Nearly 60,000 propane-powered forklifts were sold in the U.S. last year, making up a significant share of the forklift market. Propane is a clean, American-made fuel with very low emissions, making propane forklifts safe for indoor and outdoor operations. As with all forklifts, however, there are certain steps forklift fleets can take in order to ensure continued safe operation.
Step 1: Practice Preventative Maintenance
Preventative maintenance is designed to preserve equipment reliability by replacing worn components before they fail. It’s recommended that propane forklifts receive filter and lube service at least every 1,000 hours or every four months — whichever comes first. Jeremy Wishart, deputy director of business development for the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), recommends lift truck fleet managers consult with their equipment manufacturer for specific service intervals, as recommendations may vary.
“Preventative maintenance is less expensive than a service call and can be scheduled around off-peak hours of business operation,” Wishart says. “Servicing forklifts before any issues arise ensures minor problems will be caught before they become more extensive and costly.”
Step 2: Prepare the Repair Facility
Safety is an important consideration for any repair facility, and facilities servicing alternative fuel equipment are no exception. Forklift fleet managers should review the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Code 58 for information on fuel storage and garaging procedures with propane-powered equipment.
“Propane has similar requirements when compared with gasoline, so facilities that are compliant with conventional fuel codes can often accommodate propane-powered equipment without modifications for ventilation, gas detection, or electrical requirements,” says Wishart. “That’s not the case with all alternative fuels, so it’s important to know the requirements for equipment up front.”
When servicing and repairing propane-powered machinery, the work should be performed in the lowest point of the facility and the tank supply should be shut off when possible.
Step 3: Handle the Fuel Safely
Propane is a safe and versatile fuel when handled properly. PERC reminds forklift fleet managers to visually inspect cylinders and mounting brackets for any damage before refilling a propane tank. Also, make sure the tank is mounted properly and that the mounting pin is engaged on a regular basis. If there is a problem, Wishart recommends leaving repairs to a professional.
“Don’t try to modify or repair valves, regulators, or other cylinder parts,” says Wishart. “Always call a propane provider or qualified service technician for assistance if there’s ever any uncertainty.”
A few small steps can ensure the safe and easy operation of propane-powered forklifts and their components. Spending a few minutes up front diagnosing small issues can often prevent unnecessary costs and larger problems further down the road.