Forklifts are critical in keeping America’s just-in-time inventory in motion, and are the workhorses that move America’s goods on a daily basis. Nearly every product sold in this country is touched by a forklift in its lifetime, and a new report produced by Industrial Truck Association (ITA), Washington, D.C., and Oxford Economics, London, quantifies this manufacturing sector’s strong economic impact and employment rates and offers detailed data at national and state levels.   

“Forklifts have been lifting America’s economy for over a century, and we can now quantify our industry’s economic contributions to the overall U.S. economy,” says Brett Wood, chairman of ITA and president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America, Summerville, S.C.

The report, “Lifting America—The Economic Impact of Industrial Truck Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers,” includes several findings, such as:

  • Globally, more than 1 million industrial truck or forklift units are sold annually.
  • In the United States, Canada and Mexico, more than 230,000 units were sold in 2016.
  • With over 200,000 units in the United States alone, more than 60% are electric.
  • The industry’s economic contribution to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) was $25.7 billion in 2015.
  • The industry’s activity supports 209,000 U.S. jobs.
  • Each job within the industry supports 2.5 additional jobs elsewhere in the U.S. economy.
  • The industrial truck manufacturing industry workforce has a greater share of veterans compared to all other manufacturing as well as other industries.
  • In 2015, the industry paid $5.3 billion to local, state and federal governments in taxes.

Industrial trucks are categorized into seven classes based on characteristics, such as engine type, design and size. Manufacturers of industrial trucks make a widespread contribution throughout the U.S. economy. For instance, of the $25.7 billion total contribution to GDP, some $14.9 billion results from supply chain and consumer spending activities.

Overall, the sector benefits other parts of the national economy, including, for example, $3.5 billion in trade, transportation and utilities; $2.1 billion in professional and business services; and $1.1 billion in education and health services.

“Forklifts facilitate the production of goods and services, creating increased efficiencies,” says Brian Feehan, president of ITA. “Industrial trucks play an important functional role in the production process in virtually every industry.”

In total, industrial truck manufacturers support more than 209,600 jobs. The companies directly employ more than 59,700 workers in manufacturing, sales and support staff positions. In addition, for each worker directly employed by the industrial truck sector, 2.5 additional jobs are supported in the wider economy, either in the supply chains of industrial truck manufacturers or through the wage spending of those employed by the firms themselves or their supply chains. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 540,000 forklift operators are employed across the country in all 50 states.

The report takes into consideration the direct, indirect and induced contributions of the industry.

“We were honored to be selected to perform this analysis and work with the industrial truck manufacturers to understand and quantify the significance of their economic impact as well as narrate their vital contribution to America’s industrial production sector,” says Hamilton Galloway, head of consulting, Americas for Oxford Economics. “Workers in this sector are highly productive, and wages reflect this with above average annual income and placing them above the median income earners in most states.”