Fleetowner 5606 Forklift2

Forklift telemetry

Sept. 3, 2015
Manager: Bob Ragsdale Title: Fleet manager Company: Toyota Forklifts of Atlanta Operation: Maintenance support for customer forklifts via 50 technicians at four dealership locations in the Atlanta, GA, area Problem:

Manager: Bob Ragsdale

Title: Fleet manager

Company: Toyota Forklifts of Atlanta

Operation: Maintenance support for customer forklifts via 50 technicians at four dealership locations in the Atlanta, GA, area


One might think forklifts pose fewer maintenance headaches than commercial trucks, but it’s not quite that simple, explains Bob Ragsdale,  fleet manager at Toyota Forklifts of Atlanta, which sells a wide variety of Toyota Industrial Equipment-branded models.

First of all, the “power population” of forklifts is extremely diverse, with diesel, gasoline, natural gas, propane, and all-electric, battery-fired units often operating side-by-side, depending on specific warehouse needs. And maintenance protocols and parts supply must run a wide gamut as well.

Second, how forklifts are acquired and serviced is fairly broad, Ragsdale notes, with units purchased, rented and leased.

One of Ragsdale’s challenges is how to handle forklift service spread out across Atlanta’s 132-plus square miles.

“Planning ahead is key when it comes to forklift maintenance,” Ragsdale stresses. “We want to schedule maintenance in such a way that it’s done at the right time with minimal downtime for our customer and optimal travel times for our technicians.”


Back in April, after two years of field testing, Toyota Industrial Equipment introduced its new T-Matics Mobile and T-Matics Command platforms, forklift-based vehicle management systems (VMS) based on Sprint’s machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. Both can be embedded in new units or installed as an aftermarket upgrade.

The T-Matics platforms digitally record and report critical data such as forklift location and hours of use, and tap into Sprint’s Nationwide 4G cellular network to deposit that data into a VMS. That allows companies and their dealerships to better understand how efficiently their forklifts are used.

The system can also work with several different types/brands of forklifts and other warehouse equipment to provide warehouse companies with a complete fleet data picture, notes Toyota.

T-Matics Mobile, which works on a cellular signal, is touted as being ideal for forklifts that may rotate between facilities, while T-Matics Command is designed for those that stay in fixed locations.

Both systems aim to increase efficiency and uptime by tracking current usage and long-term operating trends, Toyota says.

From where Ragsdale sits, though, this technology helps his dealership fine-tune maintenance plans for customers.

“First, it helps us build a complete maintenance history for each piece of equipment being tracked and then allows access to its hour meters so we can better coordinate preventive maintenance service schedules,” Ragsdale points out.

Generating more precise maintenance histories lets Toyota Forklifts’ technicians time major repair work more efficiently, he emphasizes. For example, Ragsdale offers this scenario: Based on historical data, it’s determined a certain type of forklift needs brakes replaced at 2,500 hours of operation. Technicians can now plan that brake job near enough to that replacement point that the customer gets the full usable life of the component. Additionally, by replacing the unit on a schedule, downtime is minimized and work schedules can be adjusted around the maintenance work for the best optimized technician performance.

“It prevents us from servicing equipment too soon or too late and really reduces the travel time for our technicians—all without the labor-intensive manual processes we used to use,” Ragsdale explains. “Those are the big benefits for us.”

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean previously reported and commented on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry. Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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