Compact telehandlers — those models typically having a maximum lift capacity of around 5,000 pounds and a maximum lift height of less than 20 feet — have been big sellers in Europe for years. Not so in North America, however, where acceptance of these machines has been slow. But that said, the potential market for the compact telehandler in North America could be immense. Consider that in the United Kingdom, which has 20 percent of the U.S. population, annual sales of compact telehandlers approaches 75 percent of current sales for these units in the United States. Apply the United Kingdom's population-to-sales ratio in North America, and it's understandable why compact-telehander manufacturers see great opportunity for growth on this side of the Atlantic, and why these manufacturers are moving to develop the market.
By contrast, boom lifts with platform heights of 40 to 49 feet often are the “bread-and-butter” machines in an aerial-work-platform manufacturer's North American product offering. These popular machines have been a staple in many lifting-equipment fleets since the late 1970s — when first introduced by John L. Grove, founder of JLG — and the market for them continues to expand. Among the market forces driving the expansion of this boom-lift class is economy of use. Rental rates have gone down, as a percentage of labor costs, and lower rental rates have proliferated the utilization of boom lifts. In addition, the advent of platform tools and accessories has expanded the application of the 40-to-49-foot boom lift. But more important for the market, perhaps, is that the availability of these tools and accessories has prompted replacement of machines at a faster rate, resulting from more end-users demanding the increased utility that a better-equipped platform provides.
Given the great potential for the compact telehandler and the continuing popularity of 40-to-49-foot boom lifts, these two machine categories were chosen as the focus of Lift and Access Magazine's second annual Lifting Showcase, Oct. 30 through Nov. 1, 2007, at the Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix, Ariz. Lift and Access hosted five manufacturers of 40-to-49-foot boom lifts (Genie, Haulotte, JLG, Skyjack and Snorkel), and six compact telehandler manufacturers (Gehl, Genie, JCB, Manitou, Mustang and Xtreme).
The overall Lifting Showcase event included both a Telehandler Showcase and a Boom Lift Showcase, and each began with a roundtable breakfast, where participants had the unique opportunity to discuss market trends and product development. These lively discussions were made so by the varied mix of participants, including manufacturers, component vendors, event sponsors, the Lift and Access editorial team, and magazine editors from a variety of other publications, among them Construction Equipment, Acreage Life, American Cattlemen, Dairy Hot Line and Farmers Hot Line.
Both events also entailed product “walk-arounds,” providing manufacturers the opportunity to discuss the design of their machines in detail, as well as measurement of key specifications for these machines. In addition, compact-telehandler manufacturers had the chance to demonstrate the work-tool versatility of their machines during the Attachment Rodeo, and boom-lift manufacturers were challenged to test the traction and maneuverability of their units by negotiating a rough-terrain obstacle course. (First through the course was a 60-foot-class Genie — demonstrating the Loegering QTS track system and a tough act to follow, but some of the 40-to-49-foot machines, wheels churning, also crossed the finish line.)
A special thanks goes to the sponsors of the Lifting Showcase: John Deere Power Systems, Waterloo, Iowa; Urethane International, Alpharetta, Ga.; Power Great Lakes/Power Solutions Inc., Wood Dale, Ill.; Loegering, Casselton, N.D.; DeltaTech Controls, West Plains, N.Y.; Oerlikon Fairfield, Lafayette, Ind.; Tendaire Industries, Beresford, S.D.; AerialWrap, Fort Myers, Fla.; Hawe Hydraulics, Charlotte, N.C.; Trak N Seal, Kingsbury, Texas; OEM Controls, Shelton, Conn.; ZF Industries, Vernon Hills, Ill.; and the Heartland Ag-Business Group, Fort Dodge, Iowa.
Distinguishing “compact” telehandlers from the broad range of larger units available is not a clear-cut task, and the compact classification may have more to do with dimensions than with the lift chart. The general consensus among manufacturers is that these models should be able to pass through a finished double-wide door that is 6 feet 7 inches tall, and, further, that gross vehicle weight (GVW) should be less than 12,000 pounds — a figure that usually allows rental machines to be towed with a properly sized trailer and pickup truck driven by someone without a commercial driver's license. (Units on site at the Telehandler Showcase weighed between 9,800 and 12,125 pounds.)
Also, compacts are defined further as having minimum lift-chart specifications — for example, 5,000 pounds of capacity and 16-to-19-foot lift heights. But as even smaller machines enter the market, perhaps the compact class will eventually need more precise definition.
Manufacturers at the Telehandler Showcase were careful to point out, however, that even though compact models may look much the same at first glance, two design philosophies are evident in the group. The specific design, they said, whether “ground-engaging” or “pick-and-place,” affects the applications for which a particular machine is best suited. Although, again, precise definitions are difficult to pin down, most agree that “ground engaging” connotes a machine that has the ability to perform some tasks that a skid-steer loader or smaller wheel loader can perform (for instance, handling an auger, power broom, grapple, specialty buckets or a concrete hopper), while “pick-and-place” connotes a machine best suited to do just that.
