Safety versus complexity and cost

In this Web-exclusive sidebar, Martin Boyd, national product planning manager, Toyota Material Handling U.S.A., answers our questions about the real-world value of his company's patented lift truck stability control systems.

We interviewed Martin Boyd, national product planning manager, Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., about the value of his company’s sophisticated safety features described in the accompanying article. Here’s what he had to say:

Plant Services (PS): Have Toyota's efforts resulted in safer lift truck operations? If so, briefly describe the evidence.

Martin Boyd (MB): Introduced in 1999, there are now well more than 94,000 Toyota lift trucks in operation in the United States equipped with the SAS [System of Active Stability], making up more than 8% of the entire U.S. counterbalanced lift truck field population. A recent incident analysis of SAS-equipped Toyota lift trucks through December 31, 2004 revealed that only six lateral overturns were reported, all resulting in no fatalities. In the six reported incidents involving the overturn of an SAS equipped lift truck, four were caused by a high-speed turn with the mast fully elevated, one was caused by the lift truck leaving the paved surface and overturning in soft ground, and one was caused by a damaged tire that separated during a high speed turn.

Between 1999 and 2003, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that there have been 118 fatalities resulting from the overturn of a truck, averaging 23 deaths per year. None of those deaths occurred where the operator had the safety protection provided by Toyota’s SAS. The advanced safety protection provided by this technology has been verified over the past five years. SAS has undoubtedly saved lives and reduced the number of catastrophic injuries due to the prevention of lateral overturns that would have happened without SAS. The reduction in OSHA reported fatalities and injuries, while due in part to the implementation of mandatory operator training requirements by OSHA, directly correlates to the increase in the Toyota SAS lift truck field population.

PS: Please comment on how Toyota's efforts to improve lift truck safety affect its customers' life-cycle costs of lift truck operations.

MB: There have been many claims by Toyota’s respected competitors that SAS is a complex and costly system on which customers will have to spend large amounts of money and manpower to maintain. However, a five-year study has determined the average annual retail cost of parts and labor for maintenance of SAS and related components is less than $21.50 per lift truck. Now, at Toyota we acknowledge that the annual maintenance cost of the old “rubber block” technology, claimed by competition to be equivalent to SAS, is essentially zero. However, there is more to the overall cost than just the direct maintenance cost. Chances are customers have a very large cost associated with worker’s compensation insurance, particularly if a claim history exists with that customer. Toyota urges customers to speak with their insurance agents to see if they could qualify for reduced premiums because of the utilization of Toyota’s SAS and AMC [Active Mast Control] technology and proven safety. Plus there is the added savings from reduced product damage due to AMC, and the increased productivity resulting from operating a Toyota SAS-equipped lift truck.