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Fork lift trucks

Aug 13, 2012
Fork lift truck feature. News and information on fork lift trucks for the moving industry.
Almost every moving company in the UK uses fork lift trucks to some extent.  They are hugely expensive assets which, in some cases, spend a lot of their time idle.  This feature looks at some of the trucks on offer, safety in the workplace, and considers the best way of funding.

Finance: choosing the right deal for your business

As with any other capital outlay, the way you finance your fork lift truck purchases deserves special consideration. What's the difference between contract hire, hire purchase and finance lease? Weigh up the options with this easy-to-follow guide.

Contract hire

Although you won't end up owning the truck if you opt for a contract hire arrangement, there are several reasons why this may be the right option for you:

  • Because contracts are for specific terms, you know exactly what you have to pay and when - meaning you can plan ahead and control your costs.
  • You receive a complete package including delivery, maintenance, service and repairs. This translates to less worry and less expense ongoing.
  • When it comes to balancing the books, outstanding rentals are not shown as liabilities on your balance sheet, so will have no impact on your debt-to-equity ratio.
  • It's tax efficient - all the rental you pay can be offset against tax.

Hire purchase

With hire purchase, you own the truck at the end of the agreed term, at which point you can either continue to use it or sell it on. And there are other advantages, too:

  • The fixed term contract again means you know what you have to pay and when, so you can plan ahead and control costs.
  • The deposit is negotiable, allowing you to reduce what you pay up front - and freeing up capital for other parts of your business.
  • You can claim tax allowances against the hire purchase.

Finance lease

With a finance lease, you keep responsibility for the maintenance, repair and service of your vehicle, as well as insurance costs. That needs to be weighed up against other factors - particularly flexibility - that go in its favour:

  • At the end of the lease term, you can either continue using the truck (for which you pay a nominal lease), or sell it on and receive most of the sales proceeds - in the form of either a rebate or a deposit on your next purchase.
  • All the rental you pay is allowable against tax, so again, this option is tax efficient.

Warning over fictional fork lift ‘licences’

Workers are being put at risk because many employers rely upon a fictional ‘fork lift truck licence’ to verify operators’ skills, the Fork Lift Truck Association has warned.

The FLTA reviewed a random sample of job advertisements for fork lift truck operators, and found no fewer than 85% wrongly stipulated a ‘fork lift truck licence’ or similar as a requirement – despite there being no such document in the UK, and no central licensing authority.

Under current regulations, employers are required to issue written authorisation allowing trained staff to operate any fork lift truck; however, this is specific to that task, location and equipment and is not readily transferable to another company.

David Ellison, FLTA’s Chief Executive said, “Because recent training certificates are mistaken for some kind of ‘licence’, many operators are wrongly given carte blanche to use fork lift trucks without the right training. The results can be disastrous; for them, and for colleagues. At least one employee is hospitalised every day by a fork lift truck in the UK alone – two thirds of victims are pedestrians working nearby. Many of the injuries are permanent and, tragically, they’re sometimes fatal.”

In response to the problem, the FLTA has issued a safety warning to recruitment media, and made a fact sheet clarifying best practice for verifying operators’ skills available for download at its website

Used forklifts: “buyer beware,” says Jungheinrich UK

The UK lift truck market is flooded with cheaply refurbished used forklift trucks, but buyers are being warned that second-hand trucks that appear to be a bargain often turn out to be anything but.

“It is very easy to get your fingers burnt if you don’t know what to look for when buying a used forklift,” says Neil Warren, Jungheinrich UK Ltd’s Used Equipment and Short Term Rental Director. “Many used trucks which are offered for sale as ‘refurbished’ have merely been cleaned, serviced and repainted and their performance levels can often leave a buyer feeling short changed. The market is awash with used equipment at the moment. The majority is sold by reputable dealers, who in the main are moving on machines which have returned from long-term contracts. Some of these machines are third and fourth life contracts that have worked in some tough applications and have no service history.”

