Lift truck user survey: How customers acquire, maintain and replenish their fleets
Types of trucks in use
According to figures from the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), electric lift trucks in classes 1, 2, 3, and 6 comprised 66% of shipments in 2009, a full 7% higher than in any year since the figures were recorded beginning in 1988. The figure fell by a percentage point to 65% in 2010. Today, survey respondents indicated Class 1 trucks alone make up 70% of their fleets, with internal combustion (IC) classes 4 and 5 at 36% and 28%, respectively.
“It’s an electric market,” says McKean. “It used to be a 60/40 split between IC and electric. Now it has flipped the other way, and it’s never going back.”
More companies are moving away from internal combustion, he says. The recession prompted both increased electric sales and a relative shift in market share as electric applications tended to center on more recession-resistant industries. Developments in battery and charging technology as well as government incentives helped stimulate that growth, says McKean.
“There are still and will always be applications that can only be served by IC,” says McKean, “But I see the electric market continuing to grow in coming years.”
Aschenbrand says the survey joins a number of other data points in the industry that illustrate the rise of electric lift trucks, but as with any single data point the results do not necessarily tell the whole story.
“For all we know, a large number of respondents bought or expanded their fleets right before the economy hit the skids,” says Aschenbrand. “These numbers are interesting, but get even more interesting when you combine and cross-reference them. Then you can put some qualitative meat on the quantitative bones.”