Don't overlook your forks in maintenance inspection

If you’re not inspecting your forks at least every 12 months, you are not in compliance with ASME/ANSI B56.1-2000.


During regularly scheduled maintenance checks, there is an exhaustive list of things to inspect. Each component should be thoroughly examined. Ignoring the condition of the forks on your lift trucks can cost you time and money.

If you’re not inspecting your forks at least every 12 months, you are not in compliance with ASME/ANSI B56.1-2000. This could result in unsafe operation of a lift truck that results in lost loads or serious personal injury to your employees.

Lift truck forks are often mistreated and forgotten. Forks last a long time if treated properly. Here are a few examples of how lift truck forks can show damage:

  • Surface cracks: These can be determined by visual inspection or subjected to a “nondestructive” crack detection process. The forks should never be returned to service if surface cracks are detected.
  • Bent blade or shank: If deviation from straightness exceeds 0.5% of the length of the blade or height of the shank, the fork should never be returned to service.
  • Fork angle: Any fork with a deviation of greater than 3 degrees from the original specification should never be returned to service.
  • Difference in fork height of fork tips: If the difference in tip heights exceeds 3 percent of the length of the blade, the set of forks should never be returned to service.
  • Wear of fork blade and shank: If the thickness is reduced to 90% of the original thickness, the fork should never be returned to service.
  • Wear of fork hooks: If there is substantial wear to an extent that the clearance between the fork and the fork carrier becomes excessive, the fork should never be returned to service.

Also, worn forks can reduce the capacity of the lift truck. The Industrial Truck Association recommends that forks be withdrawn from service when the fork blade’s thickness has been reduced by 10%; however, few users understand that a 10% reduction in blade thickness results in capacity reduction of 20%. This translates to a 20% reduction in the safety factor of the pair of forks.

You have a number of options when choosing a service provider for your warehouse lift truck equipment. Maintenance and items such as fork inspections should be performed by the manufacturer or an expert of equal competence. Look for a plan that ensures each and every truck on your agreement receives a thorough inspection, from fork to counterweight, to help ensure little problems do not turn into big, expensive ones.

It takes the right combination of products, application knowledge, fleet planning, financing options, and service support. All of these factors add up to low cost of ownership over the product’s lifetime.

- Lou Micheletto is warehouse products manager for Yale Materials Handling Corporation

Optimize your fleet: 10 best practices

    1. Understand your asset mix: Using the wrong truck for your application needs can result in a greater chance of downtime.

    2. Seek out opportunities to consolidate service providers: Most large material handling service providers are capable/qualified to work on multiple types and makes of assets. Rationalizing service providers can help you leverage your purchasing power, gain more consistency, and reduce costs through actions such as consolidated service calls.

    3. Establish an enterprise-wide mindset when it comes to fleet optimization: When considering utilization and asset right-sizing opportunities, consider shifting assets from site to site where practical to balance equipment utilization. Balancing your utilization will improve uptime, help to compress maintenance spend, and ensure that you optimize the value and usefulness of the asset for its full economic life.

    4. Implement a dynamic replacement program: A sound replacement program identifies the specific break-even point where the maintenance costs of the asset will begin to exceed the ownership costs. It is at this point that it will be more economical to replace the asset. Numerous factors drive this decision, including the severity of the application, rate of usage, type of truck, and the type of maintenance it receives.

    5. Have a maintenance program in place: At a minimum, you should have a periodic maintenance program established that ensures all critical areas of the truck are maintained to manufacturer recommendations and specifications.

    6. Know your maintenance costs: You cannot manage what you do not measure. Having good baseline data is the first step toward understanding your real maintenance spend. This enables you to set specific goals for cost reduction.

    7. Leverage technology where practical: Telemetry solutions that deliver a number of benefits are becoming more affordable. While there are upfront costs involved, the simplest of solutions can track true utilization in real time, help you manage operator accountability, and provide accurate data to monitor maintenance spend.

    8. Don’t turn a blind eye to avoidable damage: In many environments avoidable damage associated with operator abuse can be as much as 25% to 35% of the total cost to maintain the lift truck. Often an operator training program or review of processes will reveal corrective action opportunities to reduce these costs.

    9. Aged assets and downtime: Not only will the maintenance spend increase as the asset ages, but factors such as parts obsolescence and increased opportunity for major repairs can contribute to significant downtime resulting in lost productivity. This is an often overlooked factor.

    10. Consider partnering for competitive advantage: A quality fleet management provider can work as an extension of your operation to address and provide recommendations. Additionally, a quality fleet management provider can perform work order review and assessment, as well as help you compress administrative costs through providing centralized service.


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