For efficient logistics processes and maximum handling performance, the smooth interaction between driver and forklift truck plays an increasingly important role. In addition to the truck’s performance, it is above all driving comfort and intuitive operability that determine how quickly and efficiently transport and warehouse tasks can be mastered. The revolutionary Linde Steer Control concept from Linde Material Handling replaces the classic steering wheel and thus achieves a new level of ergonomics, user-friendliness and driving pleasure.
Forklift Control: The Interface Between Man and Machine
When developing its forklifts, Linde has always placed particular emphasis on the efficient interaction between driver and truck. The design of the driver’s workplace plays a central role. It should offer maximum driving and operating comfort while minimizing physical strain. The truck control system is particularly important in this respect. Linde trucks are therefore equipped with a proven operating system comprising dual pedal control and Linde Load Control,
which makes the trucks easy, precise, and intuitive to drive.
With Linde Steer Control, Linde is now taking the next logical step towards an even more comprehensive integration of driver and truck. The ergonomic benefits of this innovative concept are particularly significant for heavy users, who spend the majority of their shifts working on a forklift truck.
Linde Steer Control: Full Control
Linde Steer Control breaks completely new ground in forklift steering. The innovative concept dispenses with the traditional steering wheel and replaces it with either a mini-wheel or a joystick integrated into an additional armrest on the left-hand side. The associated elimination of the steering column and the significant reduction in the required steering movements offer several clear advantages, not least the reduced physical strain on the driver and an improved view of the fork tips. For maximum precision in all movements, Linde Steer Control automatically adjusts the sensitivity of its steering elements to the truck speed. This means that the truck reacts differently to the same hand movement depending on the situation: The faster the truck travels, the smaller the steering deflection of the wheels. The slower the driving speed, the greater the steering deflection.
The Right Control for the Job: Mini-wheel or Joystick?
Linde offers two variants of the Linde Steer Control to suit the different applications of a forklift truck. Mini-wheel and joystick each have their own advantages depending on the application:
In its basic operation, the mini-wheel is similar to the classic steering wheel. Thanks to this similarity, the mini-wheel has a significantly faster learning curve for first-time users than the joystick. For the usual everyday applications of a forklift, from driving and maneuvering to storage and retrieval, the mini-wheel is the optimal choice for the average user and is therefore recommended as the standard design.
The joystick shows its strengths under special operating conditions. It enables fast and sharp direction changes, which is an advantage in tight spaces and when frequently driving short, winding routes. When
the joystick is released, the steering wheels automatically return to the straight-ahead position. This is especially useful when the driver frequently has to enter long, narrow aisles. The automatic straight-ahead position also offers advantages when starting or pushing the load in a straight line, as is often required in block storage and beverage warehouses or in paper recycling.
Becoming One with the Truck
Linde Steer Control complements Linde’s proven operating concept comprising dual pedal control and Linde Load Control. Together, the three control components give the driver the feeling of being completely at one with the truck while working. The dual pedal control enables smooth acceleration and fast direction changes. With their right hand, the driver uses the Linde Load Control, which controls all essential mast functions. And with their left hand, they can steer the truck in all directions using the Linde Steer Control.
Particularly Beneficial for Frequent Users
Thanks to the reduced range of movement of the control arm, Linde Steer Control brings significant ergonomic improvements. Especially for intensive applications, where drivers spend several hours at a time on the truck, this reduced physical strain is of great value. The improved ergonomics and ease of operation also help to increase overall productivity. On the one hand, by enabling drivers to work longer without discomfort and with greater concentration. On the other hand, by reducing the absenteeism rate due to long-term physical injuries.
A Completely New Driving Experience
Linde Steer Control optimizes the ergonomic features of the truck and reduces the physical strain on the driver. The ergonomic benefits include:
Reduced Arm Movements
By dispensing with the classic steering wheel and integrating the truck controls into the additional armrest, the driver’s forearm rests in a relaxed position during the entire driving time. All maneuvers are controlled exclusively by slight movements of the hand. The minimal range of motion of the arm relieves the strain on the shoulder and elbow in particular, which noticeably increases operating comfort.
The significantly reduced arm movements when controlling the forklift prevent fatigue and one-sided strain on the steering arm. This is particularly noticeable for intensive users who spend the majority of their working time on the forklift. The physical strain caused by frequent maneuvering is also kept to a minimum. Irrespective of the task at hand, drivers can work with concentration and without distraction throughout their shift and maintain their handling performance at a consistently high level.
Reduced Mental Load
Since Linde Steer Control keeps the necessary steering movements to a minimum, the driver can concentrate completely on the truck’s maneuvers.
Ergonomics study: fewer movements, less strain
In order to scientifically prove the ergonomic advantages of Linde Steer Control, in 2022 Linde conducted a user study together with the Institute for Automotive Engineering at RWTH Aachen University and fka GmbH involving 24 test drivers, most of whom also drive forklifts in their day-to-day work. The results of the study point to clear advantages of the mini-wheel and joystick. Motion analyses clearly show that both variants cause less movement of the steering arm compared to the conventional Linde steering wheel.
For the study, the drivers completed two identical driving courses involving typical driving maneuvers such as driving straight ahead, winding passages, maneuvering, and picking up, setting down and stacking goods. To determine the range of motion of the shoulder, elbow and wrist, the upper body and arms were recorded with a special camera and analyzed. The result: the shoulder is moved 25 percent less, the elbow as much as 45 percent less. This significantly reduces the strain on the shoulder and elbow joints, as well as on the muscles all the way up to the neck.
The results of the motion analysis are consistent with the subjective driving experience. For example, the drivers stated that the perceived strain on their shoulders and arms was significantly lower when using the mini-wheel and joystick compared to the Linde steering wheel.
Visibility and Safety
Linde Steer Control makes the classic steering wheel obsolete. This eliminates the need for a steering column and improves the visibility through the windshield to the fork tips. This, in turn, makes it easier for the driver to pick up loads standing on the ground.
The Control System of the Future: Safety Thanks to Steer-by-Wire Technology
Linde Steer Control is based on steer-by-wire technology, in which the driver’s steering commands are converted into electrical signals and passed on to the hydraulic control elements. This allows the truck’s wheels to be steered even though the steering element is no longer mechanically connected to the steering axle. For Steer Control, Linde has developed an innovative safety concept that ensures the fail-safe operation of the truck control system under all circumstances, despite the lack of a mechanical connection.