“It is very hard to verify the quality of what you are buying from, for example, an Internet advertisement. Everyone will view a truck before they purchase but it is impossible for the user to know what the tell tale signs of a low quality refurbishment are.”

“Because most forklift truck users are not fully trained to spot signs of wear and tear – perhaps around the mast and the axle – I would advise anyone looking for a used truck to try and find a certified lift truck Thorough Examination engineer to take a look at the truck for you before you buy.”

Used Jungheinrich trucks are refurbished to the highest standards at the Group’s Dresden factory where every machine is completely dismantled and all worn or defective parts are replaced – including tyres and lift chains. The trucks are cleaned inside and out and repainted before being reassembled and safety tested.

For more information visit

Electric or internal combustion (IC) engine: which is right for your business?

When deciding between an electric and an IC truck it’s important to look carefully at how and where the truck will be used.

  1. Will it work indoors, and, if so, is that all the time? If the truck will also work outdoors, then for how long each day?
  1. Conversely, if the truck will work outdoors for most of the day, will you still need to use it indoors some of the time, and, if so, for how long?
  1. What are the floor conditions like inside and outside? Do you have smooth floors, uneven floors or potholes? Are the floor conditions dry - or are they wet at any time?
  1. Will the truck have to climb any gradients? If so, how steep are they and how many times a day will the truck have to climb them?
  1. How many hours will the truck work? How much of that time will be spent lifting, compared to driving?
  1. What type of load will you be handling? What are the dimensions of the load and how will it be picked up - by forks or an attachment? Will the load be handled from either side?
  1. Will the truck work in racking, and, if so, what is the minimum aisle width? You need to measure both racking to racking and pallet face to pallet face, and use whichever measurement is narrowest.
  1. What is the maximum weight you will be lifting, and to what height? What is the top beam height?
  1. Will there be pedestrians or people working in the same area as the truck?
  1. Will goods be coming in and out each day? How will those goods be transported? How will the vehicles be loaded and unloaded - from the side drive, from a loading dock or by driving up a loading ramp? How many times a day will this happen?

Electric trucks – pros  IC engine diesel/LPG - pros
  • Environmentally friendly;
  • Quiet in operation;
  • Fewer moving parts than an IC engine - therefore less maintenance, and lower maintenance and lifetime costs;
  • Your battery is your fuel for the next five years or more, providing you follow the battery manufacturer's guidelines for charging and maintenance;
  • There's a small cost to charging your battery overnight; the cost per kW may vary depending on who supplies your electricity;
  • Electric trucks are usually compact, which makes them manoeuvrable - especially in the case of the three-wheel design;
  • Very adaptable: drive, acceleration, lift, tilt and auxiliary speeds can be adapted easily to suit application or driver.
  • Suitable for continuous outside use;
  • No charging necessary - therefore the truck is always available even outside of normal working hours;
  • Can work on uneven surfaces;
  • Initial lower cost than an electric truck;
  • Larger capacities available than electric;
  • LPG can be used in some indoor applications;
  • LPG has lower emissions than diesel.
Electric trucks - cons IC engine diesel/LPG - cons
  • Generally not suitable for continuous outside use or in wet conditions;
  • Need good floor conditions;
  • Need to charge the battery nightly or when necessary;
  • Need a vented charging area;
  • High energy use on continuous high lifts and ramp work.
  • Can be noisy;
  • Higher emissions;
  • Higher maintenance cost;
  • Higher fuel prices;
  • Higher lifetime cost;
  • Less adaptability than an electric truck;
  • Need to have a fuel supply.

Information supplied by Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks UK.

Not all forklift Thorough Examinations are thorough

A survey among companies owning and operating fork lift trucks has found that most Thorough Examinations do not meet user expectations.  Indeed, a clear majority is confused by what exactly is included and who is responsible for making sure a truck conforms to legal requirements.

