Hunter Valley winery, Keith Tulloch Wines, has added a new battery-operated electric forklift to its fleet.

The family-owned winery is already certified carbon neutral, and when it came time to upgrade its existing pair of LPG gas-powered forklifts in 2021, Keith Tulloch saw a chance to further enhance its green credentials. 

The winery has now purchased an 8FBN three-tonne electric forklift from Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) – a process expedited by government incentives, as Operations Manager Alisdair Tulloch says. 

“At the time there were a lot of instant asset write-offs and tax concessions that spurred us on to make some decisions a couple of years earlier than we otherwise would have,” Alisdair explains. 

“We used to run two forklifts, and being LPG you have the ongoing costs of the fuel, then also the reliability of the units was really starting to get to us, whether that’s through actual breakdowns or running out of gas at inopportune moments.

“Our business is also certified carbon neutral… So for us there was a really good financial and environmental motive to swap our two forklifts for just the one which is fully electric,” Alisdair added.

The electric forklift is the latest environmentally-friendly action the business has taken, having already installed solar panels. 

“We have a pretty huge solar array here, and the forklift is being charged with the solar so essentially it’s become an emissions-free vehicle for us,” Alisdair explained.

And the Operations Manager said there were functional reasons for choosing this forklift too. 

“We compared several models, this one had everything we needed at the right price,” Alisdair said.

“It has the appropriate features like a container mast to get out of tight spaces – previously we had a taller mast which made it difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces.”

Alisdair explained exactly how these features are beneficial to the winemaker, which has an annual crush of between 110 and 150 tonnes. 

“There are things like the additional hydraulic control which helps to tip bins which people like, there’s an auto-leveller on one of the hydraulics to level out the tynes on the forklift which can be helpful when you’re moving bins of fruit or going in and out of racks.

“To have the capacity to lift quite heavy grape bins, barrel racks and barrels to quite tall heights but also having a compact unit, the actual forklift that we purchased has been perfect at doing that.”

He also praised the post-purchase service offered by TMHA. 

“Having moved on from having some older units that would be constantly breaking down or having downtime – you only notice those things when they’re having downtime and there hasn’t been any with the new machine apart from regular servicing which is perfect, because it’s a tool that’s ready to use all the time instead of something that is unreliable,” Alisdair commented.

“Having to wait for a technician to come out on a busy vintage day and you’ve got food on the ground, the clock is going to be ticking, so the fact that we’ve had something really reliable is great.

“The sales and the aftersales service was really good, Allan [Peacock, TMHA Area Sales Manager] came out and visited the site and walked us through everything that we wanted from the unit and made sure the specs were exactly what we were looking for and priced us up on it, so that part of the service was really good.

“He came and visited us afterwards to make sure the unit was running smoothly and we were happy with the outcome, and if there was anything he could follow up on for us.”

Alisdair has since recommended the model and TMHA to other winemakers. 

“Other people have seen that we’ve taken a new forklift and have asked about it, and we really have only had positive things to say about it,” he concluded.

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