IT SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE that Chuck Moratz is a member of the Industrial Truck Association’s (ITA) engineering subcommittee. The National Forklift Safety Day 2020 chair has been immersed in that profession since he was a teenager. As a West Point cadet, he majored in mechanical engineering. After graduating from West Point, he spent five years as an officer in the U.S. Army, specializing in field artillery. His assignments included stints at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, in South Korea, and finally at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, where he was involved in testing such critical fighting equipment as the Abrams tank. He then worked as an engineer in the aerospace and defense industry, with a focus on quality, reliability, and safety of products and systems for the U.S. military.
His experience with equipment design and quality translated well to the material handling sector, where Moratz found a home, so to speak. “I joined Clark Material Handling USA 25 years ago and have been with Clark ever since,” he says.
Today, he is Clark’s senior vice president of manufacturing and engineering, with responsibilities in North America and for Clark globally. In North America, he oversees engineering and product design and support; manufacturing, including purchasing, materials control, and quality; and technical parts and service. In his global role, he coordinates with his company’s engineering staff in Germany, South Korea, Vietnam, and China. He also acts as the North American engineering representative to Clark’s regional operating groups.
DC Velocity spoke with Moratz about his background and the importance of forklift safety on National Forklift Safety Day and every day. Here’s what he had to say.
Q: Is there anything you especially like or find interesting about the industrial truck industry?
A: While it’s difficult for me to single out any particular aspect of our industry, since I think it’s all fascinating, I’d say the diversity of what we do is very interesting. What’s fascinating to me are all the different applications of forklifts and how they’re used. Every industry uses forklifts in some way, and in my position, I’m able to visit customers throughout North America to observe firsthand their different manufacturing and material handling processes and the various ways they’re using their forklifts.
When Clark develops a new model, we have to know the main industry that will use it as well as the peripheral industries where it will have applications. For instance, any model has a certain power type—diesel, propane, or electric—with a specific capacity range. Generally, each of those models has one or more major applications where it’s commonly used. For example, lumberyards primarily use 8,000-pound pneumatic trucks, but food handlers use almost all electrics.
When designing a forklift, you have to look at how operators will actually be using it. If operators were to always use a forklift in a specific, prescribed manner, then it’s pretty straightforward. But we know this isn’t always the case. As manufacturers, we strive to take into consideration different ways that the forklift could get used, including possible improper use. Designing safety into our trucks is what we all try to achieve.
Q: How will your professional background help you contribute to ITA’s efforts to promote forklift safety?
A: I spent 12 years in the aerospace and defense industry, where my specialty was the reliability, serviceability, and safety of products and systems for Air Force fighters and bombers, and sonar for submarines and surface warfare. Safety was always the highest priority in that world. At Clark, safety has always been the highest priority as well. That, together with my background, means I fit right in. Also, in my role at Clark, I see forklift-safety initiatives in other countries. For example, Australian guidelines require speed limiting on forklifts, and in Europe, manufacturers are doing a lot of novel things, especially in forklift automation. I’m not unique in having this kind of international view, though. That’s true for many people in this industry.
Through working with my colleagues from the other ITA companies, I have come to appreciate the ITA’s efforts toward the promotion of safety in our industry, and I look forward to continuing the ITA’s safety efforts. I’m also involved in ITA’s engineering subcommittee, which is very actively looking at things like lithium-ion batteries and new technology and automation implementation in forklifts. Those are things that have a direct impact on forklift safety.
Q: This year marks the seventh annual National Forklift Safety Day. Is there anything new on the agenda?
A: We plan to diversify the type of guest speakers we have at the main event. For example, we would like to have a representative from the academic world talking about safety programs, and possibly a representative from the end-user community who would share their company’s safety programs with us. I think that when you have more people with different backgrounds looking at forklift safety, you get different insights, with safety being enhanced by those perspectives.
Q: What’s the main message you would like DC Velocity’s readers to take away from national forklift safety day?
A: Never take forklift safety for granted. As soon as you do, you can lose your focus. Safety is something you have to think about every single day, every hour, every shift.
Operator training is the backbone of any safety program, and ITA does a great job of promoting that. Fleet and facility managers should recognize that the people who operate forklifts need constant reminders to operate their equipment properly and safely.