Just as material handlers have always wanted to be sure equipment was safe for employees, they increasingly want equipment that is safe for the environment. New sustainable products and practices come on line all the time, often at the request of customers. YRC Worldwide began its “sustainability journey about eight years ago after dialogue with customers highlighted mutual interests we had about the environment. We then joined with the American Trucking Associations to draft an industry set of principles regarding environmental sustainability,” said Mike Kelley, chief sustainability officer for YRC Worldwide. “We just started our first natural gas pilot project with several LNG trucks in California. We’re eager to see how this technology performs within our network. Also, our 3rd annual Destination Green employee awards are now open for nominations and will be awarded on Earth Day. This award recognizes environmental excellence by employees. “We view our business through what we call the “S” quadrant. The foundation
“Sustainability is becoming a part of corporate culture just like safety, service and security have been embedded deeply in trucking companies for decades,” Kelley said. “This cultural shift to highlight sustainability will be the foundation for continuous improvements in emissions reduction by the industry. It’s not a novelty anymore but a good business practice in which our stakeholders have shown great interest.”
In material handling, reducing the raw materials that go into lift trucks and other equipment, reducing the amount of energy it takes to run them, reducing emissions, reusing (or prolonging the life of a battery) and having less material to recycle at the end of a truck’s life also reduce costs. Jim Keyser, general manager of Ecotec LTD, compares his company’s high frequency charger to new digital televisions. “About 20 years ago, televisions had a lot of tubes and were big and heavy. Now it’s all electronic. The same is true of charges. Old chargers were made of steel, copper and solder. Our charger uses very little copper and steel. It uses fewer raw materials. It’s lighter, physically smaller and costs less to ship.” Ecotec is a wholly owned subsidiary of Micropower, a Swedish manufacturer of battery chargers. It is located in Piqua, Ohio. Ecotec’s high-frequency charger is “more efficient, uses less electricity, which uses less oil and creates less carbon,” Keyser said.
Many energy companies offer rebates to users who replace inefficient equipment such as chargers with more energy efficient equipment, Keyser said. Some buyers might get half the cost of the charger back in rebates, and Ecotec will help buyers with the application process. The charger is flexible and can charge lithium batteries as well, if that technology becomes more common. “Lead acid is still probably the overall best. The energy per pound is very good. Electricity in general is still one of the most cost effective energy sources. The good old lead acid battery with an energy efficient charger is still a very efficient way to run lift trucks,” Keyser said.
But research into possible alternatives goes on.
“Yale supports the adoptions of greener technologies through engineering collaboration, analyses and extensive internal and field validation testing,” said Bill Pfleger, president of Yale Distribution. “Currently, the company is investigating advanced, more efficient battery chemistries and technologies to reduce energy consumption and carbon impact, increase productivity and reduce toxic material content. It’s not enough to simply provide no-emission lift trucks. Battery-powered lift trucks consume energy at different levels, and we are working to make them more energy efficient. Our commitment to these initiatives is reinforced through our participation in developing industry standards to adopt these greener technologies safely and reliably,” Pfleger said. “An operation shouldn’t have to choose between productivity and environmental consciousness. Starting with the design stage, Yale actively selects materials used in its lift trucks with recyclability in mind,” Pfleger said.
“Even in the manufacture of its lift trucks, all of Yale’s Americas and European manufacturing facilities have achieved ISO 14001 registration, a globally accepted blueprint for an environmental management system. It includes requirements for developing an environmental policy, assessing environmental impacts of products and processes, developing environmental goals and measurable objectives, implementation of initiatives to meet objectives, auditing, corrective action and management review. Each of our locations closely tracks environmental and safety performance and sets objectives each year to drive continual improvement as an integral part of our business plan,” Pfleger said.
At Hyster, “innovative engineering to reduce energy consumption includes weight reduction, drive train efficiency and hydraulic efficiency,” said Jonathan Dawley, president of Hyster Distribution. Some trucks have settings that allow the user to prioritize energy economy over maximum productivity when practical. At ProMat, Hyster introduced an EPA Tier 4 compliant engine. “This new engine demonstrates our desire to provide near-zero emission engines and is fueled by our commitment to our customers to provide a truck that meets their application needs, as well as EPA emissions requirements. Hyster is providing rugged lift trucks that get tough on their application, but stay soft on the environment,” Dawley said. Customers want and need efficient trucks with reduced emissions and fuel consumption. Hyster asks for customer feedback during its development process. At test facilities, prototypes are put through the equivalent of years of operation while still in the development stage. “Greater efficiency means less waste of resources throughout the design, manufacture and use of a lift truck,” Dawley said.
Mary Glindinning is a freelance writer who has worked at daily and weekly newspapers for more than 20 years. She lives in rural Shullsburg, Wis. E-mail email@example.com to contact Mary.