Ross Grassick contends that many Australian forklift users still fail to appreciate the benefits of a proper servicing schedule.
The forklift tends to be the forgotten worker in many businesses. The site cannot work without one, yet it needs to break down before it gets attention.
This is plainly a bizarre situation. No company operator would question the benefits of keeping up the logbook servicing on their company car. So why would they not recognise the benefits of preventive maintenance for a forklift?
Australian Standards has a classification document for forklifts, which includes the following:
“6.1 SERVICING. Industrial trucks shall be periodically inspected, serviced and maintained by competent and responsible personnel authorised by the user. This work should be carried out in accordance with published recommendations of the manufacturer. Industrial trucks powered by an LP gas engine shall also be inspected in accordance with AS 1425.”
So, while there is no legal mandate to have your car serviced, it appears that forklift servicing is required by Australian Standards. But what sort of servicing?
Each manufacturer has different timeframes and to-do lists in their units’ servicing requirements, and this information can be found in the operator’s manual of each forklift. However, the average interval would be 250 hours for a standard service, with a major service every 1000 hours.
In more than 40 years of running fleets of forklifts we have found that preventive maintenance saves money. Many small problems become major issues simply because one small part was not lubricated, adjusted or replaced in a minor service.
At the same time as the oil is being changed the technician has a number of checks to make to ensure that the unit is working correctly and that it meets the necessary safety standards.
As an example, the radiator of an internal combustion forklift can easily become blocked with dust and fibre from the workplace, and as a result the unit might run in an overheated state for some months. The only thing the operator would see is the temperature gauge running a little higher.
However, the unit will be subject to increased engine wear, increased fuel consumption and deterioration of the hoses. Then a day will come when the radiator is blocked completely causing the engine to overheat and the need for a service call and maybe replacement radiator or more.
The radiator would have been cleaned as a part of a minor service and the cost avoided. There would also be less lost production time as a service takes much less time than a breakdown.
The major service changes coolant and transmission oils and checks the brakes. This is particularly important as in many work environments units are worked very hard, and without these changes and checks the units will have increased wear and even major safety issues.
We did have one customer that refused to allow for the 1000-hour service as the cost was a lot more due to time required and the extra oils. Eventually, we got a call to say that the unit had broken down. Our technician attended the unit and found the brake shoe had worn through the brake drum and would not allow the wheel to turn.
The cost to repair the unit in this case was four times the cost of what the major services he missed – including the replacement of the brake shoes in one of those services.
A good rule of thumb is to service every 200-250 hours, and in low usage operations to arrange a six monthly safety check. Then, every 1000 hours be sure to have the major service carried out.
This will keep the unit in a reliable and safe operating condition.
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