes for the best and most efficient operation.


Manufacturer chooses refurbished trucks

UK manufacturer and supplier of sculptors’ tools Alec Tiranti Ltd has chosen two refurbished Linde forklift trucks for its warehouse operation.

As the Berkshire based company needed the trucks for the unloading of pallets, the low utilisation application didn’t warrant the purchase of a brand-new truck. Paul Deller, used truck sales manager from Linde South East, suggested the company take on one of its refurbished trucks from the Linde Approved range. Linde’s refurbishment scheme ‘Linde Approved’ has a range of used trucks have gone through a remanufacturing process.

After a test drive demo took place at the Tiranti site, the company decided to purchase a reach truck and a powered pallet truck that had both been refurbished. “I was looking for a high-quality truck that wouldn’t cost the earth,” says John Grimshaw from Tiranti. “Backed up by Linde with a support centre just round the corner made Linde Approved the obvious choice for me.”


Linde’s refurbishment process

Linde’s refurbishment scheme ‘Linde Approved’ markets a range of forklifts which have all undergone a standardised remanufacturing process. According to the leading forklift manufacturer, used trucks are a logical addition for companies with larger fleets of forklifts, with the aim of providing an “appropriate mix of new equipment and Approved used trucks to meet various requirements.” The companies Approved range goes through a thorough examination and refurbishment process before heading out to market. It’s scheme prepares trucks to three different levels, and most of the vehicles are ex-contract hire.


  1. Pressure washing

In the first stage the used truck is thoroughly steam cleaned to remove any dirt before the inspection.


  1. Thorough inspection

Next a qualified engineer does a comprehensive examination with the aim of pinpointing any problems or areas that need to be looked at in closer detail.

  1. Emission and pressure test

To make sure operational reliability and compliance with exhaust emission regulations are met (on engine powered trucks), the engine will undergo testing using modern diagnostic equipment.


  1. Pre-delivery check

An independent multi-point check, which includes chain and fork certification, will be made and a legal control certificate will be provided with every machine.


  1. Repaint

Every truck is repainted – this takes place before new decals and the Approved Truck identification plate is fitted.


  1. Refurbishment process

At this point, components are either repaired or replaced using genuine Linde parts.


  1. Battery and charger

With electric trucks, the battery is checked to ensure serviceability, and cells are replaced if needed.



Shifting attitudes towards used trucks

Small Middlesex based business Standby Power, which specialises in uninterruptable portable power supplies, was unsure about implementing a used forklift into its operations.

In the past the company hired forklifts as and when required, however as the business grew it became clear that a more permanent solution was needed. They decided to seek advice from Linde’s refurbishment scheme ‘Linde Approved.’

“Upon visiting the Linde Approved workshop, my doubts on buying an Approved truck were alleviated as soon as I saw the refurbishment process,” says Bob Bendle, director of Standby Power. “The vast array of trucks available refurbished to such a high standard was impressive.”

After test driving a Linde Approved truck, Bendle decided to purchase two trucks for the company’s operation. Now rather than hiring trucks to site, the vehicles can be loaded onto the lorry and taken with them.


Doosan launches 3-wheel electric B15R-7 Series

Forklift truck manufacturer Doosan has launched the B15R-7 Series, a new range of three-wheel electric counterbalance forklift trucks.

The range includes three new models covering a capacity range from 1.25 – 1.6 tonne. The B15R-7 Series is particularly well suited to smaller businesses.

The series includes a rugged rear-drive axle, IP65 rated Curtis controller and IP20 PAL brushless AC motors ¬– which have maximum resilience to water and dust. The trucks also include a sealed, oil-cooled disc brake system, which is virtually maintenance free and lasts up to five times longer when compared to conventional shoe brakes. The sealed units are designed to protect against outside elements such as dirt, water and grit.

The trucks include a number of extra safety features, including: Anti Roll Back for preventing accidental movement of the vehicle when stopped on a slope, Automatic Speed Control that adjusts the travel speed for safer cornering, and an Operator Sensing System that immobilises the truck and locks all hydraulic functions when an operator leaves the cab. As well as this, the trucks include a newly designed overhead guard, an easily accessible emergency stop button on the dashboard, LED lights and high visibility through the mast.

The range’s advanced ergonomics are designed for operator comfort and to reduce fatigue, including a fully adjustable Grammer suspension seat, a smaller steering wheel and adjustable column for easier access and greater driver comfort, an upgraded and more intuitive instrument panel, and a USB port and 12V power jack for operator convenience.


This article first appeared in Logistics Manager, April 2019.

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