The survey – conducted by Consolidated Fork Truck Services – involved telephone interviews with truck users throughout the UK extending across a broad cross-section of industrial classifications and fleet sizes to ensure a representative sample.

On the positive side the research confirmed that a concerted campaign has had a dramatic impact on awareness of Thorough Examination, which is a legal requirement.  When asked whether Thorough Examination was a legal requirement or merely “good practice” in a previous (2005) survey, around half (54%) answered correctly.  Today, that number has risen to an impressive 76%. 

Unfortunately, behind that headline figure there remains considerable confusion regarding what is actually included within a Thorough Examination. As a result, many tens of thousands of managers and directors may be responsible for equipment that simply isn’t being examined as thoroughly as they had anticipated.

For example, the vast majority of respondents – 93% - incorrectly assumed that any Thorough Examination would automatically include an inspection of their truck’s brakes as a matter of course. 

According to Simon Emery, Chairman of CFTS, the body which commissioned the research: “The confusion arises because, unlike the MOT on a car, the requirements of a Thorough Examination are open to interpretation. In effect, the body providing the inspection is able to decide what should and shouldn’t be included.”

It was to overcome this clearly untenable situation that the two leading organisations in the fork lift truck industry – tthe British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), with the support of the HSE – joined forces to create a single, national procedure available to truck users, whatever their industry or location. 

The result is a comprehensive procedure and strict code of practice, a programme of engineer and management training and the mechanism to monitor standards under the CFTS brand name.  Companies accredited to the scheme – and there are around 400 of them – can be identified via the distinctive ‘kite’ certification mark.

What is Thorough Examination?

A Thorough Examination is like an MOT for a car. It is a detailed inspection of all the safety related parts of a fork lift truck. In many ways it is more complex than the MOT. In addition to the brakes, steering, tyres, etc. being checked under PUWER 98 all the lifting components, hydraulics, chains, forks, etc. are inspected in accordance with LOLER 98.

The regulations apply to fork lift trucks that are one year old. From the one year point onwards a Thorough Examination is required at least once every 12 months. In some instances a truck will need to have a Thorough Examination more frequently. If you are in doubt check this with your truck supplier or maintenance provider.

Just like an MOT for a car a Thorough Examination is not part of the maintenance process. It must be carried out and reported on separately from routine maintenance.

Generally speaking the employer of the operator of the fork lift truck (the owner or user) is responsible for ensuring that Thorough Examinations are carried out on time by a Competent Person and records must be kept.

Information courtesy of the Fork Lift Truck Association.

What’s ‘Fair Wear and Tear’ for hire trucks? 

The Fork Lift Truck Association has produced a new booklet which defines the term ‘fair wear and tear’ in relation to fork lift trucks.

The Fair Wear and Tear? guide, which is exclusively available through FLTA Members, explains to hire customers and their dealers what is and is not acceptable as wear and tear when a truck is returned at the end of a hire period.

Simon Emery, Chairman of Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS), said: “We are all aware of what is expected when we hire or lease cars. We’re aware – right down to returning it with a full tank of fuel – of any costs which will need to be paid.” 

“There is a great deal of confusion, however, over what is expected at the end of a fork lift truck contract. There is a temptation to think that a fork lift truck is just a lump of steel which is immune to bumps and bangs.”

“Certainly, it is designed as a workhorse and will take a bit more punishment than a family saloon. But if it does get damaged, it can cost a lot more than you would imagine.”

Replacing a seat can cost several hundred pounds, while damage to a safety structure, such as the overhead guard, can cost several thousands.

The easy-to-read 32-page booklet clearly outlines dealer expectations when a truck is returned at the end of a hire period. More than 50 real-world examples help illustrate the types of damage which are unacceptable, such as damaged tyres, torn canopies and buckled backrests. 

The guide is designed to help customers and dealers reach an amicable agreement about which repairs are the customer’s responsibility at the end of the contract. The guide also gives advice what to do in the event of end-of-contract disputes.

