Selecting the Best Lift Truck

A look at the latest technological advances and trends in the lift truck industry.

The CAT 2EPC5000 features an adjustable operator compartment and standard fingertip hydraulic controls for comfort.
The CAT 2EPC5000 features an adjustable operator compartment and standard fingertip hydraulic controls for comfort.

Choosing a lift truck fleet can be an arduous decision for some. Having a dependable lift truck fleet is critical to distribution centers, so there’s a lot to consider.

Distribution centers are looking to “do more with less” in regards to space utilization. “With the cost of land, it’s really expensive to do outward expansion on these units,” says Kenro Okamoto, product support specialist of Irvine, California-based Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A. Inc. “What a lot of these customers are doing is they’re looking to go higher.”

Some lift truck companies have introduced lift trucks that utilize a higher mast in order to accommodate the recent trend toward upward expansion.


Safety and sustainability

One major concern for companies is visibility in the warehouse. Raymond Corporation of Greene, New York, noticed a trend involving pedestrian safety whereby companies have their pedestrians wear safety vests to increase visibility in the warehouse. To support this, Raymond offers a safety program called Steps to Safety: Pedestrian Safety in a Material Handling Environment.

“A lot of other facilities concentrate on the proper user of their truck, but up to this point, they never really included the pedestrians,” says Joe LaFergola, manager of business and information solutions of Raymond. “By training the pedestrian, you’re making them more aware of their environment—it greatly reduces a potential for any hazard that may arise.”

Sustainability initiatives, such as Regenerative Lowering, are becoming highly prominent in the warehousing environment. Companies want to reduce their carbon footprint while lowering their costs.

According to Susan Comfort, product manager for narrow aisle products at Raymond, when the lift truck forks are lowered, Regenerative Lowering puts some more energy back into the battery, which can help increase productivity.

Meanwhile, Houston, Texas-based Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc. (MCFA) is finding ways to increase sustainability by running two shifts on a single battery charge. “To accomplish this task, the trucks are designed with components located in close proximity to each other,” says Chad Pauler, product line manager at MCFA. “Ultimately, this allows for shorter hoses, cables and wires and reduces the raw materials needed to produce the unit.”

New Bremen, Ohio-based Crown Equipment has a feature called OnTrac, which is an anti-slip feature. OnTrac will recognize when the tire(s) are slipping and will slow the spinning tires down until it gains traction again. This safety feature is particularly helpful in food applications and can also increase sustainability, according to Maria Schwieterman, marketing product manager at Crown.

“It saves on tire wear because when you’re spinning the tire, you’re losing tread and it makes them wear faster,” she says.

Bill Pfleger, president of Greenville, North Carolina-based Yale Materials Handling, also agrees: “Tire wear is a huge environmental impact, so minimizing that is important.”


Handling harsh environments

It is important for customers to get the best equipment for their warehousing needs. Lift truck companies understand those needs and have designed equipment especially for food applications. Earlier this year, Nissan launched a pallet truck dubbed the Manager’s Special.

“We engineered a custom pallet truck specifically intended to withstand the harsh requirements in the meat processing industry,” says Steve Cianci, director of marketing and product management at Marengo, Illinois-based Nissan Forklift. The Manager’s Special includes an antibacterial clear coat finish that prevents microorganisms from growing on the surface. It is also designed to perform in extremely cold environments.

Each of the lift truck companies profiled provide corrosion resistant packages for customers. One truck that includes corrosion resistance is the Jungheinrich ECR327. It also features a galvanized frame and stainless steel components to help increase durability.

Providing comfort for the driver is another important feature. Rider comfort increases productivity and can help to prevent injuries caused by riding over bumps. Lift truck companies are also boosting rider comfort by utilizing an enclosed cab to stay warm. Enclosed cabs maintain productivity and worker gratification by eliminating the need for the driver to take breaks during his/her shift in order to warm up.

MCFA’s CAT 2EPC5000 lift truck is designed for rider comfort. The seats are full-suspension seats that are made to absorb floor shocks. The control station—fingertip hydraulic controls—is integrated into the armrest to provide comfort for the driver.

Understanding the latest technological advances and trends while simultaneously taking the drivers’ and company’s needs into consideration can go a long way towards finding an application that is best for your operation.