“We’ve designed the new 8-Series 4-Wheel AC Electric with curvilinear overhead guard pillar legs to provide a wider opening for operator entry and exit,” says Cesar Jimenez, electric product planning manager, Toyota Material Handling USA Inc. “We’ve also lowered and widened the first step in so it feels more natural to enter and exit, and manufactured it out of heavy-duty punch plate steel, so if the operator’s shoes have dirt, mud or water on them, they have additional traction to help avoid slipping.”
In addition to comfort, improved safety features on lift trucks help keep operators injury-free and in attendance each day.
One of the highest safety concerns with lift trucks is tip-overs, which OSHA attributes as the second leading cause of fatalities among forklift operators. In 1999 Toyota developed its System of Active Stability (SAS). The technology has resulted in zero overturn fatalities for Toyota in the 10 years it has been collecting data.
The SAS is an electronic controlled system made of two key components to protect against lateral (side to side) and longitudinal (front to back) tipping: the Active Control Rear Stabilizer and the Active Mast Function Controller.
Lift trucks can easily tip from one slight turn if the mast is raised while traveling at high speeds. Using sensors, Toyota’s Active Control Rear Stabilizer helps reduce that possibility by sensing instability and locking the rear axle to widen the lift truck’s support area and increase lateral stability.
The Active Mast Function Controller helps operators handle loads at high heights. The feature automatically overrides the operator’s manual control, limiting the forward tilt of the mast—making it more difficult to spill a load or tip the lift truck over.
“Normally the mast can tilt forward five to eight degrees, which could equal 10 inches of movement and result in the teeter-totter effect,” says Toyota’s Jimenez. “SAS senses the height and weight of the load being handled and limits the tilt to only one degree.”
Jungheinrich, headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, a Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. (MCFA) partner, also offers a system that assists in reducing tip-overs.
Jeff Bowles, manager, warehouse product marketing, says “Jungheinrichs’s patented reach cushioning feature stabilizes the mast during the end stroke of the reach function, minimizing the forward forces at the top of the mast when reaching. The result is a substantial reduction in mast and load sway, even at very high lift heights, reducing the potential for product damage from inadvertent contact with the racking, improving operator confidence and overall productivity.”
Even with added safety features, nothing can compare to a well-trained operator. Crown offers data management tools to make sure only properly trained staff can operate equipment.
“We have a product called InfoLink, which requires operators to log into their truck before driving it,” says Crown’s Schwieterman. “This ensures only licensed operators use the truck because if they’re not trained, or not recently trained, it will not let them operate.”
As the needs of food warehouses and distribution centers evolve, lift truck manufacturers strive to anticipate their customers’ next requests. Staying one step ahead of the curve, leading lift truck manufacturers have answered the industry’s call for improved dependability, durability and safety.