Health & Safety

New Cat lift trucks fight corrosion

By Robin Meczes

November 2011

Like a duck to water…

Water and grime can be a major problem for lift trucks in sectors like the fishery business – but a new range of electric counterbalanced lift trucks unveiled by Cat® Lift Trucks in October will help end users beat the threat they pose.

Robin Meczes finds out more.

The electric lift truck is a formidable working machine. But in some applications, its vulnerability to water and dirt – which can clog up vulnerable components like motors and brakes, interfere with electrics and help corrode the very body of the truck – has proved a significant problem for end users.

Nowhere is this problem greater than in the fishery business, where salt water, which will eat metal away completely given sufficient time, is brought in with the product, threatening to damage both external and internal components. It’s also a common issue at port terminals, where salty spray from waves permeates every corner of the working environment and you can taste the salt in the air.

Even without salt, of course, the presence of water is an issue. And that makes even unsalted water a problem in applications where trucks need thorough and regular washing, like the general food or chemicals industries. Such problems tend, where standard lift trucks are used, to lead to more frequent and more costly maintenance than would otherwise be necessary, increasing truck downtime and decreasing productivity. Ultimately, they can also mean a significantly reduced lifespan for the lift truck.

These issues have now been thoroughly addressed, however, with the launch in October of the new EP13-20(C)PN(T) range of electric counterbalanced trucks from Cat Lift Trucks.

“Even without salt, of course, the presence of water is an issue. And that makes even unsalted water a problem in applications where trucks need thorough and regular washing, like the general food or chemicals industries.”

Available in lift capacities of 1.3, 1.5, 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 tonnes across both three and fourwheel versions, the EP-PN trucks all come as standard with IPx4 splash resistance and IP54 sealed traction and hydraulic motors, as well as completely sealed wet disc brakes. These features make the new trucks highly resistant to harsh working environments and allow them to be thoroughly washed down, ensuring high levels of uptime and a normal truck lifespan.
On top of the standard water and dirt resistant features, the frame and mast on the new EP-PN range can also be galvanized, making it one of the most corrosion-resistant trucks around. Such features make the new trucks well suited to applications where water is a common part of the environment, says Marcel van der Winden, product manager for electric counterbalanced trucks at Cat Lift Trucks.

The wet disc brakes are a particularly useful feature of the new range, he suggests. As they are totally sealed, they completely resist any ingress of water or dirt and being maintenance-free also contribute to the EP-PN’s greatly extended service intervals of 1,000 hours (500 hours on previous models), helping to reduce total cost of ownership. Apart from all the water and dirt resistance, the new EP-PN range is a very well specified truck, points out Van der Winden, with electronic power steering, an advanced operator presence detection system called PDS+ that includes a ‘hill hold’ function, manager and driver confi gurable performance settings, automatic speed reduction on corners and an easily accessed, comfortable cabin with more floor space for drivers.

“The wet disc brakes are a particularly useful feature of the new range. As they are totally sealed, they completely resist any ingress of water or dirt and being maintenance-free also contribute to the EP-PN’s greatly extended service intervals of 1,000 hours (500 hours on previous models), helping to reduce total cost of ownership.”

The new EP-PN range also boasts a 12% reduction in typical energy consumption compared to older models and reduced noise levels, which at just 66dB(A) at the driver’s ear are among the quietest available anywhere. Long-lasting LED worklights have been fitted as standard, meanwhile, and the trucks can take either DIN or British Standard batteries, the latter providing enough additional capacity over DIN equivalents for around two hours’ extra work in an average application, says van der Winden.

Unsurprisingly, Cat lift trucks dealers and customers have reacted well to the launch of the new trucks. “Customers really like the styling and all the new features, which go a long way towards meeting the items on their wishlist,” says Van der Winden. That’s borne out by the experiences of Cat lift truck dealers. Rúnar Hjartar, sales manager for lift trucks and warehouse solutions at Klettur in Iceland, says customers there have reacted very well to the new range so far. “They’re very positive about it, both in terms of the new design and the wet disc brakes,” he confirms. Hjartar says he expects the fi shery sector – one of the largest industries in Iceland – to be a major customer for the new range and that the extended service intervals will be a particular gain for such customers. “Many fisheries trucks work about 2,000 hours a year, so instead of them having to service the truck four times a year, it’ll only be two times – a significant benefit,” he comments.

Danish dealer Rocla also reports an enthusiastic welcome for the new EP-PN. “We’ve had some very good conversations with a couple of firms, including one in the fishery sector,” says Rocla business manager, Einar Løfgren. “What we have from Cat Lift Trucks here is a very modern truck with some very good features that is very well suited to the type of challenges you see in the fishery industry.” “It seems the case that customers really like the features of this truck and feel the price level is very fair, compared to the competition,” he continues. “That certainly bodes well in these hard economic times.”

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“What we have from Cat Lift Trucks here is a very modern truck with some very good features that is very well suited to the type of challenges you see in the fishery industry.”

Applying the zinc

Optional galvanization of the new EP13-20(C)PN(T) trucks includes the frame, side panels, battery cover and floorplate as standard – in fact pretty much everything apart from the counterweight, according to Kasper Blankenzee, custom shop modification specialist at Cat Lift Trucks. Additionally, it is possible to water protect various parts of the mast and the fork carriage, including sideshift components and mast rollers.

Galvanization, which involves the application of a layer of zinc to corrosion-protect the base metal underneath, is undertaken for Cat Lift Trucks by a firm specialising in the process – Straalbedrijf Petersen, in Harderwijk, not far from the Cat Lift Trucks production line at Almere.

The process involves first sandblasting the truck and then flame-galvanizing it, before the paint is applied. Flame-galvanizing is used instead of electro-galvanizing as it requires less power and avoids the problem of quickly solidifying zinc building up in the nooks and crannies of the frame as it is lifted out of a zinc bath, explains Blankenzee. It also results in a rougher surface on the zinc which provides an excellent substrate for subsequent layers of paint.

The zinc coating should last the whole lifetime of the truck and although it adds to the costs – Van der Winden suggests a galvanized truck will be around 6% more expensive to buy – it will also extend the lifetime of the truck in corrosive environments and thus protect residual values.

In the long run, it’s actually the cheaper option,” says Van der Winden.

  1. The base metal
  2. Grid-blasted material
  3. Applied zinc coating
  4. Epoxy pre-coating
  5. Epoxy coating
  6. Finish coat

For more information about the EP13-20(C)PN(T) range, see www.catliftpower.com

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