Nine Ways to Reduce Forklift Downtime

Updated: Nov 14, 2019


One of the easiest ways to track the performance of your forklift is to keep a detailed record of each unit. By analyzing each unit based on their performance profile, you’ll be able to accurately assess their condition. This in turn will help you determine when a forklift has lived beyond its usable lifespan.

The best practice is to keep a separate record for each forklift used in your operation. In this record, you’ll be keeping vital statistics. These stats include the purchase/lease price, date obtained, brand, model number, and serial number. Each of these statistics are static and do not change over the course of ownership, so record these right away. Next, add the dates of all Planned Maintenance (PM) checkups and what has been repaired by a technician. You will typically receive a report sheet after every PM. Store these sheets in the truck’s records for future reference. This will allow you to track repair trends, damage, and the overall condition of your forklift.

In addition to maintenance, you’ll also want to keep track of engine hours. This way, you’ll know how much the forklift is actually being used. To track this, ensure that every forklift in your operation has a functioning hour meter installed.


Did you know that there are more than 1 million forklifts on the job across North America? Of these 1 million trucks, nearly 50% of them are negatively impacting the bottom line of their operation. This is largely due to continuing to operate them beyond their usable life.

To ensure your fleet isn’t draining your budget, you need to know what each forklift’s ownership and maintenance costs are. To determine this, you’ll need to reference your records and perform a few calculations.

First, you need to determine your ownership cost for each unit. This is the difference between the delivered cost and its residual value when traded in. Let’s say that a forklift costs $15,000, is four years old, and has 8,500 hours on it. These stats result in a trade-in value of $6,000. Now, subtract this value from the delivered cost ($15,000) to get the ownership cost. This results in a total ownership cost of $9,000. Finally, divide this cost by the total engine hours (8,500). By following these steps, you’ll see that your forklift costs roughly $1.06/hour to run.

Next, you’ll want to determine your cumulative maintenance costs. This amount is derived from the total dollars spent on maintenance and parts from the date of purchase. Let’s say that the forklift above has maintenance costs of $8,800 over four years. You’ll want to divide this amount by the total engine hours (8,500) to determine your maintenance costs. The result is $1.04/hour to maintain your forklift.

Once these amounts have been calculated, add them together. In the example above, the forklift costs $2.10/hour to operate. It’s important to know and understand the exact amount you spend on your hourly operation. This will allow you to know when it’s time to replace your existing forklifts with newer models.


Most operations tend to simply replace their forklifts once they reach a certain age, varying by application. This age can range anywhere from 3 to 7 years.

Unfortunately, this policy is rarely ideal for maximizing value and ROI. Sticking to a set time period may result in you replacing units too early or too late. Both of these scenarios result in lost value. An accurate performance profile based on detailed records is the best way to determine when it’s time to replace your forklift.

The most cost-effective time to replace a forklift is at its lowest total cost point. This is also called the economic break-even point. After this point, maintenance costs rise. As a result, you may end up spending more than necessary to keep that forklift in operation. It should be noted that this doesn’t include lost productivity and the cost of downtime while the forklift is being repaired. This means that you may be losing even more revenue than just service costs. See the chart below for a visual reference of a forklift’s economic lifespan.
Chat showing the best time to sell a forklift


When performing an on-site assessment, we often find that the forklifts being used don’t match the jobs they’re expected to perform. This tends to occur as a result of your business and material handling needs changing over time. For example, you might have been carrying short loads of lumber a few years ago but are now hauling longer loads. This can result in excess strain on your equipment, increasing downtime and the risk of safety incidents.

To maximize productivity, value and safety, forklifts need to match the application you’re currently performing. Failure to properly match the two can result in an overtaxed forklift or overspending for a unit that’s too powerful. You could potentially even be spending too much for a unit that isn’t being used enough, also known as underutilized equipment. A common cause for this issue is having too many units in your fleet.

By having us perform an in-depth assessment, we can determine the optimal equipment for your application. This ensures that you’re running the correct number of forklifts, while matching the correct models to task at hand. If you haven’t had an assessment performed in the past three years, contact our team today! The assessment is available at no cost or obligation.


Would you operate a brand new car for 2-3 years without performing any maintenance? To keep your car running well, and to keep it in line with warranty requirements, maintenance must be performed. This planned maintenance includes tasks like oil changes, filter replacements, and battery inspections. By adhering to the recommended maintenance schedule, your car will continue to run smoothly in the future.

The same is true with forklifts! By following a regular planned maintenance routine, you’ll drastically reduce downtime and operating costs. This maintenance will help you catch minor flaws before they turn into significant and costly repairs. Don’t have a technician on hand? Ask about our comprehensive fleet management programs today! Our team will keep your equipment maintained, allowing you to focus on other areas of your operation.


An often overlooked element of a new forklift is the user manual that comes with each unit. Inside these manuals is an abundance of helpful information that can help maximize safety and uptime. Included in this information is a maintenance section with scheduled service intervals. This section also outlines the correct fluids and replacement parts to be used during maintenance. By adhering to these guidelines, you’ll greatly extend the usable life of your equipment and keep downtime to a minimum.

In addition to maintenance requirements, there are also many sections that give an overview of best operating practices. This helps to increase safety and productivity, so it’s worth reviewing this information with operators on a regular basis. If you’ve lost your user manual, contact our team today to obtain a new copy!


Forklift operation and safety certifications are required by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States. Certificates are also required by law in most Canadian provinces, making proper training mandatory for all operations.

Proper training greatly reduces the risk of safety incidents, but there are also a number of other benefits. By instructing your operators, you’re training them in best practices. This results in increased productivity while reducing the risk of damage to your forklift from careless operation. It’s important to take the time to observe your operators while they’re on the job. If you notice any unsafe operation, it may be time for a refresher course.

In addition to operational training, it’s important to ensure that operators know how to perform a pre-shift inspection. By performing this inspection, operators can locate issues with the equipment. If these issues are addressed early, you’ll save money by preventing a large-scale repair. This will also help to reduce wear on moving parts, extending the usable life of your forklift. If you’re looking to maximize safety, value, and productivity, ensure your operators are well-trained!

We offer a full lineup of forklift training courses for all operations. Contact our team today for assistance finding the perfect courses for your needs.


In addition to maintenance, records, and training, it’s important to keep your facility clean. Excess dust and dirt from floors can accumulate within your equipment, accelerating wear and tear. Additionally, debris or wet surfaces can damage tires or even cause a tip over in certain circumstances. This can result in serious safety incidents or damage to equipment and the facility itself. That’s why it’s crucial to maintain a regular cleaning schedule.

A clean operating environment greatly reduces the risk of accidents while reducing the amount of debris that accumulates on your equipment. In addition to these aspects, a clean environment sets the standard for your operators. This will make them more likely to keep a clean workstation or keep their equipment clean.


When it comes to running an operation, there are many aspects to manage. At times, this can be overwhelming and lead to certain areas being neglected. That’s why Leavitt Machinery offers various services to help with record keeping, operator training, maintenance programs, and replacement information. We can also audit your facility and let you know which areas have room for improvement. Regardless of your application, we can partner with you to maximize productivity and reduce overall downtime. Contact our team today for more information!