A potato processing plant in Shropshire has slashed both its carbon footprint and its fuel bills, after making a bold switch to LPG-powered forklift trucks from Jofson.
Market Drayton-based ER Birch & Sons considered several options when looking for forklift trucks, aiming to cut emissions and costs without compromising the performance to load and unload huge, one-tonne boxes of potatoes for sorting, grading and storage at heights of up to six metres (20 feet).
Eventually, the family firm settled upon a solution involving LPG trucks from West Midlands dealer Jofson Mitsubishi.
Green in more ways than one, the fleet of five Mitsubishi GRENDIA FG30N2 trucks offer class-leading fuel economy, combined with flexible rental terms from Jofson and the Japanese manufacturer’s proven reputation for reliability.
The move to hire LPG forklifts has been described as groundbreaking in an agricultural setting, where ruggedness is essential and bought trucks, running on low-tax red diesel, are the norm.
However, the LPG trucks offer far cleaner, quieter performance than diesel in a food-handling environment where much of the work is done indoors.
LPG is significantly more friendly to the wider environment, too, producing around half the total greenhouse gases of diesel (1.7 kg per litre compared with 3.2 kg).
Nonetheless, boss Phil Birch admits he himself was not entirely convinced, until a demonstrator Mitsubishi truck arrived on site.
He says: "I did wonder whether the performance would be comparable with a diesel truck – we work long, hard shifts here – as well as how easy we’d find the refuelling.
"But any doubts were allayed the moment the demonstrator arrived. The quality and performance were obvious straight away. It was easy to use, too, and the fuel consumption was just as good as Mitsubishi said it would be."
A flexible hire deal with West Midlands-based Jofson Mitsubishi enabled ER Birch to put five brand new, three-tonne LPG trucks to work on its site, where operators have been impressed by their ability to handle 11 and 12-hour shifts, performing shuttle and long run work in challenging agricultural conditions.
The GRENDIA’s standard-issue belly plate and fully enclosed wheel arches afford ample protection in the plant’s muddy and rugged surroundings, while custom LED spotlights on the truck’s industry-leading mast enable safe performance at height in the pitch-black storehouses used to preserve the potatoes’ quality.
Moreover, the advanced Mitsubishi fuel injection system with three-way, closed-loop catalytic converter and switchable engine performance ensures each truck delivers real-world fuel consumption to match its enviable published economy figures.
Having discussed the company’s needs, Andy Homer of Jofson Mitsubishi was confident the demonstrator truck would impress.
He says: "We were more than happy to let Phil take a GRENDIA on trial, because we knew it would deliver everything he needed: a tough, high-performance forklift truck with low running costs, low emissions and low noise.
"Besides, we know the GRENDIA’s LPG consumption figures look too good to be true – so it’s always good to have a chance to prove them in real life!
"It was a real pleasure to put the deal together, with the right hire, repair and maintenance package, and see the trucks hard at work at the plant."
To further reduce fuel costs, local LPG firm Lister Gases were enlisted to supply bulk gas reservoirs on site, with refillable tanks for the trucks.
Area sales manager Suzanne Shuriah says: "It’s great to see LPG forklifts delivering in all weathers, in a traditionally diesel-dominated sector. The fuel consumption figures are very accurate: we know exactly what they’ll use in a week, and especially with the bulk supply it’s working out cheaper as well as greener."
Phil Birch agrees: "There have been plenty of benefits for us, and no downsides at all. As well as the fuel economy and carbon footprint, the air quality inside our buildings has been a lot more pleasant since the change.
"Having made the move away from diesel, I really can’t see why more agricultural businesses wouldn’t do likewise."