Every forklift truck driver should know his load chart. It shows how much weight you can lift, how big the load can be and how to keep balance. But drivers don’t always know exactly how much the load actually weighs or, for example, where the centre of gravity is in the case of a long load. Accordingly, it is not always possible to prevent accidents when handling a load. You’re going too fast, turn a corner too sharply, the centre of gravity shifts – and before you know it, you can watch yet another accident video on YouTube: domino effects in the high-bay warehouse. It sounds funny, but it isn’t.

The devil is in the details

Linde has spent years researching ways of preventing or at least reducing these kinds of accidents. Eventually the development laboratories produced a product that can probably be described as the most exciting safety solution of recent years in this field: Linde Safety Pilot. At its heart lies an electronic copy of the above-mentioned load chart. Using sensors, the safety unit monitors all relevant factors in a minute fraction of a second: how large is the angle of turn, how heavy the load, where is the current centre of gravity of the combined vehicle and load, how fast does the driver want to go, how high is the fork, is the truck going forwards or backwards? All these parameters – and many more – have to be constantly evaluated, because driving and load conditions change in milliseconds.

All of this had to be implemented as robustly and reliably as possible in the course of painstaking development work. The eyes of the product manager who told me all this began to sparkle as she reported on the challenges involved. There were endless trials with constant adjustments and improvements. She talked about it as if it were her baby. And somehow that is what it is too – you only have to hear Linde engineers explaining their technological achievements. This incredible attention to detail always fascinates me.

What can the Safety Pilot do?

Within certain limits, this active safety system will stop a truck and its load tipping over. That is what it is all about. The video below demonstrates that, because Linde has set up a real simulator at World of Material Handling that lets you test the system without risk.

WOMH 2016 - Linde Safety Pilot Simulator

The active version of the system does not only signal a potential danger and warn the driver via a monitor screen combined with an acoustic alarm. It also stops the driver increasing the speed too much. To be precise: it actively intervenes, reducing the speed if the driver moves the forklift into the danger zone. The response is similar when it comes to lifting height. Here, too, the maximum height is limited when the maximum load weight is reached. The following video shows what the system does as demonstrated in the simulator:

What else can the Safety Pilot do?

The driver receives access to various additional features that drivers at the fair have already told me they actually like using in practice. They include, for example, being able to set a maximum lifting height to ensure the roller shutter can enjoy a much longer life. Or there is the so-called picker function that displays the number of loading procedures carried out with all the weights added together. It’s an excellent method of checking against the cargo documents: “Have I unloaded 12 pallets from the truck with a total weight of 5 tonnes?”

The LSP monitor:

Linde Safety Monitor

As I learned, the operating unit of the Linde Safety Pilot is behind the joysticks of the Linde Load Control. Its operation is very straightforward. You simple turn the control and confirm – there’s nothing more to learn.

Linde Load Control

No guarantee of safety

For me, the Linde Safety Pilot is what ESP (electronic stability program) is in a car. It’s a technology that you basically hardly notice in everyday driving – like a quiet good fairy. It can’t guarantee absolute safety – the Linde Safety Pilot is powerless against wilful mischief or loads that stick out unevenly beyond the sides of the vehicle.