Forensic Engineering Analysis of Unintended Movement of Powered Industrial Trucks


  • Ben T. Railsback
  • Richard M. Ziernicki
  • Steve Knapp
  • Ricky Nguyen



Forklift, powered industrial truck, parking brake, operator presence detection, interlock, forensic engineering


Unintended movement of powered industrial trucks after operators have left the operating position has led to serious — and sometimes fatal — accidents. Even though operators are trained to prevent unintended movement of powered industrial trucks, they can forget to shut off the power source or activate systems to prevent the unintended movement when leaving the truck. Operators are known to make mistakes, especially if they are working in a fast-paced environment and are required to frequently leave the trucks. Engineershave designed electrical interlocks and other systems (e.g., automatically applied parking brakes) to prevent unintended movement; however, not all powered industrial trucks are equipped with them. Furthermore, some of these systems only disconnect the power source from the truck’s drivetrain. These trucks can continue traveling due to their initial momentum or by gravity if the truck was left on a slope. The purpose of this paper is to address the design of forklift operator presence detection systems and unintended movement of unoccupied forklifts through a safety and forensic engineering analysis, highlighting a brief case study to examine the concept of use and foreseeable misuse — and to review the legal concept of strict product liability.




How to Cite

Railsback, Ben T., Richard M. Ziernicki, Steve Knapp, and Ricky Nguyen. 2018. “Forensic Engineering Analysis of Unintended Movement of Powered Industrial Trucks”. Journal of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers 35 (1).




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