BITA issues winter fuel warning

With the worst of the winter weather just around the corner forklift trade association BITA is urging companies to ensure correct storage of fuel – and to check the specific fuel requirements in light of changing emissions legislation and the requirements of modern engines – particularly around the use of biodiesel and ultra low sulphur diesel.

BITA’s Technical Consultant, Bob Hine explains: “Incorrect storage of fuel, potentially leading to contamination, can create real problems for forklift truck operators, particularly over winter with cold weather operation. Add into this the need to ensure that the correct grade of fuel is being used for trucks, means a winter of potential risks to operational effectiveness and efficiency.”

Causes of contamination

Key causes include:

  • Water in fuel
  • Particle contamination/poor filtration
  • Extended storage periods
  • Diesel microbial contamination
  • Irregular tank maintenance

Up to 7% of biodiesel can now be included in UK gas oil/red diesel and as biodiesel blends can absorb more water this can precipitate out of solution when the temperature changes. This in turn can create the conditions for microbial contamination, the ‘diesel bug’, leading to sludge problems. Biodiesel also oxidises and breaks down more easily in the presence of oxygen, creating peroxides that eventually form acids, leading to formation of gums and resins which can block fuel filters.

Fuel can also be contaminated with dirt, rust, sand etc which can result from simple bad fuel handling practices and cause real damage to an engine or machine and its fuel system.

Simple solutions

  • Buy from reputable sources: This will prevent the likelihood of microbe, water or particulate contaminant problems. A reputable fuel distributor turning over high volumes is more likely to be on top of preventing these problems.
  • Maintain your tanks: Tanks need maintenance. There are treatments available to prevent water accumulation, but no additive can overcome a rusty tank that allows rain water in.
  • Keep tanks full: This minimises development of condensation.
  • Limit storage time: Ideally diesel should not be stored in excess of 12 months.
  • Temperature control: Fuel should not be exposed to temperatures in excess of 35 degrees C.
  • When moving fuel: Run through a filtration system.
  • Regular testing for microbes and water: This will help you stay on top of stored fuel problems. Tanks should be dipped monthly to monitor water phase levels.
  • Biocides should be used every 90 days to prevent the establishment of microbial contamination, especially with ultra low sulphur diesel (ULSD)

Another issue that can cause problems, both for modern diesel engines designed to meet stringent emissions legislation, and older engines designed to previous specifications, is ensuring that the correct grade of fuel is used.

Engines designed to run on ‘European’ grade diesel, with a cetane rating of 51 (the cetane number being the measure of how readily diesel burns under compression) can struggle to run effectively on UK red diesel, which has a cetane level of 45.

The advent of ULSD can also mean a reduction in the ‘oilyness’ of fuel, or lower ‘lubricity’. This can potentially be an issue if used in older engines which were not designed to run on ULSD.

For some engines, fuel containing the maximum 7% of biodiesel can result in reduced cold-weather handling performance and more water pick-up potential, meaning a great possibility of corrosion in filters. This has led to some suppliers offering so-called ‘FAME-free fuel’ which claims to contain no biodiesel, but this is extremely difficult for a supplier to guarantee, given the prevalence of biodiesel in the supply chain, so relying on this has potential problems.

Alongside the use of the correct fuel and fuel storage protocols, general vehicle maintenance tips allied to fuel and efficient operation include observing the manufacturer’s fuel filter service life recommendations, particularly around frequency of replacement, the daily draining of water from fuel filters, and replacing a vehicle’s fuel filler cap immediately after refuelling.

Hine concludes: “To keep your fleet operating at maximum efficiency, with minimum downtime, effective fuel storage and tank maintenance is vital. If this is matched with a meticulous adherence to the fuel grade needs of your fleet, be it brand new or of a less recent vintage, it will help ensure that the winter weather won’t stop your business in its tracks.”

BITA announces leap in forklift truck sales

The second quarter of 2014 has seen an 18% quarter-on-quarter rise in forklift trucks sales, with 7,851 sales recorded in Q2 2014 compared to 6,615 for the same quarter of 2013 – a total increase in sales of 1,236 trucks.

There has been a 6% rise in sales in Q2 2014 alone compared to Q1 of this year. The total orders placed for the first half of this year are 15,261 trucks compared to the 13,227 orders placed in the first half of 2013, an increase of 15% compared to the same period last year.

The figures are taken from BITA’s unique members-only database of industrial truck sales statistics, and outperformed the sales prediction contained in the BITA 2014 Economic Forecast presented at the organisation’s recent AGM.

They were driven by particularly strong warehouse sales, which showed a 31% increase from Q1 to Q2 2013 and an overall 15% increase compared to the first half of 2013. This reflects the prediction contained in the Forecast that continuing e-commerce development in the UK, which has the greatest e-commerce penetration rate in Europe, would have a positive effect on both transport and distribution sectors.

Further afield, according to World Industrial Truck Statistics (WITS) annual orders in the global industrial truck market exceeded one million units for the first time in 2013, with global shipments expected to exceed one million in 2014.

Commenting on the UK figures BITA President David Rowell said: “If demand continues to grow at a similar rate for the rest of 2014 we could well be on target for sales of 30,000 for the year – almost back to the psychologically significant 32,000 figure recorded in 2007 before the economic downturn of 2008.”

These figures come despite a surprise fall in industrial production recorded by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) with falls of 1.3% in manufacturing and an estimated 1.1% fall in construction industry output.

“It is fair to say that we are now well into recovery, leaving behind us the economic doldrums of 2009 when industry orders dropped below 18,000. The anticipated return to near pre-recession demand levels has taken longer than originally forecast and is big news for the UK materials handling industry.  Economic indicators elsewhere are less favourable, but after several years of cautious optimism we can now afford to be more optimistic”, concluded Rowell.