The Industrial Truck Association performs vital services for both its OEM members and the customers of those members. It was established in 1951 to further the interests of the industry through cooperative efforts involving issues of importance to all. It develops voluntary engineering practices that promote the safety of member products. ITA also collects and disseminates statistical information relating to the industrial truck marketplace. Through meetings of its various committees, as well as its board of directors, the ITA provides an opportunity for participants to work together on improving services rendered to end users.
Dirk von Holt, president of Jungheinrich Lift Truck Corp., recently took the helm as ITA president, and will serve for the next two years. MHM recently sat down with von Holt to discuss ITA priorities during his term, and how those priorities affect you, the industry's customer.
MHM: What are today's hot issues for lift truck users and their OEMs?
Von Holt: We just met with OSHA. We discussed ways we can improve working together, with the common goal of increasing the safety of the driver.
MHM: What's happening with the various standardization efforts as they relate to lift trucks?
Von Holt: We're continuing to try bringing ISO [International Standards Organization] and ANSI [American National Standards Institute] B56 standards more in line. ASME [American Society of Manufacturing Engineers] is going to drop sponsorship of those standards and we're going to take over. We don't want anybody else to move in. This is our industry and we want to be involved in development of those standards.
MHM: Safety is a key ITA concern. Some OSHA safety issues are on the ITA's agenda at every meeting. What's happening with those?
Von Holt: Lockout/tagout and lifting in unison are just two issues. We're also reworking the lift truck daily inspection checklist for OSHA field inspectors. We want to reduce citations and we're looking at what we can do to educate inspectors in the right direction. We'll be working on other recommended practices with OSHA as well.
MHM: What about the issue of alternative power sources for lift trucks? What will we see happening in the next few years?
Von Holt: The fuel cell people see their products being implemented much sooner than we do. They don't see infrastructure as a big issue any more. If you have a real large user, they could put the hydrogen refueling station in and it will be cost competitive with the cost of having battery chargers. Jungheinrich has some projects with universities in Germany. ITA tries to educate its membership on these issues. There will be a fast charging white paper coming out to give people an idea of what it's about. We'll probably do similar things with other technologies like fuel cells.
MHM: Which technology holds most promise?
Von Holt: Fast charging will come faster than anything else. The Europeans are a little further ahead on this than we are, but there's no doubt in my mind it will come.
MHM: Does your European heritage help you bring something different to ITA's agenda?
Von Holt: It has a number of times. The world's getting smaller and smaller. We're working closer with the alliances and trying to share ideas. Communication is easier for me with the other industrial truck associations, but as a North American market, we feel very strongly about our issues. That won't change just because I'm from Europe. It helps to have someone come in with a different point of view. The majority of the people here haven't lived outside the North American market. Sometimes there's tunnel vision.
MHM: How much of a concern is the cost of steel to ITA members? What can an association like ITA do?
Von Holt: There are letters that can be sent to senators and congresspeople. We can approach people on the Hill and talk about these issues, like we did when we got OSHA involved in operator training.
MHM: Is the effort to convert all lift trucks below 8,000 pounds sold in California to electric power a continuing concern to ITA?
Von Holt: Half of the lift trucks sold are IC engine trucks. Of those, 80 percent are in the capacity category they're looking at, if not more. We believe IC trucks have a place in the market. We're fighting along with the propane people to get this issue pushed out or revised.
MHM: What's the most important issue facing lift truck fleet managers?
Von Holt: Lift truck operator training. The majority of citations issued by OSHA are for non-trained drivers. That plays a major role in the accidents that happen.
MHM: What about the issue of cheap or non-certified spare parts?
Von Holt: All OEMs are concerned that their trucks will be repaired with parts that aren't up to quality standards. End users often look at pricing issues to see where they can cut corners. It's up to us to bring the message across about how important it is that quality parts are used.
MHM: Does the Internet making worldwide access to such parts exacerbate the problem?
Von Holt: The Internet is just another medium to approach the market. We're all using it the best way we can. The Internet didn't really change the situation. Look at wholesaler magazines and you'll see thousands of ads for replacement parts. The offerings are broader than before, but it's up to the consumer to make the right choice. If the suppliers play their hands right, the consumer will click on their sites rather than someone else's. The Internet has changed our expectancy for instant service, and companies offering stuff over the Internet are ready to supply it in one or two days. This is moving from the consumer world into the industrial world.
For more information on ITA, visit http://www.indtrk.org