Lift trucks depend on strong, reliable power to move raw timber, building materials, and finished wood products. These are typically demanding, high-intensity applications, which have historically depended on lift trucks with internal combustion engines (ICEs), due to their consistent power delivery and high performance. However, with the expansion and advancement of new electrification options, the motive power landscape is shifting for the timber industry.

Hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries in particular are gaining traction in heavy-duty lift truck applications. Electrification is no longer a fantasy. These power sources are now available on more lift truck product classes and capacities than ever before, capable of delivering the long-lasting, high performance that intensive applications require.

While traditional ICE or lead-acid battery-powered forklifts may still be the best fit for some tasks, more applications than ever are suitable for electrification. This could help operations overcome common challenges related to productivity, workforce efficiency, and more.

Here, we explore four signs that it’s time to rethink your power options and make a change in your timber handling operations.


Many businesses are under economic pressure and this is putting increasing pressure on timber industry companies to do more with less. In timber industry applications, forklifts are typically exposed to harsh and dirty environments. At the same time, extreme temperatures, environments, and duty cycles can push equipment hard, resulting in wear that can lead to downtime and productivity bottlenecks.

Downtime is particularly critical. The right material handling equipment plays a huge part in keeping timber operations running. The forklifts used are often large, heavy and expensive. When handling raw materials, special attachments can also be needed, which require additional investments.

There is a high demand for trucks that offer the best balance of versatility, performance, fuel economy and drive power. Therefore, timber handling operations should explore power sources that are proven to perform in the harshest environments.

Historically, ICE lift trucks have been the tried-and-tested option for demanding outdoor applications. They offer remarkable durability and have a proven record of withstanding the hottest, coldest, and dirtiest environments. These trucks power through without depending on the electrical grid – an especially important consideration if local utilities cannot provide sufficient electricity to keep electric fleets moving.

But electric trucks can handle tough temperatures and outdoor operation. For example, lithium-ion batteries offer superior performance in hot and cold environments, helping lift trucks run reliably and consistently over multiple shifts, whatever the weather.


Lift truck operators are in short supply. With competition fierce for a limited talent pool, good employees are not only difficult to find, but hard to hang on to. To keep lift truck operators engaged and performing at their best, ergonomics and comfort are key. Electric-powered lift trucks produce less noise than their ICE counterparts and transmit fewer vibrations to the operator, offering a smoother ride. They also do not emit harmful exhaust, improving air quality and creating a cleaner work environment.

Difficulty finding and retaining labour can sometimes force companies to hire employees who have limited experience operating forklifts. When working with traditional lead-acid batteries and LPG fuel bottles, lack of experience can potentially increase safety hazards with regard to battery handling and charging or bottle changing. Plus, unmotivated or unhappy operators may have poor charging habits, leading to shorter battery life over time.

With less-experienced operators, it’s best to have forklifts that are intuitive to operate and simple to maintain. Newer power sources, like lithium-ion batteries, typically require less maintenance and less charging time in a shift, so you can make the best use of the operators you have.


All forklifts require some level of planned and unplanned maintenance, whether on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. In fact, 80% of the total cost of a forklift comes after the initial capital investment, so it’s important to understand the maintenance requirements for each power option.

ICE power means a whole host of powertrain items that require periodic service or replacement, including fluid, filters, spark plugs, belts, or other items prone to wear.

Electric powertrains offer greater simplicity and fewer service items. Lead acid batteries do require some maintenance and additional processes to ensure they perform to their potential, including equalising, watering, and gassing, but lithium-ion batteries offer a simpler approach.

Lithium-ion batteries are maintenance free and can be plugged in without any special pre- or post-charging steps. So, lift truck operators are able to spend more time being productive.


The timber industry is increasingly concerned with alternative energy options and how these could benefit material handling.

Various regulations are putting pressure on industries to reduce their environmental impact. Meanwhile, many businesses have their own green initiatives that seek to reduce fossil fuel emissions. This puts emissions from industrial trucks in focus for those trying to meet sustainability targets.

For managers charged with finding ways to meet those targets, reducing emissions from ICE-powered lift trucks can provide environmental benefit related to emissions.

Also, lead-acid batteries require off-gassing as part of the charging process and carry the risk of potential acid leak and corrosion. Newer power options like lithium-ion batteries do not come with these characteristics.

Also, it is not uncommon for wood processing and manufacturing companies to be located close to biomass power plants or to operate such a power plant on site. This provides a valuable source of energy for these applications, making it possible to cost-effectively charge forklift trucks with lithium-ion batteries on site. In these cases, the possibility of using this power source to charge the batteries of electric forklifts offers a particularly sustainable and environmentally friendly solution.


Lithium-ion batteries started small, powering pallet trucks moving loads of consumer goods in and out of trailers and retail stores. But now, lift trucks carrying heavy loads in harsh conditions can be powered by lithium-ion batteries.

Electric forklifts no longer have a reputation for being ‘indoors only’ and are often tough enough for applications in the timber industry – from sawmills, to operations that make panels and building materials, to companies that handle wooden furniture. And with the right battery management, the trucks offer even longer operating times.

For demanding applications, Hyster counterbalance lift trucks with integrated lithium-ion power are available from the factory with capacities up to 18-tonnes and the performance that operations previously expected only from an ICE-powered truck.

Lithium-ion trucks offer opportunity charging, maximise uptime, and have the potential to significantly reduce emissions.

But to make the best choice when evaluating lift truck power, operations need access to specialised expertise across the whole range of industrial trucks and available power options.

An understanding of the unique challenges of your industry is another important factor in making a recommendation that accounts for the unique characteristics of your operation. The right fit can make fleets more efficient, help retain forklift operators, and help reach productivity targets all shift long, day after day.

Hyster has tough lift trucks, including lithium-ion power options and a complete range of solutions at the timber industry’s disposal. Service, support, maintenance, parts, and aftermarket solutions are also available locally through the global network of Hyster dealers.