Chain of Thought

Protect Your Lift Trucks from Slobs

Housekeeping is among the most neglected aspects of lift truck maintenance. Think about it. If operators are running over debris, they're not only damaging tires, but they're not doing themselves or the products they're transporting much good either. If you're looking for opportunities to cut costs, walk the floors of your plant or warehouse.

“We wouldn't sell as many tires if customers had good housekeeping habits,” Philip Lannon told me. He's sales and training manager for Continental Tire the Americas, in Chicago. “Tires don't chunk out in and of themselves, and when you look at scars and dents, that doesn't happen unless they're running over things.”

In the worst of conditions, tires are worn down to where they can't roll properly or they get stuck because there's such a low diameter to them. Whether you're talking cushion or pneumatic tires, most lift truck buyers take what comes from the factory. That lack of consideration generally haunts the truck as it is put through its paces. Even if debris isn't a problem, misjudging when a tire needs retiring is.

“Operators typically don't know when tires should be replaced,” Lannon says. “If it's a cushion tire, in theory you could wear it down to the steel band. But in so doing you'll increase maintenance costs on that vehicle substantially. Rule of thumb is, when 30-40% of useful rubber is removed, that's when a tire's load capacity and safety requirements are compromised.”

Tires provide the cushioning to protect products and the safety to protect operators. Worn tires increase shocks to loads and people. And if you specify non-marking tires, maintenance considerations figure into that consideration too. According to Lannon, a quarter to a third of lift trucks in warehousing today use a non-marking tires.

“But if you want to avoid marks on floors, that's only part of the solution,” he says. “You also have to make sure you get dirt off the floor with a scrubber. Otherwise it's like wearing your tennis shoes into your garden and then back into your house.”

That brings us back to good housekeeping. And if you scrub your floors anyway, you may not need non-marking tires—especially if you have electric trucks that you can adjust the plugging. The big concern with tires, according to Paul Weymann, vice president of Summit Handling Systems, a Toyota dealer in Long Island, NY, is the steer axle, mast, worn forks damage you get from letting tires run down too far. Also driver fatigue due to the fact that good tires reduce shock

Using his client, Railex, as an example, this company used white non-marking tires before investing in the new lift trucks Summit provided.

“They decided to switch to black tires because they wore better at their Schenectady site,” he says. “You probably get a quarter less run time out of non-marking tires than blacks. And Railex uses scrubbers to clean their floor regularly.”

Key takeaway: good lift truck maintenance starts with a clean and orderly workplace. The less junk you run over, the more service life from tires and the lift trucks that wear them.

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