Options Expand to Catch Soaring Demand

By Larry Stewart, Executive Editor | September 28, 2010




Use of telehandlers has been expanding so rapidly that the equipment industry is cranking out product innovations to attract buyers. According to Construction Equipment's Universe Studies, the number of telehandlers at work in the United States increased nearly 11,000 units, or 55 percent since 1995 (the number of companies that use them has increased 35 percent). Manufacturers competing for a share of this rising demand have doubled the number of telehandler models available since 2001.

The diversity available to North American users is remarkable—about 160 telehandler models are marketed here. Units rated to lift 6,000 pounds had been the chief category for many years. Today there are more than 34 models with 6,000-pound ratings. As with many equipment categories, though, telehandlers have crept up in size. Today there are an additional 12 models with rated capacities greater than 6,000 pounds but less than 7,000 pounds, with maximum lift heights to nearly 56 feet. In fact, sales of machines rated at 10,000 pounds and larger have been the fastest growing of all the telehandler size categories. Today, total sales are fairly evenly split between 6,000-, 8,000- and 10,000-pound machines.

Despite recent consolidation of manufacturers (JLG's purchases of Gradall, Lull, and Sky Trak, for example), there are still 26 telehandler brands competing in North America. About 18 distinct manufacturers' products are available.

Many of the telehandlers on the market got new or improved engines in 2003 because all telehandlers had to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Tier II diesel emissions standards by the first of this year. In areas of the country that do not meet EPA's clean-air standards, it's possible that publicly funded projects might begin to impose limits on diesel emissions from construction sites. If you're competing for those kinds of jobs, you might consider replacing smoky old telehandlers with 2003 models.

Construction Equipment's Universe-Study data indicate that the average telehandler is not traded until after 8 years (those who keep them until they're ready to scrap hold on for more than 14 years). If you haven't shopped for telehandlers in 8 years, you may be surprised at the features available.

One reason for the phenomenal growth of telehandler use is the rise of attachments and emphasis on using the machine as more than a forklift. During the 1990s, manufacturers started pushing the European view of the rough-terrain telescopic forklift as a telehandler—a machine much more versatile than a forklift, capable of wielding a bucket and a variety of other attachments.

The telehandler-versatility race has, perhaps, culminated in competition to field a unit that quickly converts to an aerial-work platform that is as safe and functional as conventional access equipment. After all, lots of machines can handle pallet forks and a bucket or broom, but the telehandler is uniquely suited to transform into a machine that can lift a man and 800 pounds of tools and material 38 feet into the air.

Several manufacturers make platforms that mate with the quick-attach couplers at the end of their telehandler booms, but without controls up on the platform, it is a labor-intensive (and, some suggest, less-safe) solution than an aerial-work platform because a second operator is required to control the machine. Caterpillar, Gehl and JLG have machines that are wired to put all of the machine controls out in the platform. The Gehl PWP machines, and their counterparts branded as Mustang WPS machines, and JLG's Transformers can be changed from pallet forks to work platforms and back in minutes. Their safety features mirror those in aerial-work platforms.

Other attachment applications—the more wheel-loader-like ones—are partly responsible for perpetuating debate over the best way to mount a boom on the telehander's frame.

"One of the most significant developments is that of the low boom pivot design that is popular in Europe," says Scott Nicklas, from Terex. "It has sparked numerous debates about which design is better for visibility."

Visibility to the operator's right is the prize. In order to clear the ground-level field of vision to the operator's right while driving around the site, many manufacturers pin the boom to high support towers. The boom obstructs part of the operator's view high and to the right, but when it is raised into transport position, he can see things on the ground, along the right side of the machine.

High boom mounts require use of a long carriage at the boom head in order for forks to reach the ground. That long carriage acts as a lever, diverting the machine's crowding force and applying a great deal of stress to its joint at the head of the boom, which isn't good for bucket work. So manufacturers have lowered the boom mounts on some models to improve bucket performance and improve the operator's view to the right by looking over the boom. One drawback is that if the boom must be raised slightly more than normal to maneuver on a very rough project site, the low boom can be in the operator's line of sight to the ground.

European manufacturers in particular have used the low boom mounting, although some U.S. manufacturers have certainly adopted the design. And there are a few, such as Gehl and Mustang, Ingersoll Rand, and Terex who offer both low-mount and high-mount machines in their lines.

"Low-boom pivot points on tool carriers increase rigidity for close-to-the-ground work, like grading and landscaping," says the marketing copy in an Ingersoll Rand telehandler brochure. "High-boom pivot points on pick-and-place machines improve lift height and optimize visibility."

Another result of the telehandlers being used more like tool carriers is the choice of control configurations. Most manufacturers offer at least the option of single-joystick control, which puts all of the boom functions in a single joystick. For many models, the single joystick is standard equipment. Several manufacturers offer the choice of single or dual joysticks.

