On June 12, members of the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), which represents lift truck manufacturers and suppliers of associated parts and accessories, sponsored the fifth annual National Forklift Safety Day in Washington, D.C. The event provides an opportunity for the industry to educate customers, policymakers, and government officials about the safe use of forklifts and the importance of proper operator training.
The program featured speakers on a range of safety-related topics. Among the highlights:
Following the presentations, attendees headed to Capitol Hill for meetings with representatives, senators, and congressional staffers on forklift safety and international trade issues. At the top of their agenda: support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and opposition to punitive tariffs against Chinese products and on steel and aluminum.
According to ITA, the U.S. powered industrial truck industry annually exports more than $900 million of equipment to Canada and Mexico under NAFTA; its combined trade surplus with those countries reached more than $460 million in 2016. Eliminating NAFTA would lead Canadian and Mexican buyers to switch to powered industrial trucks from other countries, jeopardizing many of the 200,000 U.S. jobs supported by the forklift industry, ITA says.
The lift truck industry also is urging Congress and the White House not to impose tariffs on Chinese-made powered industrial trucks, which, like all foreign-manufactured lift trucks, enter the U.S. duty-free, and to instead focus on opposing tariffs imposed on U.S.-built lift trucks. The U.S. imported approximately $538 million of industrial trucks and parts from China in 2017; the 25-percent tariff on some Chinese-made forklifts and parts announced by the U.S. Department of Commerce would add an estimated $134 million to the cost of those items, according to Commerce Dept. statistics. If China imposes a retaliatory 25-percent tariff on top of its current 9-percent duty on U.S.-made industrial trucks, it would add $13 million to the $53 million of equipment bought from U.S. manufacturers in 2017. The recently imposed 25-percent tariff on steel imported from most countries is also adding considerably to lift truck makers' costs. That could force them to raise prices, negatively affecting sales and, by extension, potentially hurting U.S. jobs.