Forklift Sales Hit an All-Time Record in 2015, Group Says

Forklift fleet. (Courtesy: U.S. Dept. of Defense at

Forklift fleet.
(Courtesy: U.S. Dept. of Defense at

More new forklifts were sold in North America during 2015 than at any other time in history, according to a new study released this month by the Industrial Truck Association.

Total retail orders in all classes of forklift sales — with the exception of exports — totalled 225,534 during all of last year, according to the group. It was the first time that forklift sales beat the previous record of 215,000 units, which was set in 2006, before the global economic downturn and the start of the Great Recession in the US.

Upbeat News … For a Change

The optimistic sales report could indicate that the forklift industry has finally turned a corner, said Brett Wood, president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America, who also chairman of the ITA’s board of directors.

“After a slow and steady recovery from the recession, the North American lift truck industry is healthy and strong,” Wood said in an ITA news release announcing the study’s findings. “We hope more skilled professionals see our growth and realize the many opportunities available fro an exciting career in the material handling industry, and specifically the lift truck industry.”

More Electric Forklifts in Use

The report also fond that the percentage of electric forklifts was higher versus the number of gas-powered vehicles.

In 2015, a total of 141,846 electric forklifts were sold in the US, Canada and Mexico, compared with only 83,688 engine-powered vehicles. That’s an 8 percent increase over 2014, according to the report. In fact, in 2015 battery powered forklifts accounted for 63.4 percent of all vehicles in use, compared to 36.6 percent engine-powered lift trucks.

A New Era for Battery-Powered Forklifts?

That’s a significant statistic because it shows that business owners are finally embracing the benefits of forklifts powered by batteries, said ITA president Brian Feehan.

“An increase in electric truck sales is due to several reasons, including the emphasis on reduced emissions in many work environments,” Feehan said. “From a global perspective, overall world lift truck sales in2015 were over 1 million units, with North America being one of the largest markets for lift trucks.”

The ITA is a lobbying organization that represents the interests of forklift makers in Washington, D.C. The group also promotes engineering advances to promote safe products and hosts forums and educational programs to raise awareness of the issues affecting the forklift industry.

Popularity of Electric Forklifts

There is no doubt that electric forklifts come with a bit of a sticker shock, and they are initially more expensive than their gas counterparts. However, when doing a cost evaluation of both varieties, you need to factor in the fact that electric ones are far cheaper to maintain.

But electric forklifts also don’t require fuel purchases. And while there are costs involved with recharging electric vehicles, they generally are substantially lower than the costs of purchasing propane, gasoline, diesel and other fuels.


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