Compact Telehandlers Reach Their Place in Construction Equipment Market

Sept. 28, 2010

Reaching out to a market still considered somewhat niche, the compact telehandler offering has undergone substantial development in recent months and even weeks. While the construction sector is served by a moderate number of models, more than one-third of those models are new product introductions by manufacturers attempting to serve a market that has grown globally, and even more so in North America.

Machines with load capacities of less than 6,000 pounds are approaching 6,000 in reported annual sales, more than doubling since the early part of the decade. During that time, the North American share has grown from less than 20 percent of the total to what is today more than one-third, even with the fallback caused by the new housing construction crunch. A year ago, the North American share had surpassed 40 percent.

"It is just a sign of a maturing market," says Steve Kirst, product and marketing manager for telehandlers with Gehl. "For years, telehandler manufacturers concentrated on bigger and taller machines."

From the market's point of view, smaller machines do naturally offer a smaller price tag allowing a product entry point for some contractors, as well as a lighter weight for easier transporting, says Kirst. But there's more.

"Contractors are realizing that although the extra capacity and extra reach are a bonus, it is not always required," he says. "As an example, brick masons who generally work on one- or two-story buildings find that a lift height in the upper teens is adequate to reach their scaffolding, and a 5,500-pound capacity is still enough to carry a double stack of brick or block."

Gehl is among those manufacturers rolling out new compact models, specifically the RS5-19 that offers 5,500 pounds of lift capacity and 19 feet 1 inch of lift height as part of the RS Series of lift-and-carry machines. A corresponding model is offered under the Gehl-owned Mustang brand.

Gehl also offers sub-6,000-pound-capacity models as part of the CT Series of "ground-engaging" telescopic loaders.

In the eyes of a product specialist with another leading compact equipment brand, there is a coming-together of sorts for two product types.

The fourth and smallest VersaHandler offered by Bobcat, the new V417, "is really utilizing the best features of two product lines — our world-famous skid-steer loaders and our telehandlers," says Justin Schott. "I've got my own little theory on these machines:

"When skid-steers were developed, they were really small and compact to get into tight quarters and maneuver quickly and efficiently, and they have steadily grown bigger through the years of their production. Telehandlers, on the other hand, were large machines with a large lift capacity and large lift height, and those have steadily gotten smaller to where right now in this size you're seeing it's truly a customer's choice: Does he want to be able to use a large skid-steer or a compact telehandler to achieve what he needs to? And it's really based on his application and what he feels would benefit his jobsite or his crew the most."

If the two worlds are indeed forging, Bobcat's newest product publicly proclaims the . . . well . . . link.

With a maximum load capacity of 4,000 pounds and maximum lift height of 17 feet, the V417 is the first Bobcat "telescopic tool carrier" to be fitted with the standard Bob-Tach attachment mounting system synonymous with Bobcat compact skid-steer, all-wheel-steer and tracked loaders. The compact telehandler will operate tools used by Bobcat loaders which may already be part of a customer's fleet, says Schott. Introduced to dealers in November, the V417's "hybrid" features clearly resonated.

"That gives them and especially their customers a little bit more of a skid-steer feel, and that's something they're comfortable with," says Schott. "If you're familiar with it, you're more comfortable with it. And based on that familiarity, it's not an overall brand-new product, if you will, when you look at the features individually."

Another view

The view is naturally different for a manufacturer approaching the market with a lift-and-place heritage.

In December, JLG introduced its new "super compact" telehandler, the G5-18A, available with a number of carriages, forks, hooks and bucket attachments. A universal skid-steer attachment adapter is available, but JLG's Brian Boeckman emphasizes that the compact telehandler is not the ideal carrier for ground-engaging tools. It is, he says, all about a balance of maneuverability, lift capacity and reach.

With 5,500 pounds of maximum lifting capacity and 18 feet of boom height, the G5-18A can lift 1,850 pounds at the fully extended reach of 11 feet. While packing 84 horsepower from a Perkins 1104D engine, the new JLG telehandler retains a turning radius of 126 inches.

"We think we've got the right combination in terms of a very compact machine that can get around in those confined areas that customers look for in this type of equipment," says Boeckman. "It's really about getting the right tradeoff between boom height capacity, compact dimensions and turning radius, and getting that into a package that's valuable to the end-user. We think we've hit that sweet spot.

"In our mind, it's about getting the job done in the most efficient way possible, and that comes from keeping the operator comfortable and having the horsepower necessary to drive that faster drive speed and achieve those fast boom speeds."

As part of a product alliance between JLG, now owned by Oshkosh Truck Corp., and Caterpillar, a corresponding new Cat telehandler model is being introduced. The Caterpillar TH255 offers specs matching those of the JLG G5-18A, which is manufactured in Shippensburg, Pa. Other smaller JLG telehandler models are manufactured in Belgium.

