2014 Lift Truck Issue: Newfound optimism

Modern's annual lift truck issue takes a look at how CN manages mobile crane maintenance, the Top 20 lift truck suppliers, a look at the results of our annual reader survey, a state of the fuel cell market, and more.

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Back in 2010, when we were working with Peerless Research Group (PRG) in designing Modern’s first “Lift Truck User Survey,” we realized that not enough attention was being placed on what we traditionally called the backbone, the workhorse, the most fundamental piece of equipment to be found in any materials handling operation: the lift truck.

At the time, the U.S. economy was just starting its slow creep out of recession, and fleet managers, who had taken their lift truck operations for granted for too long, were short on budget and running their equipment to the point of disintegration.

Our first “Lift Truck User Survey” was ready for the August 2010 issue, so we decided to build on the theme to inspire re-investment, complete with case studies, reports on the newest equipment, and the latest best practices illustrating how savvy end users were using lift trucks as platforms for technology to improve efficiencies despite the budget crunch.

This month, Modern is proud to offer readers the fourth installment of our annual Lift Truck Issue. And, I’m happy to report that the re-investment that these theme issues were design to help spark is certainly trending up.

Associate editor Josh Bond walks us through the findings of our “2014 Lift Truck User Survey,” the clearest snapshot available of current management and maintenance best practices as well as fleet manager spending plans. According to Bond, a number of elements—some economic, some simply timing related—have converged to make this a most encouraging report.

“A key tenet of fleet management is rotation and retirement, which prevents aging lift trucks from consuming time and money they don’t deserve,” says Bond. “During the recession, that was being ignored. However, this year’s survey tells us that between trimming the fat, deploying state-of-the-art equipment, and riding an increasingly strong economic wave, our readers’ spending plans for lift trucks in the coming year are robust to say the least.”

Robust indeed. Out with old, in with the new appears to be the new rally cry. According to our findings, 70% of respondents report that they’re likely to buy or lease in the next 12 to 24 months—that’s up from 58% from 2013. “If you mix the fact that spending is up and the number of trucks to be acquired is going up, it’s safe to conclude that fleet owners have a newfound optimism,” adds Bond.

The desire for more sophisticated maintenance is also growing, reports Bond, further building on the positive trend. In his examination on the state of lift truck maintenance best practices, he reports that traditional thinking is evaporating.

“As our top maintenance sources shared with me, improved data collection and analysis have ushered in a new era of lift truck management best practices,” says Bond. “Savvy fleet managers are coupling meaningful data with better managed service to create predictive maintenance programs that create visibility and cut costs—and that’s where the next level of efficiency improvement is going to be found.”

Lift Truck Issue
CN: Mobile cranes help train keep a rollin’
Canada’s largest rail operator has developed a new parts management and maintenance program to reduce the downtime of mobile cranes at its intermodal terminals.

Top 20 lift truck suppliers, 2014
Our list grows top heavy following another big merger, but after a year of relative calm, the market is heating up once again.

2014 Lift Truck User Survey: Readers feel optimistic, ready to spend
With plans to buy a total of more than 1,100 lift trucks in coming months, readers share their perspectives on spending, maintenance practices and technology usage.

Elevating the fuel cell lift truck market
With use by Walmart, BMW and other large, 24/7 facility operators, hydrogen-powered lift trucks are proven at the higher end of the market, but can they catch on elsewhere? Fuel cell providers are betting that turnkey, streamlined offerings will help.

Lift truck maintenance: Real time is real money
Once seen as a necessary evil, lift truck maintenance costs prove ripe for efficiencies that save money and boost productivity.

60 seconds with Brian Butler, ITA and Linde NA
Modern spends 60 seconds talking to the chairman of the Industrial Truck Association and president & CEO of Linde Material Handling North America about the future of the lift truck industry.

Lift Truck Tips: Lift truck buyers and users share data and responsibility
Aligning purchasing and operations yields savings and enhanced productivity.

About the Author

Michael Levans, Group Editorial Director
Michael Levans is Group Editorial Director of Peerless Media’s Supply Chain Group of publications and websites including Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management Review, Modern Materials Handling, and Material Handling Product News. He’s a 23-year publishing veteran who started out at the Pittsburgh Press as a business reporter and has spent the last 17 years in the business-to-business press. He’s been covering the logistics and supply chain markets for the past seven years. You can reach him at [email protected]

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