Survey Shows Positive Trends in Forklift Use

According to a survey by Peerless Research Group (PRG) for Modern Materials Handling, a trade magazine that covers the material handling industry, more companies are relying on lift trucks as a primary mode of transportation in warehouses and distribution centers. The Report credits a focus on efficiency, speed and meeting the needs of today’s distribution channels as the reason for the increase.

(Courtesy: USS George Washington on

(Courtesy: USS George Washington on

Although the survey shows that the material handling industry was a mixed bag in 2015, companies have already shown intent to increase their numbers of forklifts in 2016.

The survey is based on responses from 185 readers of Modern Materials Handling. According to the magazine, 82 percent of respondents are involved in the evaluation, selection and/or procurement of lift trucks for their companies.

The survey discovered that 65 percent of respondents are using electric-powered ride vehicles; 58 percent depend on electric-power pallet trucks (including walkies, riders, low and high lift and reach type vehicles). The survey also revealed that 49 percent of respondents said they use electric-powered narrow-aisle trucks (order pickers, side-loaders, turret trucks, stackers and reach trucks).

The report said that IC-powered counterbalanced lift trucks with cushion or pneumatic tires and electric-powered and IC-powered rider-type low tractors are also being used.

About 29 percent of those responding to the survey say they use between three and nine forklifts in their facilities. Eighteen percent said they use 10 to 14 forklifts.

The report also discovered that 69 percent of readers who responded said that they expect to purchase or lease lift trucks within the next 12 to 24 months. Thirty-two percent said that they don’t expect to purchase any equipment.

In a study of past surveys with a review of this latest report, the researchers found that the average lift truck fleet size decreased from 25 to 22. Despite the drop in the number of lifts in a fleet, the study showed that those who intend to buy in the next 24-months, will increase their purchases slightly from 6.3 to 7 trucks.

The report also shows that more companies’ wishing to dispose of old trucks are depending on the dealers to take them away and replace them with new trucks. In the 2015 survey 24 percent of respondents were doing this. In the 2016 study 37 percent are. Forty three percent say they resell the vehicles, 37 percent say they give them back to the dealers. Twenty eight percent hold on to them in case they need them in the future. Twenty four percent recycle the parts.

Companies that lease their lifts say they do it because of the flexibility or the lower maintenance costs and the fact that service is included in the lease.

The survey shows that most companies purchase lifts directly from dealers. About one-fifth prefers to buy from manufacturers.

A little over one-fourth replaces their vehicles after 10 years or more. About another fourth replace within the first eight years of ownership.

An overwhelming majority of about three-quarters of respondents say they are most likely to acquire or replace wheels and tires during the next 12-months; a little more than half say they will replace batteries and battery accessories; about half say they plan to buy tune-up parts. And 38 percent report that they will purchase chemicals, lubricants and oil for their lifts.

Fifty-one percent outsource maintenance work to a lift truck dealer, 27 percent take care of them on their own with their in-house staff, and 20 percent outsource maintenance or service to contractors.

More than three-quarters of the respondents say that their company uses internal training programs; 16 percent depend on the dealer and 10 percent use their independent service provider.

Forty one percent have already started to integrate new technology into their operations, while 59 percent say they don’t have any plans to do so.

Most who have tried to implement software are finding some difficulty. Fifty one percent say that implementation of software was “somewhat successful:” 30 percent responded that it was “very successful;” and 16 percent say it was either “not at all successful” or “not very successful.”

Using the findings of this survey and the evaluation of past surveys, the researchers found that the percentage of companies that have adopted new technology to help manage their fleets has remained steady.

The analysis also discovered that companies are replacing their lift trucks less frequently. More companies are buying as opposed to leasing. In fact, the number of companies that buy rather than lease have increased since 2014, from 59 percent in ’14 to 69 percent today.

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