With winter in full force, successfully run warehouses know the importance of taking a few basic steps to prevent any unnecessary downtime or expense in order to keep their forklift fleet running in the extreme cold. While it may sound obvious, forklifts are heave and ice is slippery. Outdoor areas where forklifts operate should be kept as ice-free as possible with drivers taking appropriate care to drive safe. Three tons of sliding forklift hitting something or someone can result in serious injury, even death. Here are some steps to take if your crew is operating forklifts in regions experiencing extreme cold temperatures.
When it comes to the extreme cold, forklift batteries are not much different than car batteries. When it’s cold batteries have less capacity. Engine trucks often have trouble starting and electric trucks go flat more quickly. Give your forklifts a break and keep them indoors, overnight if possible with background heating on. For engine trucks you’ll want to make sure coolant systems have a suitable concentration of anti-freeze. Use a hydrometer (anti-freeze tester) to check anti-freeze concentration. Remember that many anti-freeze formulations might appear weak or clear since modern anti-freeze isn’t as strongly dyed as it once was. With the correct concentration of anti-freeze in your forklifts, you’re less likely to experience problems with fleet engines seizing up.
If you have diesel forklifts in your fleet, you’ll want to take measures to prevent diesel waxing. Diesel waxing occurs when the heavier components of the diesel fuel start to freeze at lower temperatures. To prevent diesel waxing store fuel supplies indoors in a heated environment as well as any of your unused trucks. More importantly, use fresh red diesel, a thinner winter formulation, which allows diesel forklifts to stand much lower temperatures before waxing. The problem with using the thicker summer diesel is that waxing occurs around 23 degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures in the Midwest have dipped much lower than that this winter. With regular maintenance and fuel filter replacement your forklifts are less likely to experience mild waxing that can result in a fuel blockage and breakdown.
If you have gas forklift trucks, it’s best to warm the engine for several minutes after starting them up. Avoid stopping and starting gas forklift trucks for short periods in cold weather. In cold foggy weather revving a cold gas/LPG truck can result in the LPG vaporizer under the hood to block up with frost. When this happens the forklift will run normally for a short time but stop running or not start again due to fuel starvation. Unfortunately, this situation won’t resolve itself in below freezing temperatures. You’ll need a mechanic’s attention.
Finally, a warm driver is a happy driver. Cold drivers are unhappy drivers who can’t work efficiently which often results in damage due to worker fatigue. Drivers should be dressed for the weather. Forklifts that are used extensively outdoors should be fitted with cabs. Especially those operated in extreme cold temperatures.