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Lift truck user survey: How customers acquire, maintain and replenish their fleets

Lift truck usage survey offers most comprehensive snapshot available of current U.S. fleet management practices.
By Josh Bond, Senior Editor
April 01, 2012

Fleet maintenance practices
Fleet data can help inform equipment buying patterns as well as help control equipment maintenance costs, where the budget might lack the scrutiny applied to capital expenses. The least common data points captured by fleet management technology adopters include utilization, up-time and productivity levels. Although a customer might set out on the path of fleet technology with those specific purposes in mind, it is instead the visibility into maintenance costs
that often proves most rewarding.

Just 34% of respondents still primarily service or maintain their fleets in-house. According to McKean, it used to be that job security, whether union or not, was in the maintenance department.

“The shrinking of the truck shop came at about the same time the word ‘outsourcing’ entered the business landscape, say, 20 years ago,” he says. “At that time, I’d estimate more than 50% of maintenance was handled in-house. It was a part of how companies did business. And lift trucks were easier to work on. Now, the lift truck technology has changed so much that well-trained technicians are very highly valued.”

As a result, maintenance and service contractors account for 15% of outsourcing, and lift truck dealers have managed to capture 47% of the market, according to the study results. Many customers have made the move to eliminate the maintenance bay and free up valuable real estate in their facility. McKean says companies often have difficulty keeping technicians up to speed with current technology, and so they have turned to the dealer’s expertise for cost savings.

“Some folks say they can’t afford the dealer technicians,” says McKean. “But if their in-house tech is paid a third of the rate and takes five times as long to complete the repair, the customer is not ahead.”

This scenario becomes more likely as the complexity of lift truck technologies increases, he says. “Lift trucks have evolved, and so has the process of maintaining them. The number of companies outsourcing to dealers will grow in direct proportion to the evolution of lift trucks.”

That process of evolution has been more rapid in the past 10 years than in the half century before. The lift truck usage study affirmed the average lifespan of a lift truck is a little more than seven years, meaning many customers will soon be approaching a crossroads between yesterday’s technology, maintenance, and acquisition practices and those of tomorrow.


About the Author

Josh Bond
Senior Editor

Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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