How healthy is your fleet this winter? Some forklifts can experience a 25-50% decrease in cycle times during cold weather. But, with proper battery monitoring and following simple maintenance precautions, all forklifts can have a healthy and productive season.
The challenges of cold weather
There are several ways that fleet operations can be slightly more challenging during the winter thanks to harsher temperatures, ice and snow. It all depends on the enterprise, of course, and how much the fleet is exposed to changing conditions . But there are several things that all managers should look out for.
- The cold impacts a battery’s electrolyte, causing it to thicken and struggle to achieve the chemical reaction needed to power the forklift. Battery life maybe shorter.
- Even forklifts powered by LP fuel can be affected when the engine battery is weakened.
- Cold temperatures can require more fuel to operate gas and diesel forklifts.
- Condensation can form inside of a fuel tank if it is low on fuel, causing the vehicle to sputter or stall.
- Freezing temperatures thicken the oil — sometimes to the thickness of honey — in all types of forklifts. This lowers the amps and causes all hydraulic-powered functions to slow down.
- For forklifts operating in warm and cold areas, extreme changes in temperature can cause condensation to form on the forklift. This is caused by the difference in humidity between the two environments, and commonly seen with cold storage forklifts that move between dryer cold storage and a warm warehouse.
- Snow, ice or freezing rain can create slippery surfaces outdoors and on loading bays.
- Just like driving a car in winter, heavy forklifts can slide easily down icy embankments. Lift truck operators must be trained in winter driving conditions.
- Speed is the number one reason cold weather can impact safety. Speed limits should be enforced in any location affected by the weather or icing.
Four cold-weather precautions for forklifts
These few precautions can protect your fleet and its operators from the impact of winter weather.
- Make sure the batteries are holding a charge properly. Battery-monitoring technology can show a battery’s discharge, temperature, voltage and amperage — providing real-time alerts and warnings while in use.
- Make sure operators complete safety checks by using a telematics system that locks the vehicle if the checklist is not successfully completed. Ensure all of the vehicle’s primary operating systems are operating appropriately.
- Make sure the water-to-coolant ratio is correct to prevent radiator issues — or, worse, cracked blocks.
- Monitor operator behavior, winter driving skills, and adherence to speed limits. Identify drivers in need of more training.
Cold weather can wreak havoc on your forklifts — and the batteries that power them — if they aren’t being properly maintained. By deploying an advanced telematics system, you can ensure you're taking cold-weather precautions that will protect the fleet and its operators.