forklift fleet management

Winter is coming…whether you’re ready for it or not. Before it hits, preparation is crucial. Now is the time to make sure your fleet is ready for some temperature changes. Cold temperatures can result in more forklift accidents for those who are not properly trained, and an unprepared warehouse can suffer from significant downtime and a loss of productivity. For one thing, your equipment will need to be taken care of. The last thing you want is for one of your precious sit down riders or other material handling equipment to get a case of frostbite. All staff members should be made aware of winter hazards and trained on how best to avoid them.

Even if your operation is mostly run indoors, your equipment and workspace can be affected by extreme weather. The effect of temperature on battery life is one of the biggest problem areas warehouse operations face. Forklift batteries are very similar to car batteries. Thus, when it’s extremely cold, the battery has less capacity. Engine-powered lift trucks can see some trouble starting and electric ones can die quicker. The best way to prevent dying batteries is to keep them warm.

It may sound obvious, but it’s best to store your new or used forklifts and other battery-powered equipment indoors as much as possible, including overnight. Be sure that all of your tires are in good condition to ensure sufficient traction and stability. Some of the most critical parts affected by the cold are batteries, hydraulics, electrical systems and engines.

Make sure coolant systems have an appropriate concentration of anti-freeze, this way you’ll be less likely to have problem with engines seizing up. Diesel waxing is also something to look out for. This happens when the heavier component of the fuel freezes at lower temperatures. This is why it’s important to store any unused trucks indoors with heat, along with stored fuel. Another good tip is to use a thinner diesel for winter, which allows the forklifts to stand much lower temperatures before waxing. Thicker summer diesel can cause to waxing occurs around 23 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t forget to test your batteries either. If it’s borderline, chances are that it could be problematic in the cold. Regular maintenance and fuel filter replacement should reduce waxing that can result in breakdowns.

Safety precautions for cold weather are something that should be taken very seriously. Any outdoor area where equipment is going to be operated needs to be meticulously cleared of any and all ice to prevent any slips or sliding. If a three-ton forklift starts to slide across a sheet of ice, someone can get seriously hurt or killed.

Also, when storing forklifts indoors, be aware of carbon monoxide levels. Closed doors and windows can decrease ventilation and put workers at risk. Test air quality to ensure your employees health. Drivers also may need to be reminded to dress warmer and take extra precautions in regards to their own well being.

Even if you don’t live in the far north, its important to keep an eye on overnight freezes. It will save you a lot of time and money down the rode if you’re prepared and your equipment is well taken-care of.

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(Operations Manager)

Chris Charles is a 27 year veteran of operations and logistics. Experience included commercial property management and project management for an international shipping company in Maryland.

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