"Large lifting companies with multiple cranes have options to get jobs done. I don't have that luxury," comments Steve Kelly, owner/operator of Steel Giraffe LLC. The Portsmouth, R.I.-based "boutique" crane company doesn't search out the typical residential and commercial construction projects. Rather, Steel Giraffe completes specialized lifting projects, and 90 percent of its lift jobs fall within a 30-mi (48-km) radius of the headquarters location.
Elevating Efficiency: an in-depth look at high-capacity telehandlers
High-capacity telehandlers offer high lift and lifting capacity and are a more maneuverable option than cranes for moving and lifting materials around the jobsite. With a wide variety of attachments for handling materials from pipes to pallets, these machines are primed for work on construction sites, industrial applications, working in the oil and gas and mining industries, and stockpile management.
A rise in demand
Historically the market for high-capacity telehandlers in North America has been niche, but recent years have brought an uptick in demand for high-capacity models, according to Braden Spence, product manager at Skyjack. He expects that as end users continue to increasingly understand the versatility of high-capacity telehandlers and how they can displace other equipment types, there will be larger uptake in the rental market.
The Canadian rental market for high-capacity models has grown, according to Steve Kiskunas, product manager – telescopic handers at Manitou. "There is a strong demand and growing opportunity in Canada for high-capacity telehandlers," he said. "This year is better than the last, and it's expected to increase in the next 18 months." He noted that demand should grow as more customers understand how these products can provide more cost-effective and productive solutions for their material movement needs.
Josh Taylor, Genie product manager at Terex AWP, pointed out that "due to the higher acquisition cost and the smaller range of applications that demand such high capacity. . . some large utilities or general contractors will choose to own these machines rather than rent them. What contractors ultimately care about is the ability to move and place the loads safely, and the machine selected for the job needs to be able to meet those capabilities."
Construction projects across many markets and segments are on the rise, and this drives the overall need for more telehandlers to support heavy lifting, said John Boehme, senior product manager for JLG. As market conditions continue to improve, he predicts that the opportunity for high-capacity telehandlers to provide jobsite solutions will as well.
Heavy lifting showdown: high-capacity telehandlers vs. other lift equipment
The key advantages of high-capacity telehandlers over other lift equipment are versatility, machine compactness, maneuverability and travel speed, according to Boehme.
Taylor pointed out that telehandlers have a more efficient travel capability than a crane. "They are able to move loads from place to place quickly and often place them at their final location, and the reach and lift height is often better than that of an excavator. The ability to place loads with height and outreach also give it an advantage over cranes and vertical mast forklifts. Many of these pieces are used in conjunction with one another to complete a job. Selecting the right tool for the job is a key component of jobsite safety, so every application should have a thorough review of the loads that need to be moved and where they need to be placed, and then the appropriate machine can be selected for each phase of the job."
Matthew Elvin, CEO of Xtreme Manufacturing, said that their high-capacity telehandlers are being utilized for the gap between where telehandler capacities stop and smaller rough-terrain cranes pick up. High-capacity telehandlers are typically used to move large-capacity items around jobsites, whereas mobile cranes require extra time to set up, pick up a load, place it on a truck, dismantle, move, and set up again to pick up the next load.
The operating cost difference makes the use of the telehandler more appealing, he added. There are no additional personnel aside from the trained telehandler operator. Certified crane operators are more expensive and the use of crane oilers and flaggers is common, which drives operating costs higher compared to using a telehandler.
Skyjack's ZB2044 high-capacity telehandler can displace many other pieces of equipment, like front-end loaders, excavators and rough-terrain cranes, noted Spence. "For instance, front-end loaders are traditionally used for stockpile management, but by using Skyjack's ZB2044 with pallet forks or its light material bucket option, you can safely increase stock height whether it's loose material or pallets - ultimately reducing yard footprint."
High-capacity telehandlers can also provide better all-terrain travel and greater forward load placement than high-capacity straight mast fork trucks or high-capacity front-end wheel loaders, noted Manitou's Kiskunas. In addition, he said that telehandlers with their solid frame design have fewer load restrictions when turning than articulated wheel loaders.
Suitable across sectors
"Telehandlers have a well-developed customer base and broad adoption across many sectors," according to Taylor. This includes large-scale infrastructure projects and heavy highway projects which utilize high-capacity telehandlers to move heavy precast pieces or other equipment.
JLG's high-capacity 1644 and 1732 telehandlers are ideal for use in wind farm, industrial, construction, mining and quarries, power plant construction, logging and energy extraction applications. "High-capacity telehandlers save time, money and labour on the jobsite by allowing operators to accomplish multiple tasks with one machine," said Boehme. "Their higher lift capacity and enhanced versatility cut down on the time it takes to complete the work."
Manitou has high-capacity telehandlers working in heavy construction infrastructure projects, such as bridge building and power generation. Manitou's high-capacity telehandlers are also found working outside of traditional construction in industries such as mining, industrial material processing, scrap and waste management.
Michel Robert, marketing and communications director for Merlo, commented that in addition to industrial use, some of the biggest mining companies in Canada, including Mosaic, Arcelor Mittal and Minerai de Fer, are using their telehandlers.
Skyjack's highest-capacity telehandler is the ZB2044, which the company said is ideal for use on jobsites performing steel erection, work in the oil and gas industry, industrial construction and stockpile management applications.
