The North American forklift truck industry set an all-time sales record in 2017 with 253,146 units sold, the first time in the industry's history that it surpassed a quarter of a million of units sold in one year, the Industrial Truck Association (ITA) said yesterday.
The previous record was set in 2016 with more than 231,000 units sold. Sales last year increased by 9.5 percent over 2016, and 12.2 percent over 2015 levels.
Following a pattern of recent years, electric-powered trucks accounted for the bulk of the sales last year with 64 percent of the market, according to ITA data. All truck classes posted sales increases over 2016, including a 19-percent growth in Class V trucks powered by internal combustion engines, ITA said. Environmental concerns have been a key factor behind the sales of electric trucks exceeding sales of equipment powered by internal combustion.
The 2017 sales numbers "exceeded most industry expectations," said ITA President Brian Feehan in a statement. E-commerce growth, technological advancements, and improving U.S. and global economies contributed to the strong sales figures, Feehan said.
"This growth reflects the health and stability of the lift truck manufacturing industry," said Scott Johnson, ITA chairman and vice president of marketing and sales for Clark Material Handling Co., in the same statement.
A January 2017 report from research firm Allied Market research forecast the global forklift market to hit $51 billion by 2022, a 6.6-percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), due to hot demand in the Asia-Pacific region and an increase in warehouse space dedicated to the global automotive and food industries.
In a related development, ITA came out in support of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the 23-year-old treaty between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico that is being re-negotiated amid threats by the Trump administration to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement because it creates an un-level playing field with Canada and Mexico.
ITA said that U.S. forklift companies export $900 million a year duty free to Canada and Mexico, resulting in a $400 million trade surplus. U.S. forklift markers have recorded a $6 billion trade surplus with the nation's two North American trading partners over the last 10 years, ITA said.
Feehan affirmed prior comments from many U.S. companies and trade groups that while NAFTA could stand updating and improvement, withdrawing from it would inflict significant damage on U.S.-based makers of forklift equipment.
"Without NAFTA, these products would face substantial tariffs, putting them at a competitive disadvantage with manufacturers from other countries that enjoy duty free status," said Feehan in a separate statement. "The $900 million (dollars) of products shipped to Canada and Mexico are built right here—in places like Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, and many more U.S. cities."