US Forklift Industry Steady and Shifting

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

While sales statistics for the U.S. forklift industry show little change from last year, lift truck professionals and insiders are seeing a shift in terms of business savvy and customer patters. Read on to learn more about the state of the U.S. forklift truck industry and how forklift dealers are reacting to market changes. 


The Industrial Truck Association (ITA) has estimated little change in demand from last year in most forklift classes.

Crown Corporation senior vice president and ITA immediate past president James Moran estimated steady end-user orders across all industrial truck classes in 2007 for the US and Canada. The ITA lists seven classes, ranging from counterbalanced, three-wheel electrics (class 1), side loaders, turret trucks and low-lift pallet trucks (class 2) and walkie pallets and high lift straddles (class 3), to variable-reach, rough-terrain forklifts (class 7).

"The 2007 outlook is down 1.7 per cent from 2006, but up 4.2 per cent from the second half of 2006, with orders expected to total 207,000 units," he said.

"There will be no major mix changes between classes."

Moran said orders for classes 1, 3, 4 and 5 would be similar in 2007 to 2006, with a slight decrease for class 2.

According to the National Association for Business Economics, 86 per cent of manufacturers said their "spending plans are little changed" this year. Ten per cent expected to buy more business equipment, while five per cent planned to reduce spending.

The Material Handling Industry of America (MHIA) said the US materials handling business cycle for 2007 would enter "a period of slower growth".

The US Institute of Supply Management's gauge of factory activity is forecast to hold at 58.5. Readings above 50 signal expansion and the index has shown growth since May 2003.

A unique MHIA model has predicted patterns of materials handling equipment consumption in 2007. MHIA’s geographic consumption analysis shows 70 per cent of materials handling equipment consumption will occur in the US’s eastern states (Iowa, Illinois and east to the coast). Fourteen per cent of consumption will occur in the west and 16 per cent in middle America.

According to the ITA, 2006 nearly topped the 2000 record for US factory shipments of internal combustion engines - 85,038 were shipped in 2006 compared with 85,993 in 2000. It was a similar story with electric riders - 53,806 factory shipments in 2006 came close to the 2000 record of 56,090.

However, the ITA said forklift companies expected a shift from IC-powered forklifts towards electric-powered forklifts in the North American market in the next five years.

Global Products president Bob Lemmer said class 3 electric hand pallet trucks were becoming more popular.

"The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has shown a significant increase in US worker injuries related to manually pushing and pulling palletised loads with manual pallet trucks. The corrective action that could reduce these types of injuries is use of class 3" electric hand pallet trucks, he said.

"Since the class 3 is one of the more inexpensive options, this is a cost-effective solution to reduce injuries and increase production at the same time. Depending on capacity, units can sell from USD4,500. The majority of class 3 is now manufactured overseas and fewer US manufacturers are producing this type of unit."

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