Xtreme machines are being used for similar applications. "Currently, high-capacity telehandlers are most popular in mining, oil and gas, general construction and many industrial applications. There has also been an increase in interest coming from the power generation and solar industries. Attachments, such as our pipe and pole grapple, also increase opportunities for telehandlers within the utilities and infrastructure sectors," said Elvin.
Rotating telehandlers offer even greater versatility on tight jobsites. These machines can rotate 360 degrees and operate in three modes: telehandler, winch or platform. According to Manitou's Kiskunas, "With the rotating telescopic handler, the process of placing materials on jobsites changes. The traditional telehandler picks materials, drives into position and places the materials where used. With a rotating telehandler, the machine can be placed in one position and the long reach of the boom and rotation system will pick materials and place them where needed. This provides quick and efficient material placement and allows work to be done in smaller spaces, which is an important benefit on jobsites with space restrictions. Also, with extendable outriggers, the MRT units have a solid base of stability for the work required."
Manitou sees contractors in many trades using rotating telehandlers, from framers to masons to general contractors to roofers. "Right now, many of the rotating units are used in areas where high lift heights are needed, such as larger urban areas. As the benefits of rotating telehandlers and their quick material placement is recognized by more contractors and their comfort level for operating the units increases, we expect to see the adoption of even more rotating telescopic handlers," said Kiskunas.
Trends and technology take telehandlers to the next level
"The market continues to be focused on return on investment as defined not only by acquisition costs, but by total cost of the product over its lifetime," said JLG's Boehme. "Rental company owners and owner/operators are paying more attention to the versatility of each piece of equipment, the productivity gains the telehandler can provide, and the cost after sale. With the importance of ROI growing, telematics [use is growing rapidly]."
JLG offers the ClearSky fleet management telematics solution. Boehme said that it provides equipment owners and operators access to critical engine and equipment operational data so they can make better decisions on their investment. Data points, including location, engine houses, usage, fuel and battery levels, and maintenance schedules are conveniently available in real time and accessible from desktop or mobile devices.
Taylor said that as with other areas of the construction industry, telematics use is growing for telehandlers, allowing owners and operators to monitor machine usage remotely, as well as better understand their cost of ownership.
Elvin at Xtreme said that one of the key differences with their telehandlers is the use of boom rollers. Xtreme telehandlers are equipped with load bearing long-life boom rollers in place of wear pads to allow for smoother boom operation. According to Elvin, these require very little maintenance and have been shown to last in excess of 10,000 work hours with very little visible wear. The boom rollers contribute to operator confidence by eliminating boom chatter, while the low-maintenance and long-life attributes appeal to companies by lowering costs and improving the telehandler's residual value.
He added that Xtreme roller boom telehandlers also feature proportional valves that deliver joystick featherability, providing the operator with greater control when placing heavy loads in challenging locations.
JLG's optional SmartLoad technology is a bundle of three integrated technologies that work together to deliver a great level of operator confidence. Boehme said that "armed with real-time load data, this package provides operators with increased confidence while fleet owners avoid the costly repairs that may result from overloading a machine."
Spence pointed out that daily inspections and cataloguing of the health of the machine can be done through current processes or with innovative solutions such as Skyjack's ELEVATE telematics solution.
Attachments are key
With a wide range of industry-specific attachments, high-capacity telehandlers can adapt to demanding jobsites and replace other traditional machines; plus, their ability to handle heavy, bulky loads makes them ideal for performing maintenance on other machines in the rental yard, Boehme noted.
He said that JLG's new telehandlers feature an integrated tow hitch and are compatible with a wide range of standard and specialty attachments, providing the operator with more options on the jobsite.
Kitskunas said that the quick attach system on Manitou telehandlers enables attachments to be changed without delay for a highly efficient, versatile machine.
Robert noted that Merlo's high-capacity models can automatically recognize the attachment fitted and then calibrate performance in relation to the load chart.
Spence recommended that rental companies keep a wide range of attachments on hand. This ensures that they're helping customers by anticipating the many applications that the machine can be used for; this helps to increase the rental rate as it opens the equipment up to rental for a wider variety of applications. "Whether it's niche options like the bridge stripper, which safely and efficiently removes falsework from underneath cast bridges, to the hydraulic winch or pipe and pole clamp, Skyjack's ZB2044 has the tools available to make it a valuable piece of equipment on any jobsite," he said.
When selecting a high-capacity telehandler, Elvin said that customers are most interested in several factors including safety, reliability and selecting the right tool for the job. "Xtreme's high-capacity offering allows for the operators to choose the machine that is best-suited for the application. Xtreme Manufacturing offers a wide range of telehandler attachments, providing greater flexibility compared to rough-terrain straight mast forklifts."
Taylor noted that it is important to understand that a bigger machine means larger and heavier components, so this requires larger support equipment in the shop and in the field. "The best advice I can give a customer looking to buy a high-capacity telehandler is to understand your market. High-capacity telehandlers are more expensive to acquire than smaller machines, so the owner should be confident of the utilization potential. Rental rates increase with capacity, so contractors have an incentive to rent only as much machine as they need."
Robert from Merlo recommends that buyers look at the dimensions to capacity ratio to ensure that they are buying the most compact unit for their needs. He also recommends comparing the load chart. "Some will claim a huge capacity, however, when looking at the chart, you'll find out that if you extend your boom one or two feet, you'll be losing most of the capacity. Also, they should be looking at fuel consumption as it can make a big difference for your real cost of ownership."
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