Chain of Thought

Don't Try This at Work

Our blog on the dangers of using lift trucks to tow heavy objects caught Bruce Pelynio's attention. He's president and CEO of Heli Americas, the Memphis, Tenn.-based U.S. representative for Heli, a leading lift truck brand in China. He called me the other day to share another dumb thing he's seen done with lift trucks. Ever hear of jousting?

Early in Bruce's career, long before YouTube started publicizing the stupid things people managed to do with lift trucks, he found out about what some of the warehouse employees of one carpet company client were doing with their rug-ram attachments. He found out because this company was calling the dealer in on a pretty frequent basis to fix broken carriage rollers.

Pelynio did a little investigating and found out that some of these guys on the third shift were getting bored and decided to start jousting with their lift trucks. You've seen those movies where knights in armor ride horses full speed at each other—lances leading the way. Pelynio was amazed nobody got killed doing this. In fact he asked one of those brainiacs what would have happened if his ram attachment had attached itself to his co-worker. He just shrugged and laughed.

Funny how a slow economy affects some people. I'm sure towing and jousting represent a fraction of lift truck follies going on when the manager isn't looking. And just as a nylon tow rope will stretch only so far before snapping back to hurt you, a lot of lift truck fleet managers have been stretching their equipment replacement timeline to the breaking point. Pelynio told me many companies have been holding off on replacing their lift trucks over the last three years, and they've been just getting by with quick fixes and scavenging parts from other equipment.

“There are a lot of trucks in the boneyard,” he told me. “Not only were they sidelined but they were picked over like carrion for parts to keep the remaining trucks running.”

He sees a couple things happening as a result when the economy snaps back: Managers of big fleets who typically bought 100 or 200 new trucks a year will be faced with buying 600 or 700 to get back to their former level of operations. At the lower end of the user spectrum—the smaller companies who used to run, say, 50 lift trucks—they may just end up replacing what they've learned to live with—say, 35.

If so, these companies' budgets and their workers will be in for a rude awakening when the economy rebounds. In the meantime, I just hope now that I've blogged about the dumb things underworked lift truck operators have done with ropes and rug rams that there isn't a rash of towing and jousting uploads on YouTube.

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