Top tips for buying second-life trucks

Published:  11 December, 2015

PWE recently visited Jungheinrich’s refurbishment plant in Dresden to see first hand how refurbished forklift trucks can offer real value for money under the right conditions - many businesses are starting to catch-on. PWE spoke to Neil Warren, Jungheinrich UK’s Used Equipment and Short Term Rental director, who sets out five top tips on what to look out for when buying a second-life truck so as not to get caught out.

Buying a second-life forklift truck may not be the first thought for businesses on the lookout for a truck, but there are plenty of good reasons to consider investing in a reconditioned vehicle rather than buying new. Many large and small companies across a broad industrial base are starting to get wise to the significant savings - between 30-40% - that can be made by turning to the refurbished forklift market.

BITA figures indicate that just over 30,000 new forklift trucks were sold in 2014. But, interestingly, estimates are that around 15,000 refurbished trucks are sold every year and those numbers are growing. Market experience shows that a considerable number of large ‘blue-chip’ businesses are now buying refurbished trucks where appropriate, as a well refurbished second-life vehicle can perform just about as highly as a new truck, at a fraction of the cost.

But before browsing the web for a bargain, it’s worth pausing for a moment to make a balanced judgement on whether to buy new or refurbished, and if you decide a refurbished forklift would be suitable, then there are five critical points to consider. Buying in haste, with little research, can have significant repercussions.

1. What duties are expected of the truck?

This is the most important question for determining whether a new or refurbished truck is best for you. If you are looking at an intensive operation where a forklift will be required to perform three shifts ‘day-in, day-out’ then a new truck may well be best. However, if a vehicle is only to be used for five or six hours a day, such as at the end of a production line or for less intensive loading duties and yard work, or more occasional usage, then a high-quality refurbished forklift truck may well be a suitable option. Basically, a good second-life product is ideal for a 1000hr to 1500hr application.

2. Look for quality

If a refurbished truck is what you’re looking for, then quality, safety and value are top priorities. The quality of refurbished trucks can be highly variable. Many reconditioned trucks on the market are well over five years old, often ten years or so, and can be on their third or even fourth life. Workshop refurbishments are the norm, with standards and attention to detail on replacing moving parts a moveable feast.

With one engineer working on the entire refurbishment, which is often the case in a workshop environment, consistency and quality is hard to maintain. Look for evidence of rigor in the refurbishment process, check just how old the vehicle is, how many hours it has worked and ask for its full service history.

Neil Warren, Jungheinrich UK’s Used Equipment and Short Term Rental director told PWE that at Jungheinrich its ‘Ready to Go’ refurbished trucks are all built to a consistently high European wide standard, because they are all stripped down, assessed and rebuilt on a production line in a dedicated factory in Dresden: “We are the only manufacturer to do this. In addition, only trucks that are at the end of their first life, so only five years old, are refurbished and sold for a second-life by our sales network. We only refurbish a truck once. And as all the trucks we send to the plant for refurbishment have been under contract with Jungheinrich, the full service history is known.”

3. Check for safety and compliance

Health & Safety is another critical consideration. With authorities becoming ever more watchful of compliance to safety standards - and with directors now exposed to litigation for failure to ensure that safety compliance has been adequately followed in the event of an accident - important things to check are that any truck you buy has a CE mark, which means it has been approved for European use. Also, it is important to ensure that lifting chains and forks have been inspected in line with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER). Failure here can also invalidate insurance in the event of an accident.

4. Keep it simple

More often than not, refurbished trucks are offered under a bewildering range of deals and standards – Silver, Gold, and Platinum etc. Look for easy to understand offers and ensure that warranties include both parts and labour. Ensure too that electric vehicles come with properly reconditioned batteries and that the warranty extends to the battery.

Buying a refurbished truck from a recognised and trusted mainstream manufacturer, under an approved used truck scheme, increases the chances that the service history is known. Also, as brand reputation is at stake there is a higher level of assurance.

Neil Warren highlighted that Ready to Go second-life trucks from Jungheinrich are all meticulously refurbished to the same standard at the Dresden production line facility, where every truck is fully assessed, completely dismantled and all worn or defective parts replaced - including the tyres, bearings, pipework and lifting chains. PWE visited the facility recently to see for itself the high standards that are adhered to - nothing gets overlooked, as the rebuild operation is a well-defined set sequence of finely honed processes, building in consistency and reliability.

Every Ready to Go truck has a twelve month/1200 hour parts and labour warranty and in the case of electric forklifts, that includes the battery and charger too. Every battery is refurbished and brought back to 98% of its original battery capacity. Both truck and battery are like new.

5. What’s in the deal?

Most reconditioned trucks are available under similar contract rental and purchasing agreements as new vehicles and maintenance contracts may also be applied. However, something to watch out for is that a large number of suppliers will only offer their reconditioned trucks under three year contract, which doesn’t say a lot for their confidence in their own product.

A leading question is: How long should a refurbished truck last? Of course that depends on the quality of the rebuild, the duties the truck is put through and the standard and frequency of maintenance carried out.

Jungheinrich emphasised to PWE while visiting the Dresden facility that it expects its Ready to Go products to last at least another five years and so offer its second-life trucks on similar finance packages and full maintenance contracts as its new vehicles.

The Dresden standard

The Jungheinrich Ready to Go dedicated forklift refurbishment plant in Dresden was established in 2006 to produce some 1600 trucks a year across Jungheinrich’s full product range. In 2010 the facility underwent a substantial investment programme and capacity rose to 4000 units. In September 2015 further investment was completed giving the Dresden facility a capability to refurbish some 6500 trucks per year, with the possibility of that figure rising to 8000 forklifts in the future.

Before the Dresden plant it would take a considerable number of hours to refurbish a truck in any workshop. Now, with the efficiencies of a production line approach the Dresden facility is able to give a second-life to a truck in a fraction of those hours and to a far higher quality standard.

At Dresden each truck coming into the plant goes through six quality-controlled processes. Firstly, it is evaluated, where engineers assess and order replacement parts where needed. Then a specialist, dedicated team will completely dismantle the truck. It will be cleaned down and the mast will go to a specialist mast refurbishment area - similarly, motors go to a dedicated area. All panels are taken off the vehicle and are sandblasted and repainted. Then the chassis, in its raw state, goes into a preparation bay where it is also sandblasted and painted. From here the chassis moves into the assembly area where the truck is reassembled as new and then checked for quality and safety – there’s even a small label with a picture of the engineer who reassembled the truck, giving a final and personal dimension to the quality process.

While visiting the Dresden site, what was very clear at every stage, were the extremely demanding quality procedures to ensure the company supplies second-life forklift trucks that cannot be differentiated from new – other than by the price.

For further information please visit: www.jungheinrich.co.uk

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