If there's one type of material handling equipment that could be called "global," it's the forklift truck. You can find them in warehouses, supermarkets, and logistics and transportation facilities just about anywhere in the world. But when it comes to the particular style of truck, there is no "universal" forklift: A model can be a best-seller in one region and a bust in another.
Take the Class IV cushion tire, internal combustion (IC) engine counterbalanced truck, for example. These models are used primarily in North America, according to Martin Boyd, vice president of product planning and marketing for Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc. That's because they're best suited to indoor applications, where there's little worry about operator discomfort or damage to the cushion tires.
In Japan, by contrast, Class V trucks with pneumatic tires are the norm—and for an interesting reason, as Boyd explained during a recent interview. Instead of driving directly from a dock into the back of a trailer, as drivers typically do in North America, Japanese operators almost always load trailers outdoors. Because of that, pneumatic tire models are a better fit than their cushion tire counterparts. They provide a more comfortable ride over uneven, bumpy surfaces, and the tires can better withstand the wear and tear of outdoor use. Incidentally, most Japanese trailers open from the side, with fold-up "clamshell" sides.
Mexican buyers also prefer pneumatic tire IC trucks because of the loading conditions typically encountered in that country. In Eastern Europe, customers are increasingly buying low-cost, very basic models, Boyd said. Many of them are produced by Chinese manufacturers that are specifically targeting that region's low-volume, one-shift operations, he added.