Toyota Material Handling, an industry leader in innovative material handling solutions, announced on Monday that Jeff Rufener, the company’s former president and CEO, was awarded the 2023 Meritorious Service Award by the Industrial Truck Association. 

The ITA, a 72-year-old trade association for industrial truck manufacturers in North America, has recognized leaders dedicated to serving the organization and advancing the material handling industry with the Meritorious Service Award since 1992.

“Jeff was an integral part of the material handling industry for over four decades, serving in various leadership roles,” said Brett Wood, Toyota Material Handling North America president and CEO. “Not only did he lead Toyota through transformational changes, but with his humble and inspirational leadership, Jeff motivated others to embrace challenges and improve each day. 

Rufener contributed to the ITA for more than 20 years, serving as ITA Chairman from 2009-11, as well as serving on the Executive Committee and as a Board member. Toyota Material Handling said Rufener helped found the inaugural ‘National Forklift Safety Day’ and acted as the first-ever chairman of the task force, “…laying the foundation for safer operational practices for years to come.” 

His former company added that Rufener advocated for increased safety in the material handling industry through operator training, educational programs and product and process efficiency improvements.

“He was always passionate about Toyota’s culture of Kaizen – to continuously improve – and the core purpose of ‘Helping People Carry the Load,’” Wood added.

Toyota noted that Rufener also recognized the necessity of sustainability and energy efficiency within the industry. Under his direction, the company said Toyota launched more than 20 electric forklift models, strengthening the organization’s position as an industry leader.

“I am humbled to receive such a special award from an organization I love so much in the ITA,” Rufener said. “The ITA is so impactful because of its culture, its people and a noble core purpose – the same three tenants that make Toyota great. I’m proud to have been part of both groups and will never forget what we accomplished together.”

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