Understanding and reducing your unplanned maintenance cost. Part II

Forklifts need maintenance and servicing. As a scheduled, regular, not to mention legally required event, it represents a cost that’s generally taken into account. Far less predictable and decidedly more hurtful for any budget or bottom line are the costs of unplanned servicing. An expense that might never 100% avoidable, but can definitely be reduced. Significantly so.

Things break. 

With forklifts a survey shows it’s mostly leaking fittings and tubing, corroded wiring, dead batteries, busted lights and horns. Especially when worked hard, servicing and repairs are inevitable. That’s what your planned maintenance is for. 

Alas too often there’s also a different kind of servicing. The unplanned, difficult-to-budget-for kind. And in most cases, it’s both more expensive as well as much less inevitable. 

Outdated planned maintenance 

New forklift generally need less and less frequent maintenance than older ones. A forklift that suddenly works double the hours or has an extremely variable active/idle schedule merits a servicing program that’s built on hours worked rather than on fixed dates. You might cancel maintenance for a vehicle put out of circulation for an extended period of time, but know that when brought back in active duty, service is definitely recommended.

Sleeping on the intervals

However strict, dynamic and generous your servicing programming might be, a forklift may need weekly (or even daily) maintenance routines. These can vary from simple lubrication of certain parts, watering the batteries to checking tire pressure. And do not underestimate the benefits of cleaning, especially (but not exclusively) when operating in harsh, potentially corrosive circumstances. 

Ignoring the early warning

Even with the next scheduled servicing still weeks away, there might be signs that want to make you move that date up. Is the machine ‘running rough’? Is the lift slower than normal or do you notice a stutter? Does it take more than one attempt to start? Is the steering looser than it used to be? Does the parking brake?  Sure, this constitutes an unplanned maintenance with an accompanying unforeseen cost. But it will save you a considerable higher invoice when postponed.  

Slow or no response

Linked to the previous point but more centered around a proper and timely follow up. This is where the operator notices a potential need for maintenance, report it, but nothing happens or he’s told to ignore it and push through. The reasons may be understandable but are mostly motivated by short term necessities … coming at an all too soon term financial bloodletting. Replacing a simple pedal-pad may seem trivial, until a driver foot slips of the brake. And in a way, an awareness and correct response from ‘higher up’ carries on nicely into the next cause. 

Cowboy behavior: a critical cause for unplanned maintenance

Speeding, unnecessary accelerating, breaking and turning. Reckless loading dock/leveler maneuvers.  Cowboy, or better: undisciplined operator behavior not only makes for a higher energy consumption. It is unsafe and not regarding the increased chance of costly accidents, it leads to some of the direst, while at the same time, most avoidable maintenance costs. 


It’s one thing to convince forklift operators to reduce their speed when they are driving across an uneven. It’s quite another when that bumpiness consists potholes, grooves, rails, etc., that could be repaired or altered to provide a smooth, forklift-friendly floor. Same goes for spaces that are too narrow or low for safe and comfortable driving. Also: the strongest loading bay discipline of a forklift driver is largely negated when the loading ramp or leveler can’t reduce surface level differences enough, or isn’t operated as good as it should. 

Going above, beyond and off track

Exceeding the maximum load weight or disregarding other specific machine limits is a surefire way to damage a multitude of forklift parts. Another well documented accelerant for wear and tear on the different vehicle systems is using the wrong accessories and/or using them in an inappropriate manner. 

Interested in a better understanding of planned and unplanned forklift maintenance costs and how to lower them? Check out part I and III

Leave a Reply