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Portland truck factory replaces electric carts with pedal-powered trikes

Posted by on September 4th, 2013 at 2:59 pm

Always nice to see bikes and freight getting along.
(Image: Daimler Trucks North America)

When you run the numbers, human-powered machines often make good sense on city streets. Leave it to the logistics experts at Daimler Trucks North America to calculate that they make good sense on the floor of a truck factory, too.

At Daimler’s Western Star truck plant on North Portland’s Swan Island, utility trikes are taking over for electric carts in moving truck parts to the manufacturing line. Workers at the plant are putting 18 of the trikes to use. They are Torker HD models and have a cargo capacity of 300 pounds. The bikes were purchased from and assembled by Crank Bicycles in southeast Portland, which customized the gears for the plant’s 5 mph speed limit.

“The bikes have become the latest in cost efficiency and green measures state-of-the-art manufacturing plants are taking,” Daimler’s internal newsletter wrote last month. “The bikes have the potential to save hundreds of dollars a month in maintenance, capital and energy costs and offer a greener alternative to the typical ‘ding ding’ electric carts the plant has been using for years. In addition, they also promote health and fitness by enabling plant employees to burn up to 300 calories an hour when using the bikes.”

Sounds familiar. The decision came from Plant Manager Paul Erdy, who decided to order a trike as an experiment for the local company, which employs about 3,000 office workers and laborers on Swan Island.

“When we first started using the bike it made everyone in the plant smile,” Erdy wrote for the newsletter. “It added a light-hearted element to our work environment while also proving to be a cost-effective alternative to the ‘ding ding’ carts.”

That sounds familiar, too. Good thinking, Daimler.

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  • John Lascurettes September 4, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Bravo, Daimler. This is great!

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  • Chris Anderson September 4, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I’m looking forward to the day when the mail carrier uses a bike.

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    • Spiffy September 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      some of them used to push a cart… I always thought it looked like a golf bag cart with panniers…

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    • Terry Nobbe September 9, 2013 at 11:44 am

      Chris: There ARE places in our world where the mail is delivered by bicycle, though I’m not remembering where currently.

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  • hilsy September 4, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Railcar manufacturer Gunderson, on the other side of the Willamette in the NW Industrial has used bicycles to get around its narrow and long property for decades.

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    • GlowBoy September 5, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Just down the street from Gunderson, Siltronic does the same thing on its campus.

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  • daniel September 4, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    ….uh, and let’s not forget to thank the Swan Island TMA for all their great work in education and advocacy.

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  • Chris I September 4, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I am definitely forwarding this article to our facilities department. We probably have 30-40 aging electric carts around our site, and it would be great to see them replaced with trikes. Not only do they save on capital and maintenance costs, but they also will save the company money in healthcare expenses.

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  • Joe Suburban September 4, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    I am surprised they did not go with Worksman trikes – they are nuke proof durable and reliable, but expensive. Makes me want one (bike) after I taco-ed the rear aluminum rim on my Wal-mart bike when jumping off the curb.
    Could you write an article about Worksman bikes/trikes in Portland?

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  • Evan September 5, 2013 at 9:41 am

    I worked for Seattle Bike Supply about 15 years ago, who makes the Torker bicycles. They used to sell a bunch of Worksman industrial trikes to Boeing. All it takes is a little lightbulb going off to realize that trikes can be a super efficient and fun way to get things around a factory floor. I also gave one to my former mother in law to get things around on the farm. She loves it!

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  • DIO September 5, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I’m surprised this is only being done now. I’ve known places that have used bicycles for decades, like old Schwinn bicycles, when those were still US made.

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  • borgbike September 5, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Ditto Joe Suburban. Worksmen would have been a more winning choice in my book. Great story though.

    For a time Schwinn badged Worksmen bikes for sales to factories. So the Schwinns that Dio mentions may have been Worksmen bikes.

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