Distracted Driving on Forklifts

Editor’s Note: Todays article is a guest post by Dan from Forklift Safety Solutions.

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I think most people would agree that distracted driving is a worldwide problem, but might also think it is one which does not apply to them. It doesn’t matter if you are operating a service van, semi truck, car, or forklift- distractions can cause injury or death to the vehicle operator, to other drivers, or to pedestrians who are unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I look back to 1985, the year I got my license to drive a car and the distractions I faced. Eating while driving, passengers, and the radio would have been the biggest diversions, but there are even more distractions vying for drivers’ attention in today’s world. Drivers today deal with cell phones, text messaging, surfing the web on their phones, DVD players, navigation devices, MP3 players, complex sound systems and much more. The problem in the material handling world is that people are bringing poor habits from their personal lives into the workplace and onto high-powered industrial trucks. Distractions on forklifts include two-way radios, RF scanning equipment, eating/drinking on forklifts, cell phones, music playing devices, pedestrian traffic and fatigued driving, just to name a few. As far as radios, RF scanners, cell phone and music players go; smart companies will put in place a policy which says that these types of devices may not be used while in motion, no exceptions. Make the first offense a formal write-up with time off while the second offense results in termination and your rule will be very effective. Food and drink is another area of concern, and companies that wish to avoid the chance of accidents will advise operators to keep food in the lunch room. Even if operators are not eating or drinking while in motion, the chance of a spill or drop while in motion and the subsequent distraction is too great. Hot and cold liquids which are spilled on operators result in many auto accidents each year, as does the dropping and retrieval of unsecured items. It does not help that many manufacturers are now building cup holders into their dashboards; it only encourages operators to bring along things best left behind. Another problem is drowsy driving. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 auto crashes per year in the U.S. These crashes result in 40,000 injuries and 1,550 deaths. I know firsthand that all types of vehicle operators, including forklift operators, suffer from fatigue. I remember working sixteen hour shifts day after day and praying to be able to stay awake until the end of my shift. Night shift workers suffer the most from fatigue, as the distractions of trying to sleep during the day, when everyone else is awake, are many. Most people can handle getting too little sleep one night fairly well, but the effects of sleep deprivation night after night are cumulative and can be harmful physically and emotionally. Many people also work rotating shifts, where the body never gets a chance to adjust to one set schedule, causing problems with sleep patterns. The answer to this problem is likely twofold, consisting of education for your operators and also keeping a close watch out for potentially exhausted workers. If operators can take steps to get more sleep, understand the effects on fatigue on their bodies, and learn to know their limits, it will create a safer working environment for them and others. Supervisors must also be watching for the early signs of drowsy driving and assigning those people to non driving positions for the rest of the shift, in a role where the consequences of sleepiness will not be as dangerous. Written by Forklift Safety Solutions, a leading provider of forklift train the trainer training and materials. Forklift Safety Solutions can be contacted at 614-626-7685 or you can visit them on the web at http://www.forkliftcenter.net.

 

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Forklift Battery Q&A

  

Electric forklifts are quickly taking over a large market share. Warehouses and other indoor environments benefit from reduced air quality concerns, less noise, and ease of use. However, I often find that the batteries and electric motors are completely overlooked. Recently I found a forklift that was 36 litres low on electrolyte! The customer was unaware that the battery required service. Here’s another funny story about battery service gone off the rails:  Battery Service Failure!

Since this seems to be a systemic problem, I contacted Adam Booke, owner of Booke Battery Solutions, and asked him some common customer questions.

1: Give us an overview of who you are and what your company does.  

I started Booke Battery Solutions in 2014 after several years of working for someone else in the same field. I wanted a chance to take on what I knew and what I am passionate about. BBS sells and services many types of batteries and chargers from UPS system batteries to Industrial steel cased forklift batteries and chargers.

2. What is the most common mistake you see industrial battery owners doing?

Underestimating the importance of proper maintenance with their batteries and chargers. I have seen countless times where poor watering, or even cut cables over time can cut a battery’s life in half or worse. With a simple service call by a trained technician and a bit more knowledge of what was going on and should be done, the lifespan of the battery could be drastically increased saving thousands of dollars.

 3. What is the most common thing you see equipment technicians overlooking?

Many times I see technicians overlooking all possibilities. When a customer has problems with runtime of a forklift most have the gut reaction to blame the battery. The battery is only part of the system. The battery, charger, and lift make a complete circuit. If any one part of that is not right, problems occur. Many battery problems are due to charger malfunctions, many charger problems are due to battery problems, and many battery/charger problems can be lift problems. It’s very important to consider all of the facts when troubleshooting issues.