Typically, a ground-engaging unit, compared with a lift-and-place machine, has a substantially more robust boom head (gooseneck); heavier mounting brackets; and a formed boom, which, unlike a box boom (fabricated from four flat-plate sections), is made of two channeled sections. Also, ground-engaging units typically have greater breakout force (the power to tilt a load). But, says Ryan Ford, Manitou's telehandler product specialist, the limits of even the most robust compact must be observed.
“I wouldn't want someone to think that they could excavate a mountain.”
The best advice seems to be that if you need a machine for serious digging, then a skid-steer or small wheel loader might be the best choice. But if you need a machine that can do a respectable job of digging, plus handle a variety of other tasks, while also providing substantially more reach and lift capacity than small loaders, then a ground-engaging compact might be a sound investment. (Even the largest skid steers — with maximum capacities approaching 3,900 pounds — can't match the 5,000-pound-plus capacity of a compact telehandler.) Compacts also travel at higher speeds, don't pivot steer (saving both tires and turf), and can crab steer for enhanced maneuverability. And from an operator's point of view, ingress and egress is easier with the compact.
On the other hand, pick-and-place machines have their own set of attributes. The Mustang 519 and Gehl RS5-19 compacts, for instance, clearly fit this category. Designed with material handling in mind, acquisition costs of these units are lower, they offer better visibility, and seem to be just a bit more nimble. They will handle a light material bucket just fine in cleanup and material-transfer work, but their representatives are the first to point out that these are not ground-engaging machines.
Compact telehandlers, generally, are filling the role once dominated by the rough-terrain, straight-mast forklift, and well may be the cause of the straight-mast machine's demise. Given the compact's two-dimensional reach capabilities, low clearance height and four-wheel steering — plus its ability for quickly accessing and placing materials virtually anywhere on a jobsite — the popularity of these machines is quite understandable.
Once seen only as a means to reach the heights of a jobsite, boom lifts have evolved into more than personnel lifts by virtue of add-ons and accessories. According to Howard Kaplan, vice president, product parent for JLG Industries, McConnellsburg, Penn., the company began offering its “Workstation in the Sky” accessories in 2002, after realizing that end-users were rigging their own devices and, in the process, creating jobsite hazards and clutter.
“We wanted to integrate the work process into the lift itself,” says Kaplan.
Among JLG's most popular options is SkyPower, which, says Kaplan, enables other packages, such as the SkyCutter and SkyWelder, to run off the system's 10,000-watt generator. JLG also offers the SkySaw, an integrated wall-sawing-and-drilling system, as well as the SkyAir system that provides an onboard air compressor.
Genie Industries, based in Redmond, Wash., also offers optional generators on its boom lifts. Engine-powered machines can accommodate onboard generators — driven either hydraulically or mechanically (via belt) — that provide 110V power at the platform. This configuration allows operators to use power tools without relying on an outside power source and extension cords. On electrically powered units, the company offers an optional 800-watt inverter, which converts 48V DC to 120V AC power for use on the elevated platform. Also available are welder packages, as well as a piping package that conveys air from an on-ground compressor to the platform.
“Demand continues to grow for add-ons and accessories,” says Phil Harvey, Genie's product manager for boom lifts, “because end-users want more versatility, and these options give them the ability to complete a wide variety of jobs in diverse working environments.”
Skyjack, based in Guelph, Ontario, offers generator and welding packages, along with glazier kits. Other options include platform working lights and air piping to the platform, as well as “site-specific” accessories that may be required to cope with extreme environments (heat, cold or hazards) or to provide enhanced safety — pinch-guard rails or mesh platform railings, for example. According to Paul Kreutzwiser, senior product marketing manager for Skyjack, platform options continue to gain ground as boom-lift users strive for increased productivity. In addition, he says, environmental-related options, such as diesel scrubbers and exhaust purifiers, also are in demand.
Consistency of boom-lift controls not only helps with serviceability and reduces costs for the owner, but also relieves operators from having to reacquaint themselves with controls as they move among different models from the same manufacturer. The five boom-lift manufacturers attending the Showcase reported that upper controls are common across their boom- lift product lines, but notable differences are apparent from brand to brand.
For example, on the left side of the JLG 400S control panel is a fully proportional combination boom-lift and rotation joystick, and on the right is a proportional travel joystick topped with a thumb steering actuator. The panel also features an LED information center that communicates with the operator, says Mark Mohn, JLG's boom-lift product champion.
By comparison, the Haulotte HB45J uses three separate joysticks. The left joystick controls boom rotate and lift functions, the center controls extension and the large right-hand joystick controls machine travel and steering (with an integral, top-mounted steering selector).
Controls for the Skyjack SJ45T are similar to those of the JLG 400S (combination boom-lift/rotation joystick on the left and travel/steering joystick on the right), but the machine also incorporates a directional-sensing drive system. This system orientates the direction of travel with joystick input — regardless of turret position. Genie has a similar directional-control system, but the system requires an override when traveling against controller input.
