Plant & Works Engineering
Fuelling a forklift fleet
Published:  14 October, 2014

When it comes to investing in a forklift truck, there are a lot of factors to consider. If it was as simple as comparing truck features, performance statistics, and of course prices, then operators would probably purchase them online. Keith Higginson, commercial marketing manager at Calor Gas Ltd highlights the benefits of LPG, which include a range of cost efficiencies, environmental improvements and productivity gains.

Forklift trucks are complex, application-specific products and should be chosen carefully to meet business and warehouse needs.

Selecting the right forklift truck can result in better warehouse productivity and lower operating costs, with less impact on the environment.

One of the main factors to consider when choosing a forklift truck is the source of fuel. The three most widely recognised fuel sources for forklift trucks are electric, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and weighing up the benefits of each needs careful consideration.

Cleaner burning

Independent testing carried out at the Millbrook Proving Ground found that forklifts fuelled by LPG produced 97% less particulate matter and 23% less CO2 compared to forklifts running on diesel when lifting a one-tonne load¹.

In addition, when fitted with a three-way catalyst, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide emissions were reduced to virtually zero2.

There is also no possibility of contamination from spillages because LPG vapourises, unlike diesel. This means a much cleaner and less hazardous working environment, as well as a reduction in carbon footprint.

Reduced particulate matter emissions also ensure that no soot marks or tainting of goods occurs inside the warehouse. The testing at Millbrook Proving Ground visibly demonstrated this reduction in particulate matter when operating an LPG powered truck compared to diesel; while there was hardly any trace on the LPG filters, heavy soot marks were deposited on the diesel filters.

In addition, performance is not affected by uneven surfaces and difficult terrain, meaning that LPG forklifts can be used both inside and outside of the warehouse, a scenario that often presents challenges for electric powered forklift trucks.

Quieter than diesel

Tests have demonstrated that LPG forklifts are up to 10 decibels (dB(A)) quieter than diesel3 forklifts. This can be of real benefit to operators located in built up areas where noise pollution levels must be kept to a minimum, particularly where forklifts are used extensively during the night or sites operating 24-hour shift patterns.

Round the clock operation

Larger forklift fleets can benefit from a bulk LPG tank installation where trucks are refuelled in a similar way to road vehicles, via a pump and nozzle.

Unlike electric forklifts that take time to recharge, fixed LPG fuel tanks can be fitted directly to trucks to reduce the frequency of downtime for refuelling. Tanks have 55 or 70 litre capacities compared to the 29-litre capacity of re-fillable cylinders and can operate 24 hours per day without losing power.

All Calor customers are offered free health and safety training on forklift refuelling; a course that is accredited and approved by RTITB, the largest forklift truck training accrediting body in the UK and Ireland, and recognised by the HSE.

Fuel availability is also a key concern for fleet operators. With Calor, bulk customers benefit from a telemetry system, known as Think Tank, which monitors the amount of fuel remaining in the tank and immediately notifies Calor when a delivery is due.

Customers operating small fleets with LPG cylinders can receive local ‘milk round‘ deliveries from the nearest Calor supplier.

Driving environmental improvements at Marshalls

A previous example of how LPG forklift trucks can help companies improve their carbon footprint is at Marshalls, a leading manufacturer of landscaping products, which took the decision to convert its fleet of 50 forklift trucks from a mixture of diesel and electric power to LPG supplied by Calor, resulting in both environmental and cost savings.

Environmental best practice

Established in the late 1880s, Marshalls is the UK’s leading manufacturer of superior natural stone and innovative concrete hard landscaping products, supplying the construction, home improvement and landscape markets.

As well as operating its own quarries and manufacturing sites, the group also runs service centres and offices throughout the UK. The company is committed to the highest quality practices, including environmental best practice, and aims to achieve the highest possible environmental performance, minimising the impact of its operations.

Switching to LPG

The decision to switch from a mixed fleet of diesel and electric powered forklift trucks to an LPG fleet was initially based on the environmental savings demonstrated by Calor. LPG offers significantly fewer carbon emissions than diesel and eliminates the need to have electric batteries on charge, 24 hours a day.

However, Marshalls soon learnt that there were other benefits to using LPG besides environmental savings, including cost reductions and increased flexibility of the fleet. As the company is no longer charging batteries, it has seen electricity consumption dramatically decrease and LPG fuelled trucks cost less to operate than electric.

Marshalls is also able to use the same trucks inside the production facility that it uses outside when loading and unloading deliveries. With the original mixed fleet, it had to keep the diesel trucks outside as they were too dirty to use inside, whilst the electric trucks were only used inside.

Benefits of LPG

Marshalls now operates a fleet of 50, LPG powered Linde trucks at its West Lane site, each fitted with a fixed fuel tank. Available with 55 or 70 litre capacities, fixed fuel tanks require fewer refuelling stops – helping to reduce downtime and labour costs whilst increasing productivity.

The LPG forklifts can be quickly refuelled from a bulk tank allowing round-the-clock operation. As well as saving time on refuelling, running a fleet on LPG can save valuable storage space with no need for a separate area devoted to battery charging.

For further information

1. Results confirmed during testing at Millbrook Proving Ground, October 2010, Report No. MBK 10/1034

2. Results confirmed during testing at Millbrook Proving Ground, March 2000, Report No. MBK 00/0373

3. Results confirmed during testing at Millbrook Proving Ground, August 2010, Report No. MBK 10/1442