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It's horses for courses

12 December 2012

It is isn't always easy to specify the best truck power choice for a given situation, so Hubtex's Jim Hammond offers insight and advice It is a dilemma for any organisation using fork trucks for materials handling in

It is isn't always easy to specify the best truck power choice for a given situation, so Hubtex's Jim Hammond offers insight and advice

It is a dilemma for any organisation using fork trucks for materials handling inside and out. Like everything else in life, it seems there is no ideal solution and there is always a compromise.

Those companies wishing to comply with the law may find it confusing and as every environment is different, the COSSH Regulations can only issue guidelines, based on risk assessment at an early stage. They state: "Employers have a legal duty under Regulation 4 of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) to ensure the suitability of all work equipment, including lift trucks. Employers must also assess the risks from substances harmful to health, such as fumes from exhausts of vehicles operated within the workplace premises." I say at an early stage because when a company is considering whether to employ IC engined trucks or electric trucks to work indoors, there are no set rules but most sensible decisions can be based on basic common sense. There are three parts of the equation that can help determine type of truck - emissions, airspace and ventilation.Most fork truck dealers would agree that they would recommend trucks as follows. Diesel trucks for mostly outdoor use, LPG trucks for indoor/outdoor use and electric trucks for constant indoor use. COSSH REGS state: "If IC trucks are used inside a warehouse it may be necessary to provide adequate ventilation to remove exhaust fumes.

Ventilation requirements will vary according to; the number of trucks used, the volume of the warehouse or operating area, the type of fuel used, and the condition of the engine (proper engine maintenance will reduce toxic emissions).

"In some situations, for example where large numbers of trucks powered by IC engines are used, it may be that the risk assessment under COSSH will indicate the need for action to reduce the risk." In recent times though, choice has expanded with the introduction of new trucks, particularly in the area where the handling of long loads is required. The development of the four way IC engine sideloader that can be used indoors/outdoors and the development of the multi-directional electric sideloader that can be used outdoors as well as indoors. The latter has been possible due to the development of super-elastic tyres that can now be satisfactorily fitted to smaller wheels.

Incorrect choice of truck can be very costly. For example, a company buys an LPG powered truck to work indoors/outdoors based on the assumption that the truck will work in a split indoor/outdoor operation. The truck arrives and it works longer hours inside with the doors shut and employees complain of headaches. Tests can be carried out on the air quality and if deemed unsuitable, the truck may have to be removed to outdoor duties only. A simple solution but the company then has to buy another truck to do the indoor work, and costs go up.

There can also be hidden costs when using IC engined trucks indoors. There is the extra cost of providing additional ventilation to deal with fumes, the increased cost of heating the building under such circumstances and there is also an impact on the environment externally. Also, an engined truck emits more toxins as it gets older and emissions start to increase after only 100 hours of use.

For a quick guide to comparing truck power choices see the table below. Also seek the opinion of truck dealers who can offer all three types of truck. This way, you can be sure of receiving impartial advice. If you feel decisions may be borderline, ask your local HSE to comment. Useful HSE publications include HSG113 Lift Trucks in Potentially Flammable Atmospheres, and HSG6 Safety In Working With Lift Trucks.
 
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