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.
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By Josh Bond, Associate Editor
April 01, 2012 - MMH Editorial

The modern patterns of lift truck usage, acquisition and maintenance would be utterly unrecognizable to the facility manager of 1982. His fleet maintenance staff might be sufficiently qualified if they knew their way around an automobile engine. His finance department, with whom he rarely communicated, might arrange for delivery of a number of new forklifts every five years. The new equipment would join old equipment on the floor, on the dock, and in the truck shop, for as many years as it was on the depreciation schedule.

Modern facilities can now select from a range of technologies to improve efficiency, capture data and drive process improvement. That said, there are still companies today that have found success in the older, simpler ways of fleet management, as well as companies that did not have a good experience when they finally decided to give new solutions a chance. From pen-and-paper safety checks to wireless runtime data, the results of a recent lift truck usage survey by Peerless Research Group (PRG) illustrate the modern lift truck landscape while capturing its rapid rate of change.

Designed to gauge activities and trends in lift truck usage, maintenance and management, this survey gives insight into the usage of fleet management technology, the impact of the economy on lift truck acquisition, and the types of trucks in use. In June 2012, a survey was sent by e-mail invitation to Modern Materials Handling magazine subscribers. A total of 348 qualified responses were received from readers who are personally involved in the evaluation and purchase of lift trucks in their facility.

According to Judd Aschenbrand, director of research for PRG, the survey indicates a level of market activity that should be very encouraging to lift truck suppliers. Of the 64% of respondents who indicated they would buy or lease a lift truck in the next 24 months, one in 10 said they planned to buy 20 or more, and the average number was slightly more than six units. Exactly 30% said the new equipment would expand the size of their fleet.

The survey also contains cautionary data on how suppliers could lose business, with one in three respondents indicating they have removed a supplier from their short list. About half of respondents claimed to have such a list, which consists of those companies they find to be most competitive, responsive and dependable.

“One of the messages here is that when users talk about reliability, they’re talking about it on two levels,” says Aschenbrand. “One is the equipment itself and the other is the company. If the customer feels disappointed in either, the supplier risks losing the business.”

For this article, we selected a few of the most telling study results and asked Michael McKean, fleet management sales and marketing manager for Toyota Material Handling, for his take on what the numbers say about the past, present and future of lift truck usage.



About the Author

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Josh Bond
Associate Editor

Josh Bond is an associate editor to Modern. Josh was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and contributing editor, has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce.


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