North American forklift truck sales dip in 2020

May 7, 2021 By    

North American forklift truck sales decreased 5.1 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), which partially attributes the decline to the impact of COVID-19.

Forklift photo courtesy of Propane Education & Research Council

Forklift truck sales declined in 2020 due in part to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy of Propane Education & Research Council

“The industrial truck industry had its third-best year on record in 2019, and the sales decrease in 2020 with COVID-19 was not unexpected,” says Jay Gusler, chairman of the board of directors for the ITA and executive vice president of operations for Mitsubishi Logisnext Americas Group. “Our industry performed well throughout the pandemic thanks to the essential nature of our products and the dedicated associates in our industry.”

Year-end forklift truck sales of 230,134 included electric rider trucks (Class 1-2 combined), motorized hand trucks (Class 3) and internal combustion powered trucks (Class 4-5 combined). Class 2 and Class 3 trucks saw a small increase from 2019 at 2.0 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively. The remaining classes witnessed declines, with Class 5 seeing the largest decrease at 19.7 percent.

Propane makes up about 90 percent of the forklifts in Class 4-5, says Matt McDonald, director of off-road business development at the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), adding it’s important to consider the recent sales history of forklifts before drawing any conclusions about the decline in 2020.

Only two years prior, the ITA reported record sales of more than 260,000 units for 2018 – then the fourth straight year of growth.

“In 2018, almost 90,000 forklifts were sold in Class 4-5. We’ve never seen those kinds of numbers,” McDonald says. “As the economy revs up, freight is going to be moved and people are going to buy forklifts.”

With their ability to move heavy freight without interruption, propane-fueled forklifts have a leg up in this class, which still accounted for more than a quarter of all unit sales in 2020, McDonald adds.

“I’m not ready to panic or get discouraged,” he says. “When you look at the numbers, I can see why 2020 was down a little bit. The story will be told in the next year or two.”

The ITA says first-quarter results for 2021 – which also marks its 70th anniversary – are healthy.

“ITA members have been instrumental in leading the way with enhanced safety, engineering practices and market intelligence that has guided the industry well over the past seven decades and will continue that leadership role into the future,” says Brian Feehan, president of ITA.

About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at or 216-706-3748.

Comments are currently closed.