In designing the G5-18A, JLG's focus went beyond specs, says Boeckman, to machine serviceability and operator comfort. Indeed, the comfort associated with the cab of a utility excavator or wheel loader was not lost during editor's stick time at the telehandler's rollout in Georgia — a reflection of this machine's increasing placement in a fleet by the owner-operator and their desire for such options as an enclosed cab, air conditioning, tilt steering and rear auxiliary hydraulics.

"He tends to buy something that maybe has a few more options — bells and whistles — than what a rental company would buy for rental purposes. His expectation, I think, is a little higher," says Boeckman. "So, we tried to construct this machine with the philosophy of being able to take it from a very bare-bones plain machine and option it up to the deluxe type of cab layout. Even throughout those levels of options, there are some themes that remain — the location of the controls makes sense, and that's regardless of whether it's the bare-bones version or the optioned version.

In addition to the top-open access and adjacent swing-out side door to the engine compartment, JLG worked with engine supplier Perkins to ensure outside access to daily checks and other serviceable components.

"We moved the battery and the fuse center to the front end of the machine under the boom, where it's well protected by the frame rails and we still allow you to get access to it easily," says Boeckman. "It was one of the areas that came through loud and clear in our initial interviews with customers in what they wanted to see in the machine."

Determining what customers want is what every manufacturer is after, regardless of perspective.

And Bobcat's Schott is happy with what he's hearing back about the 75-horsepower V417 VersaHandler. "I just demo'd a prototype of this machine up in Colorado for snow removal," he says, "and the guys just loved it, especially with the turbocharger and the higher altitude around the areas of Grand Junction and up into the mountains. The higher horsepower gets them around, and it's got a little bit higher travel speed than most skid-steers.

"Fifteen miles an hour is not crawling along by any means, especially for the size of machine and the maneuverability it offers."

It may be just that providing the answer as to why compact telehandlers are, so to say, on the move.

Among the many manufacturers rolling out new compact-telehandler models, JLG is paying "close attention" to the G5-18A's service needs by making the engine area easily accessible and incorporating standard maintenance intervals of 500 hours, "which is 100-percent longer than other compact telehandlers," says JLG's Brian Boeckman.

Standing 76 inches high with a turning radius of 132 inches, Gehl's new RS5-19 telehandler is built to work in confined spaces. With a maximum lift height of 19 feet 1 inch, the machine has a maximum lift capacity of 5,500 pounds.

The smallest of four Bobcat VersaHandler models, the new V417 is the first to offer the Bob-Tach attachment mounting system. Select attachments for Bobcat large-frame skid-steer, all-wheel-steer and compact track loaders are approved for use with the V417.
In this story:
The Cost of Ownership
Model Size List Price Hourly Rate
* Hourly rate is the monthly ownership costs divided by 176, plus operating costs. Unit rates used are diesel fuel at $2.83 per gallon, mechanic's wage at $43.07 per hour, and money costs at 5.75 percent.
Source:, phone 800/669-3282
Up to 2.1 metric tons $43,022 $22.26
2.2-2.7 metric tons $68,809 $29.50
2.71-3.0 metric tons $88,859 $38.90
Compact-Telehandler Specifications
Model Max. Lift Capacity (lb.) Max. Lift Height Max. Reach Capacity at Reach (lb.) Gross Engine Power (hp) Speed (mph)
Source: Xpanded Specs (as of December / 07)
Manitou SLT 415B Turbo 3,000 13′0″ 7′10″ 1,250 52 n/a
JCB 520-40 4,000 13′2″ 8′4″ 2,000 50 12.4
JCB 520-50 4,400 16′5″ 9′3″ 1,650 77 18
Gehl CT5-16 5,000 16′2″ 9′8″ 2,200 58 16
Gehl CT5-16 Turbo 5,000 16′2″ 9′8″ 2,200 75 16
Manitou MT 523 5,000 16′2″ 9′7″ 2,200 58 17
Manitou MLT 523 Turbo MU 5,000 16′2″ 9′7″ 2,200 75 17
JCB 524-50 5,000 16′5″ 9′6″ 2,750 83 18.6
Bobcat V518 VersaHandler 5,000 18′2″ 10′8″ 2,000 100 18.4
JLG G5-19A 5,000 19′0″ 10′4″ 2,200 100 20
Xtreme XRM519 5,000 19′6″ 11′0″ 1,980 100 n/a
Manitou MLA 628-120LSU 5,500 16′9″ 10′6″ 2,950 123 n/a
JLG G5-18A 5,500 18′0″ 10′10″ 1,850 84 17
Genie GTH-5519 5,500 18′10″ 11′3″ 1,700 63 15
Xtreme Dieci XRM5.519 Low Boom 5,500 18′11″ 10′8″ 1,760 71 n/a
Gehl RS5-19 5,500 19′1″ 11′0″ 1,850 64 15
Mustang 519 5,500 19′1″ 11′0″ 1,850 64 15
Xtreme Dieci XRM5.720 Low Boom 5,720 19′6″ 11′0″ 1,980 100 n/a