Additional information about the Fork Lift Truck Association and its activities can be found by visiting or calling 01256 381441.

New Mitsubishi electrics put the focus on ‘driveability’

The single most important factor in increasing the productivity of a forklift truck is ‘driveability’.  This principle – proved by over two decades of independent research – has driven product development at Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks for many years.  And it’s the driving philosophy behind EDIA EM, the company’s latest 3 and 4 wheel, 48 volt, 1.3 to 2.0 tonne electric counterbalance series.

In developing EDIA EM – the ‘Electric Diamond’ – Mitsubishi designers have aimed to make its operation highly intuitive and give the driver a strong sense of confidence and control.  Driver-friendly features include FeatherTouch electric steering, which requires only half the effort of a conventional system and provides ‘force feedback’ to aid precision.  Comfort is enhanced by the remarkably smooth, quiet steer motor.  In fact, the average noise level for the truck as a whole, in a standard industry test, is less than 66 dB(A) for the 3 wheel and 67 dB(A) for the 4 wheel.  That’s about the level of normal conversation.

Mitsubishi uses the term ‘ErgoCentric’ for its approach to meeting drivers’ needs.  This is reflected in, for example, a particularly large, flat and uncluttered floor space and clear all-round visibility, as well as the conveniently deep, wide step and exceptionally large ‘entry window’.  The company points to its attention to detail in the design and positioning of each control, such as the hydraulic levers which are said to bring a feeling of precise movement.  Buyers can also opt for a fingertip hydraulic control unit, based on the company’s award-winning adjustable armrest concept.

New gauge for fork lift chain safety

Letchworth-based FB Chain Ltd has produced a short video that guides the viewer through the various stages involved in checking a fork lift truck’s chain for wear using one of the company’s unique chainwear gauge tools.

Peter Church, FB Chain’s managing director, commented: “Our new video gives easy to follow guidance on how to get the best results from the chainwear gauge – and gives handy hints along the way – and highlights key points to consider when using the product to ensure that a lift truck’s chain is in safety working order.” 

Unlike other makes of chainwear gauge on the market, the FB gauge allows chain elongation to be measured to within one quarter of 1%.  Chain elongation is the most common cause of chain failure and the ability to monitor it accurately allows an engineer to assess if a chain is likely to need to be replaced before his or her next review of the truck is due. A chain that elongated by just 3% is considered to be dangerous and the fork lift should be taken out of service.

 “Most chain wear gauges do not offer the accuracy that our gauges offer – they simply show if a chain is worn to the point that it needs replacing or not whereas the FB chain wear gauge enables an engineer to judge if a chain is likely to become dangerously worn before the next service, leading to the equipment being operated hazardously.

Checking a lift truck’s chain for wear is essential because excessively worn chains can be lethal.

The new video can be viewed online at

Toyota adds new counterbalance trucks to short-term hire fleet

Toyota Material Handling has added over 250 new counterbalance fork lifts to its short-term hire fleet.

Toyota has expanded its 3,000 strong fleet of short-term hire trucks to include 250 new counterbalance fork lifts to help satisfy demand for planned and emergency short-term hire needs.  The new trucks include Toyota's latest range of Tonero engine-powered fork lifts and Traigo electric-powered fork lifts, which are fitted with Toyota System of Active Stability, helping to improve safety and productivity.  The new counterbalance fork lift trucks were delivered at the start of the New Year and are available for hire now.

Alan Sowersby, Business Solutions Director for Toyota Material Handling UK said, "Often customers need short-term hire trucks as an emergency replacement or if they have unexpected demand, therefore they need a reliable and efficient supplier. By analysing our customers' requirements, we have increased our fleet in the areas where we have the most demand. Companies need short-term hire trucks for a variety of reasons and we want to ensure we have the right trucks available, when they need it."

Toyota Material Handling UK is able provide a wide range of short-term hire options from a single day to several months, including hand pallet trucks, counterbalance fork lifts and a range of warehouse trucks. 

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