Concerns About Proposal to Replace Forklifts With Zero-Emission Equipment

Brian German Agri-Business, Regulation

Several agricultural groups recently met with state officials to highlight some of the concerns related to a potential zero-emission forklift regulation. The California Air Resources Board and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District heard from nearly a dozen grower associations and industry groups. While the concept of a zero-emission forklift requirement is still early on in the process, the ag community expressed the types of challenges it would present to the industry.

Zero-Emission Forklift

“We wanted to talk through those challenges with them and make sure that they understood them and were aware. One of them is the rough terrain forklift,” said Roger Isom, President and CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association. “Another one is, ag is different than everybody else with the one simple fact that we do not have the ability to pass along the cost of new equipment. When we’re forced to replace something mandatorily, we just have to absorb that cost.”

While agricultural production already involves electric forklifts in certain areas, rough terrain presents a very particular problem for farmers and processors. Isom said that the technology is just not quite there yet to make zero-emission forklifts viable in muddy conditions. The applicability of an electric forklift rule was also discussed, as well as the cost of equipment replacement.

“Electric forklifts are very expensive, especially the new lithium-ion ones. A typical, average forklift for propane that we would buy today, $35,000-$40,000. A lithium-ion electric, not including the charging station, would be over $110,000,” Isom explained. “So that also presents some unique challenges in how do we afford to do that?”

The meeting included site visits to a cotton gin and an almond processing facility. Officials were able to see firsthand what types of potential issues would be created with a zero-emission forklift rule. Representatives from industry groups such as California Farm Bureau Federation, California Fresh Fruit Association, California Citrus Mutual, and California Strawberry Commission were also in attendance. The next workshop related to a zero-emission forklift regulation is scheduled for February 2022.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West