This week Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc. (TMHU) officially announced the availability of its 8-Series 8,000 to 17,500 lb. lift truck line. These cushion and pneumatic tire vehicles are powered by two new Toyota-designed and built 4-cylinder diesel, LPG, gasoline and dual fuel engines.

The trucks are designed for indoor and outdoor applications such as in the paper, lumber and concrete industries, as well as in large distribution centers needing to move heavy loads. The introduction includes a 12,000 lb. paper roll special model to meet the challenges faced by the paper industry in moving paper rolls.  

After a press conference, Material Handling & Logistics had the opportunity to ask Jeff Rufener, president of Toyota Material Handling USA, about what the announcement of these new products says about the health of the industrial truck industry and of the industries it serves.

MH&L: Jeff, what would you say are the biggest challenges the industrial truck industry faces these days?

Rufener: The lift truck market in the US is certainly mature but from a technology standpoint there are plenty of advancements.  But maturity tends to compress margins and that demands ever increasing efficiency. Coupled with that, business continues to consolidate. The drumbeat is to drive costs down. We have to find new and innovative ways to serve that market.

MH&L: Your latest product introductions include more fuel efficient engines. Any chance Toyota will bring manufacture of those engines here to the U.S., along with the trucks you make in Indiana?

Rufener: Never say never, and Toyota does manufacture some engines in the states for cars, but not for industrial equipment. For the foreseeable future I don’t see that.

MH&L: Are there other synergies to be explored between the lift truck and automotive sides of your business?

Rufener: We have a close relationship with Toyota Financial Services. The leasing business has overtaken the material handling business as the preferred way to acquire equipment. That really changed our industry. Coming from the car business and the car business’s influence, that skill spilled over into the industrial truck business. The Commercial Division is part of the car company and they have 120 people dedicated to the commercial division and most of that is dedicated to material handling.