 4. Charging….to fill first or fill after?

Under normal conditions you should always fill after the battery has been charged. The electrolytes are driven out of the plates within a cell when charging and will cause expansion. If watered before it can cause a spill. There are times when a battery has been sitting dry for long period of time that water must be added first in order to take a charge. That is rare and should really only be done in a battery shop where it can be observed while charging.  

 5. What is the realistic lifespan of a properly maintained industrial battery?

Most manufacturers will have a 5 year warranty. A battery really only has 4 main needs to live a long life: discharged to proper level, charged back up to 100%, time to cool down before use, and a proper watering schedule. If all those can be achieved regularly and it is a good strong product to start, then I have seen batteries last 5-10 years. The oldest battery I have ever seen still in operation was 16 years old, which obviously is very rare. If any one of those 4 items are missed frequently less than 5 years is very likely. Just like automobiles it all comes down to proper care and maintenance.

 6. What should customers know about the newer “charge on demand” type batteries?

They work very well in the right circumstances. I’ve found that with opportunity charging since the battery does not get changed out that watering of the battery can be the first thing neglected. A watering system really should be in place to help prevent under watering. It would not be ideal to start opportunity charging on a battery that is older or shows signs of problems. Since there is more current flow from the charger defects in the battery can show themselves very quickly.  

While it’s great for the customer to be able to charge during breaks at least once per week the battery should be allowed to reach 100% charge, watered, and allowed to cool down.  

 

7. Should the top of a battery be tarred to avoid acid getting into the case?

Tar can work well if it never cracks or has any blemishes. That being said workplaces are not always the best environments. Having a background in service I have seen too many times where tar did more harm than good. As soon as the tar cracks and the slightest bit of acid gets down into the battery tray it will begin to corrode the tray. I prefer no tar so that that if there is ever a problem with acid escaping the cell it can be easily cleaned and neutralized.

 

8. How can a customer know when his industrial battery is nearing its replacement stage?

Several factors can come into play here. A good relationship with a lift dealer or their battery supplier can help as they will hopefully keep track of the condition of the fleet. At BBS we offer a complimentary battery and charger inspection on an annual basis. This can be great for budgeting purposes. We keep track of age, condition, and offer recommendations on batteries that are not up to spec.

 

9. How do you load test an industrial battery out in the field?

There are a couple of different ways to do this. There are full size portable load banks that can accurately test a battery in 3-6 hours. Most customers do not want to wait for something like that in their facility. Another is a smaller automotive style load bank that can put a load onto a few cells at a time. This can be good for quick tests to see if there is are obvious bad cells. If none of that is an option depending on the type of lift it’s possible to take voltage readings with a multi meter while lifting a load with the forks. If it can be done safely it can determine quickly if there is a dead cell.

 10. Oops. Acid spill… Now what? Walk us through cleanup, and what to do about lost electrolyte.

After an acid spill from a battery you want to contain first. Hopefully the battery being charged was sitting above a drip pan, and preferably a drip pan lined with an acid absorbing/neutralizing mat. If no absorbing mat or no drip pan you will want to make sure to wear proper PPE (Acid resistant gloves, safety glasses, face shield, acid resistant apron) and contain the spill.  

1. Apply product around spill to build a barrier.

2. Slowly pour from the outside of the spill inward.

3. Allow 5 minutes or so for the spill to be neutralized and absorbed.

4. Dispose of properly according to regulations in your area.

Many battery companies can usually add the waste to scrap loads of batteries that go off for recycling, but be sure to check local regulations.

The battery needs to be washed and neutralized properly by trained personnel to prevent more corrosion. Small amounts of acid loss may not be an issue with battery performance, but if enough had been lost more acid may need to be reintroduced to the battery. That should be done in a battery shop setting and by a trained personnel.

Thanks Adam for this information. If anybody in the Omaha area wants help with their battery needs, how should they contact you? 

