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Lift Trucks & Forklifts
Most people do not perceive major differences between one forklift and another Ė they are just tools necessary to do a job and one is just as good as another. But, that may not necessarily be the case. Just like with automobiles, lift trucks and forklifts come in a variety of sizes and shapes, with different payloads and capacities, and with a variety of options to be chosen from. If a company is considering purchasing a forklift or lift truck, it may be very wise to investigate whatís actually available on the market in order to choose one that fits its particular needs and workload.

For example, is the primary use going to be inside a warehouse, or is the vehicle intended for outdoor use? An electric vehicle may be most appropriate if the work is all indoors, since they operate quietly and donít emit any fumes. The downside is that electric vehicles run on batteries and, if the operation only runs a single shift, the batteries can be charged during off hours. The same is not true of a multi-shift operation where there is never any down time. In that case, it is necessary to purchase multiple batteries and/or charging stations. Some lift vehicles run on liquid propane which produces limited fumes and these vehicles are suitable for either indoor or outdoor use, but indoor use may necessitate better than average insulation. Gasoline or diesel engines are only for outdoor use, since they are both noisy and heavy on emissions. Another option is currently being developed and tested by some companies Ė that is, hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles. The advantages are quick refueling, no hassles with battery changing, and clean air. However, cost, at this juncture, is an issue.

Once a fuel type has been determined, purchasers also should consider the type of tires that are most appropriate for designated uses. The choices are pneumatic or cushioned. Pneumatic tires need air and are generally most suitable for outdoor use and uneven or loose surfaces. They provide higher clearance and increase life capacity ratings. Cushioned tires are solid and typically donít have tread. Their use is primarily indoors and designed for smooth surfaces.

Another item to investigate carefully is lift capacity height. Various vehicles are rated for different loads, with maximum weights and heights of loads to be carried. In general, trucks with larger capacities will also be larger in size, which may create a problem in a warehouse situation.

The vehicle type is another important consideration. Does the company need a standard forklift, designed for wide aisles; a reach truck, specifically made for narrow aisles and racked pallet storage; a motorized pallet truck, which requires the operator to walk alongside rather than ride; an order selector, which necessitates manual handling of smaller quantities and is designed for narrow aisles; or a swing mast or turret truck, a very narrow aisle vehicle with a swinging mast? The only way to determine which type of vehicle is most advantageous is to carefully consider the uses to which it will be put and the specifications for which it is rated.

As if all that werenít enough, there are numerous options and attachments that are available for various lift truck type vehicles. Those include sideshift devices, fork positioners, for pivots, slip sheet attachments, paper roll clamps, carton clamps, drum handling attachments, prongs, fork extensions, height selectors, and tilt controls. Again, depending on which uses the vehicle will be put to, one or more of the available options may be extremely valuable.

One item that should receive careful consideration before a lift vehicle is purchased, is the safety features that it includes. These include seat belts, dead-man pedals, and speed controls.
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