In addition, several manufacturers are moving to microprocessor-based control systems in order to reduce the number of moving parts. Skyjack, however, has maintained its basic analog, relay-based control system on the SJ45T, with the exception of a microprocessor in the upper control box. The company continues to use a conventional, color-coded wiring system, citing common serviceability among its machines as a resulting benefit.
Since first appearing on the JLG 40H in 1981, oscillating axles have greatly enhanced the boom-lift's ability to negotiate rough terrain. Three of the five boom lifts at the Showcase featured oscillating axles, but JLG, Genie, and Skyjack each have different ideas about how and when the system activates.
JLG's axle-ocscillation system on the 400S is “passive,” allowing the axle to float on either side and not lock until the superstructure rotates 5 degrees off-center. The axle remains locked until the superstructure is again centered.
The Skyjack SJ 45T's oscillating steering axle also uses a passive system. When the boom is positioned for high-speed travel, the axle floats a total of 8 inches. Once the main boom elevates above 15 degrees from horizontal, the high-speed travel function cuts out, and the axle locks into position. The position of the jib boom does not affect the operation of the axle or high-speed travel.
According to JLG's Mohn, the passive system provides a positive lock-out and rigid lifting base. With a closed loop hydraulic system, says JLG, the passive system is less complex, has fewer potential leak points and is less expensive to maintain than other system types.
The oscillating-axle system on the Genie S-45 is different altogether. Similar to an automotive suspension system, the active oscillating axle is always “on” and maintains traction by keeping all four tires on the ground. Although this system was not created to keep the machine level, says Genie's Harvey, the S-45 “tracks the terrain,” and the axle is constantly pushing the wheels to the ground. As a result, he says, basket movement is minimized, resulting in a more comfortable feeling for the operator.
|Telehandler Models: 5,000-to-5,500-Pound Capacities|
|Model||CT5-16 Turbo||RS5-19||GTH-5519||524-50||MLT 523 Turbo MU||519||XRM 5.519||V518 VersaHandler*||TH255*||G5-18A*|
|*Machines not reviewed at the Telehandler Showcase|
|Maximum lift capacity (lb.)||5,000||5,500||5,500||5,000||5,000||5,500||5,250||5,000||5,500||5,500|
|Maximum lift height||16'2"||19'1"||19'0"||16'5"||16'2"||19'1"||18'11.5"||18'1.7"||18'4"||18'4"|
|Lift capacity at maximum height (lb.)||5,000||3,000||4,400||5,000||5,000||3,000||3,800||5,000||4,400||4,400|
|Lift capacity at maximum reach (lb.)||2,200||1,850||1,900||2,750||2,200||1,850||1,750||2,000||1,850||1,850|
|Optional loader buckets (cu. yd.)||1.0 / 1.5||1||0.65 / 0.75||1.3||1.25||1||1.18||1.0 / 3.25||up to 1.7||up to 1.7|
|Breakout force (lb.)||10,229||—||8,157||8,993||10,516||—||—||8,093 (bucket)||7,650||7,650|
|Drawbar pull (lb.)||—||—||9,325||—||7,644||—||—||8,317||8,700||8,700|
|Engine make||Perkins||Deutz||Perkins||JCB Diesel||Perkins||Deutz||Yanmar||Perkins||Caterpillar||Perkins|
|Maximum travel speed (mph)||16||15||15||18.6||17||15||16||18.4||16||16|
|Length to fork face||13'10"||12'4"||12'7"||12'10"||13'10"||12'4"||13'5"||14'10.5"||12'0"||12'0"|
|Height, boom down||6'7"||6'4"||6'4"||6'11"||6'7"||6'4"||6'3"||6'10.6"||6'3.6"||6'3.6"|
|Turning radius over tires, brakes off||10'10"||11'0"||11'0"||9'10"||10'2"||11'0"||11'2"||12'3.4"||10'6"||10'6"|
|Weight (lb.)||11,856||10,000||9,810||12,125||10,913||10,000||10,600||10,846||10,800||10,800 (w/ carriage and forks)|
|Boom Lifts Models: 40-to-49 Feet|
|Model||S-45||HB 44J||400S||SJ 45T||TB 42||S-40**||460SJ**||SJ 40T**||TB 42J**||TB 47J**|
|** Machines not reviewed at the Boom LIft Showcase|
|*** Standard on 4WD models|
|Jib elevation (degrees)||135°||140°||N/A||135°||N/A||135°||130°||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|Stowed height||8'2"||8'3" / 7'3"||7'10"||7'10"||7'9.5"||8'2"||7'10"||7'10"||8'1"||7'11.5"|
|Capacity (lb.)||500||500||500 (1,000 restricted)||500||500||500||500 (1,000 restricted)||650||500||500|
|Gross weight (lb.)||14,790||15,430||12,525||15,850||11,600||11,650||15,855||14,900||11,520||13,315|