The multi-use telehandler can be used for a variety of applications, from moving brick and block to framing and bridge reconstruction. After a boom in the 1990s, in which the telehandler market grew like wildfire, the market began to experience a lull in early 2000 which lasted until the beginning of this year, according to David White, product marketing manager for Ingersoll-Rand. The lull was based on the fact that companies had overbought the equipment and there were huge fleets in the field. Some of the used equipment is now being sold, so the comeback this year has been strong.
One of the greatest advantages of the telehandler over the standard forklift is reach. With a farther reach to pick up and drop off loads, these machines can be used in many outdoor applications, where a standard forklift is unable to tread over the rough terrain. A higher lift height and greater lift capacity further extend the capabilities of this machine.
Beau Anderson, product manager for Genie Industries, says telehandlers are a key piece of equipment on most jobsites. “Telehandlers are used to lift, move and unload most types of construction materials,” Anderson says. “They can operate over rough terrain and have the ability to reach out and over obstacles.”
“Any areas where terrain is uneven with rocks and dirt is a prime candidate for the telescopic forklift,” says John Koepf, product manager for Mustang telescopic handlers.
The growth in demand for the telehandler is no doubt driven by their increasing versatility. The list of attachments that can be used on telehandlers is a long one, and each attachment increases the range of duties it can perform. Buckets, brooms, augers and work platforms are just a few examples of attachments that increase telehandler abilities.
“I think that the construction trades are slowly finding out how valuable these machines can be in terms of the versatility they have,” says Koepf.
Doug Snorek, marketing manager for Mustang, says the attachments can turn this machine into a very flexible piece of equipment. “You have so many options to choose from with what you want it to do,” he says. “It opens so many doors.” For example, Snorek recently saw a telehandler with a broom attachment cleaning a parking lot.
Anderson also contends that this piece of equipment has the ability to do the work of multiple types of equipment. “For example, when equipped with a truss boom, a telehandler may be able to replace a small crane setting trusses,” he says. “A rubbish bucket could allow a telehandler to replace a skid steer for jobsite cleanup.”
Ky Kuehling, vice president for telehandler products for JLG Industries says that telehandlers are very well accepted, both because of the lift reach capabilities and the versatility the attachments are able to give the operators.
Besides being versatile, telehandlers increase efficiency on the jobsite and reduce the number of workers it takes to do a job, which translates into savings on labor costs. Materials can travel across the jobsite quicker and more easily and reach higher work sites, moving material in larger groups.
Operator comfort and ergonomics is another area where telehandlers continue to improve. Operator comfort becomes increasingly important to manufacturers because comfort translates into increased productivity on the jobsite. According to Koepf, comfort becomes more critical on bigger jobs where a telehandler is being used for long stretches of time. If a worker is driving across a jobsite for most of the day, comfort plays more of a role than if he's just lifting one load and dropping it off.
One trend Kuehling is seeing is the increasing globalization of telehandlers.
“The telehandlers built and sold in North America have been very different than the telehandlers built and sold in Europe,” Kuehling says. “The lines are starting to blur a bit.” European machines tend to have larger operator compartments, are more comfortable and have better ergonomics; North American models are beginning to move in that direction.
One major driver for safety in the telehandler market is visibility from the cab, and manufacturers focus on trying to improve equipment visibility because it allows operators to be more productive on the jobsite. Manufacturers are increasingly working to be “best in class” in this area.
Safety features will continue to improve down the road. Koepf predicts that telehandlers will feature an indicator that will sense when a machine will tip left to right. The indicator will let the operator know not to continue to raise the boom and will also disable controls. In the future automatic sensors might be used to guide forks in and out, making it easier to pick up and place loads.
Kuehling says that even today we don't even know all of the applications and uses for the telehandler. “As the machines get larger — and smaller — it will open up new doors in the industry and they will continue to grow in popularity,” he says.
And as technology advances in the years to come, increased productivity and versatility will follow.