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Forklift Speed Limiter Increases Safety AND Productivity

By: Chris Webre, Contributor

An IR/RF Receiver mounted on a forklift receives information from IR and RF Transmitters and sends it to the Pace-One Speed Control, where it is interpreted and outputs a Top Travel Speed. Image courtesy of Safety Systems & Controls, Inc.

Some of today’s manufacturing plants and distribution centers are massive in size. To move product inside these facilities, today’s fork trucks, reach trucks (truck), etc. are built with the speed and power to move product efficiently. Without speed restrictions, however, these vehicles can move at high speeds, which increases the potential for accidents. For that reason, it is common for companies to limit top travel speeds even at the expense to productivity. That is where many of us are today.

Instead of unlimited, or one slower top travel speed, today’s technology allows outputs of multiple speeds on the same truck. Safety Systems & Controls, Inc. (SSC) was one of the first to use this technology and developed the Pace-One G2 Speed Limiter. The idea is not to have one set safe speed, but to have multiple top speeds that activate automatically. These top speeds would be appropriate to the areas being travelled and controlled without operator input. How does it work? The truck receives its location and/or activity information and outputs up to six different top travel speeds. Essentially ending up with slower speeds in sensitive areas where there is congestion, sharp turns or pedestrians, and faster travel speeds where there is little congestion and no pedestrian foot traffic. This multi-speed approach maximizes productivity with minimal negative effect to overall fork truck safety. In fact, users can expect a 5-10% increase in truck productivity when compared to a set single slower top speed.

Setting up a truck with a speed limiter is step one. When researching top speed limiter systems, consider the following:

  • Does it have multiple top speed settings?
  • Does it restrict hydraulics?
  • Can you program ramp-up acceleration and ramp-down (electric) deceleration rates?
  • Can you assign zone priorities?
  • Does it have a safety “limp” speed in case of a malfunction?
  • Does it work on internal combustion and electric trucks (what voltage range)?
  • Does if work on CAN APPS (accelerator pedal position sensor) trucks?
  • Does it have easy-to-use software?
  • Is installation Plug & Play?
  • What kind of inputs/outputs signals are available?
  • Is there an activation delay between speeds – is it programmable?
  • Does the kit work with single, dual and crossing APPS, as well as trucks with idle switches?
  • Does it comply with UL and SAE standards?
  • What temperature operating range does it have?

The above are just some of the questions to consider when researching speed limiters.

Step two is instructing the truck when to limit travel speeds. At SSC we accomplish this with IR and/or RF transmitters. IR is great when setting up permanent speeds in specific location. The RF (Nomad and PedGuard) are designed to set up permanent and/or temporary work or pedestrian safe zones. Nomad has an ON/OFF switch which is great to give maintenance employees to create temporary “work” zones when working in fork truck travel areas. PedGuard is similar to Nomad but is a wearable that slows all traffic around the wearer and vibrates alerting the wearer of nearby traffic. SSC uses IR and RF technologies to detect zones but there are other options available.

These third-party detection systems can be found with an online search for Perimeter Protection Systems, Collision Avoidance, Zone Speed Control, Pedestrian Alert and Protection, Proximity Detection and so on.  Some offer visual artificial intelligence, radar and/or RF Detection Tags. Some of these systems can differentiate between people, vehicles and objects and output various responses. Some offer a visual monitor to see what’s in front of the camera and others telematic options. The end user needs to research all options to find the solutions best for them. Whatever solution chosen, incorporating one of these systems with a multi-top speed limiter transforms a passive warning system into an active speed control.

A Look at Fork Truck Accidents

OHSA lists “speeding” as the second most common cause of fork truck accidents; the other top five include 1. Poorly trained driver, 3. Operating with an elevated load, 4. Improper turning and 5. Insufficient warning & markings. Using a top travel speed limiter with multiple speed settings can increase safety in these other areas as well. For instance:

  • When combined with an access control system, “new” operators can be assigned a slower top travel speed until operational competence is achieved.
  • With a mast height sensor, travel speeds can be reduced when the mast is raised.
  • Travel speeds can be restricted at corners where trucks turn.

Other functions, or ways a speed control system can be utilized, include:

  • Trucks can be forced to stop at specified crossings or other locations.
  • Direction of travel (forward or reverse) can also be a speed selection criterion
  • Engine out of range operating conditions can result in lower travel speeds
  • Force compliance to a truck maintenance schedule
  • An impact event can be set to reduce travel speeds rather than shutting down the truck.

Safety will always be our collective top priority, but we can be smart about it. With today’s technologies, one slower “fits-all” speed thinking does not have to be the only solution. Review your operations and if you find there are areas where slower and/or faster speeds would be beneficial, a multi-speed system might be the ticket – in a good way. WMHS

Chris Webre is President of Safety Systems & Controls, Inc. (SSC). Founded in 1994, SSC designs products that help prevent operator abuse on Airline GSE and Refuse (on and off-road) equipment. The company produces a line of products for the fork truck market that protects people, property and equipment and is a market leader in the design and production of top travel speed limiters. Most SSC products are “plug & play” and all SSC products are produced in the U.S.

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