They can call, email, or text. 402-740-9984

Adam@bookebatterysolutions.com
Sales@bookebatterysolutions.com
Service@bookebatterysolutions.com
Facebook @ Booke Battery Solutions Omaha, NE. 
LinkedIn – Adam Booke Adam@bookebatterysolutions.com

If you need forklift parts or tools check this link: Lift Parts

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5 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy a Used Forklift

Purchasing a forklift is a serious capital investment. There are arguments to be made for leasing, purchasing new, or purchasing used. If your business situation has led you to a “used” decision, there are some things to know before you buy. Here’s an overview of points to consider.

buying a used forklift
Wrong Capacity?
  1. Capacity and suitability. This is overlooked more often than you might imagine. Customers often tell me about the “awesome deal” they got on a used forklift, but when they put their new Baby to the test, they find it isn’t rated for the loads they carry or equipped for their handling needs. The lift can run like a top and have all functions in perfect operating condition, but no deal is a good deal if it’s not a good fit.  No matter how amazing the deal on that size 13 Nike shoes, they won’t fit your size 9 feet… So it’s not a good deal at all! That diesel forklift may be in perfect condition, but it’s not suitable for that food plant while that cushion-tire unit would be useless in your gravel lumberyard. Or the safety features your site requires are absent. So consider all the requirements of your site before you go looking for good deals. Read more about good deals later in the article.
  2. Mechanical operablity. So you started it up and it seems to run fine. Good to go, right? Not so fast! When you are test-driving your prospective hotrod, make sure you put it through the paces properly. Start with a cold start, preferably first thing in the morning. Check for leaks beneath before you start. When you fire it up, listen for slow or long cranking. Pay attention for any smoke from the exhaust. Next, drive forward slowly and listen for any noises or vibrations, then check the brake operation. Do the same in reverse. Do some circles at full turn, then power up while holding against the brake. Pay attention to any unusual noise or motion. Next, try all hydraulic functions to the full extent of the range. Watch for “racking” at the last few inches of travel (especially tilting). Note any leaks or rubbing hoses as well.  Shut down the unit and open the hood. Visually check all the fluid levels, belt conditions, etc. If mechanical  skills are not your strength, be sure to have a trained service provider perform these inspections. If you have a forklift jack, raise the backend and check for loose steer wheels or noisy bearings when you rotate them. If you find concerns during any of these checks, have a qualified forklift service provider check them out. They may not be a reason to avoid the purchase, but can help you determine an appropriate price.  If you need help finding a good service provider in your area contact us and we can try to match you up with one locally.

    buying a used forklift
    Maintenance up to date?
  3. Service History. Ask for a record of the service history. If there has been a long gap between services consider that the internal components may have hidden wear from contaminated fluids, lack of lubrication, or deteriorated coolant. Brake fluid that hasn’t been flushed within the last 2 years likely has a large amount of absorbed water, which leads to premature brake component failures. If the last inspection was before the latest presidential elections, you can expect some expensive repairs to surface!  Consider having an experienced technician do a service and inspection. If you need help finding filters and parts click here.
  4. Local availability of parts or service. This is a big surprise to many owners. They do their due diligence in making sure the unit will fit their application but get a shock when the first service is due. Some brands do not have readily available parts, especially in smaller urban areas. So consider buying something with local service support, or keeping an inventory of spare parts and filters on hand. If you need help finding a service provider in your area, contact us and we will try to match you with a local provider.
  5. Price. Ok, you are probably thinking this should have been #1. But it’s at the end for a good reason. Price is of no importance until you know you are dealing with a solid forklift that meets your specific needs. Now that you have all that figured out, price is the question. Do I buy locally, get quotes through 123Forklift, or ask at the coffee shop? One way is to ask a trusted local equipment provider for their opinion. However, that may be out of the question if you are purchasing from a competitor or private individual. Another option is to check with online classifieds or a forklift specific company like 123forklift. They will generally be able to give you a good picture of the market. Make sure you get a good idea of what’s available before you spill the cash. Check them out here.

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Are You a Professional?

 

 True Professionals stand out. Not in a flashy or flamboyant way, but because they are different than the mediocre, the average, the ordinary. They go the extra mile. They care about results and people. They dare to persue excellence in their chosen line of work. 

If this is you, we want to get to know you!

Over the next while, we will be intentionally developing our network of professionals in the Forklift Industry. 

If you are a Forklift Professional in:

  • Service
  • Sales
  • Parts
  • Fleet management
  • Leasing
  • Or other aspects of this industry

Send us your name, tell us what you do, and what city or area you work in. If you know a True Professional who would fit the description, send them this post. Be part of the future.

If you have a product or website for this market, contact us and tell us what you have to share with the industry. 

Excellence leaves no regrets. Great things ahead!

For the Forklift Pro who's "In the Know"

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