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Can a forklift speed limiter improve safety?

We wrote about options for managing forklift speed in your workplace, and what a forklift speed limit should be for your workplace. One of the methods to restrict forklift speed is to use a speed limiter.

What is a forklift speed limiter?

A speed limiter prevents the forklift from exceeding a pre-defined speed limit, for example 10km/h. The driver doesn’t have to worry about going over this limit as the forklift is governed to that maximum. As many forklift accidents are caused by the driver travelling too quickly, a forklift speed limiter can help reduce the risk.

The control unit is fitted to the forklift and could be a fairly simple blanket limiter (i.e. the same speed all the time), driver-selectable (e.g. indoor speed and outdoor speed), or it might have some connectivity to internal or external systems that enable the limit to be modified based on different variables, for example:

  • Slower maximum speed if the forklift is loaded
  • Slower maximum speed if the forks are raised above a certain level
  • Slower maximum speed if the forklift is being driven around other forklifts or pedestrians
  • Higher maximum speed if the forklift is outside in a yard
  • Lower maximum speed for inexperienced drivers.

While the maximum speed is reduced, the engine power (and therefore the amount of power available for lifting) isn’t compromised.

What are the advantages of a forklift speed limiter?

  • Constraining the speed of a forklift reduces the risk of an accident
  • Slower speeds tend to mean less wear and tear on mechanical components and tyres
  • Slower speeds can mean better fuel economy
  • Drivers don’t inadvertently speed up without realising it

Are there any disadvantages with a forklift speed limiter?

A speed limiter can instill a false sense of security for a driver. Just because the speed is limited doesn’t mean that the maximum speed of a forklift is a safe speed. A driver must still make judgements about what the appropriate speed is for any given manoeuvre and situation.

If the limiter isn’t intelligent it may restrict the speed in areas where it’s safe to drive faster, and this will simply frustrate drivers and lead to less productive work. A dual-select limiter is better in these scenarios.

Speed limiters don’t necessarily work down ramps and the driver needs to remember to use the brakes in these scenarios.

What sort of forklift speed limiter do you need?

The type of speed limiter will depend on the throttle type: mechanical throttles may need a different implementation than a drive-by-wire throttle.

Consider the functions you need on your speed limiter:

  • Number of speed limits?
  • How are the speed limits controlled (e.g. by a person, by location, by weight, etc)
  • What reporting is given by the system?
  • Is an alert given if the speed limiter is breached?
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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Tagged with: , | Posted in Advice, Forklift
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