Many telehandler mainframes have narrowed, which improves the operator's view by allowing the engine to be mounted lower and closer to the machine's centerline. Virtually all of the machines offer frame leveling. Frames are attached to the axles at a central point, with hydraulic cylinders connecting the ends of the axles to the corners of the frame. Axles can oscillate freely 6 to 10 degrees, or the cylinders can slow the rate of oscillation, allowing the operator to react to surprises underfoot before the machine tips. These cylinders can level the frame to create a solid platform for lifting.

Steering options much like those on today's backhoe loaders and skid-steer loaders have become nearly universal among telehandlers. Two-wheel steering is standard (usually front-wheel steering), but the vast majority of machines can make tight circles with coordinated all-wheel steering, or they can crab-steer to either side.

The vast telehandler product offering is split fairly evenly between low-mount and high-mount booms and presents plenty of options for load-transferring machines and joystick controls. The selection of features that you can use to tailor a purchase to your needs may never be greater.

Average Telehandler Costs
Size class Base price Hourly cost*
* Combined ownership and operating expenses
Source: Contractors Equipment Cost Guide by EquipmentWatch (800) 669-3282
Construction Equipment's Universe Study indicates useful life of telehandlers to be more than 14 years. Average annual hours of use for a new unit's first three years is about 1,400 hours.
6,000-pound $79,359 $28.61
8,000-pound $98,499 $33.10
10,000-pound $119,545 $36.89


Telehandler Specs: 6,000-Pound Models
Model Max. Lift Height Capacity (lb.) At Max. Height Horizontal Reach
Challengers like Bobcat, Case, Cat, Deere and Haulotte apply capacity creep in search of marketing advantage—introducing models with ratings of 6,500 pounds or more to compete with the 6,000-pound units of more-entrenched brand names such as Lull, Pettibone and Sky Trak.
Sellick TLT30 JCB Teletruk 13' 0" 6,000 7' 10"
Manitou MLT 629 T 20' 0" 6,000 11' 0"
Manitou MVT 628T 20' 6" 5,000 11' 11"
JCB 530 Turbo 23' 0" 5,000 12' 6"
JCB 530 23' 0" 6,000 12' 6"
New Holland LM640 28' 11" 3,500 21' 5"
LiftKing LK 50R 30' 0" 5,000 14' 8"
LiftKing LK 630R 30' 0" 6,000 16' 6"
Gehl RS5 34' 3" 4,000 23' 3"
Mustang 634 34' 3" 4,000 23' 3"
Pettibone 6036 Extendo 36' 0" 5,000 24' 0"
Traverse Lift F-636 36' 0" 5,000 24' 0"
Pettibone T6036 Extendo 36' 0" 5,000 30' 0"
Terex TH636C 36' 0" 6,000 21' 0"
JCB 506C 36' 0" 6,000 22' 9"
Sky Trak 6036 Legacy 36' 1" 6,000 22' 4"
LiftKing LK 60R 37' 0" 6,000 22' 6"
Tovel TL 6-44-36 ToveLazer 37' 2" 6,000 24' 0"
Gehl RS6 37' 6" 6,000 23' 4"
Mustang 638 37' 6" 6,000 23' 4"
Manitou MVT 1230L 37' 6" 6,000 27' 5"
LiftKing LK 641R 41' 0" 6,000 26' 11"
JCB 506C HL 42' 0" 6,000 27' 5"
Sky Trak 6042 Legacy 42' 0" 6,000 27' 6"
Carelift ZB6042 42' 0" 6,000 28' 0"
Ingersoll Rand VR-642C 42' 0" 6,000 28' 4"
Lull 644E-42 Place Ace 42' 0" 6,000 35' 6"
Manitou MVT 1330L 42' 1" 6,000 29' 11"
Tovel TL 6-44-42 ToveLazer 43' 0" 4,000 29' 0"
Traverse Lift T-644 44' 0" 4,500 30' 3"
Pettibone 6044 Extendo 44' 0" 5,000 30' 3"
Traverse Lift F-644 44' 0" 5,000 30' 3"
Pettibone T6044 Extendo 44' 0" 5,000 36' 3"
Terex TH644C 44' 0" 6,000 27' 3"



Telehandler Specs: 6,000-Pound-Plus Models
Model Rated Capacity (lb.) Max. Lift Height Capacity (lb.) At Max. Height Horizontal Reach Weight (lb.)
Specifications are based on information provided by manufacturers and by Spec Check, and are given for comparison only. Specifications are subject to change.
Tallest in the 6,000-pound class is Haulotte's TL 17-30 at 55 feet 9 inches (among the 10 tallest telehandlers made), but 14 other machines will lift as much or more weight to very practical heights of 42 or 44 feet. Load-transferring booms like Pettibone's T6044 and Lull's 644E-42 offer the longest horizontal reach.
John Deere 3200 6,200 18' 5" 6,200 10' 2" 14,418
Bobcat V623 w/Frame Level 6,500 23' 4" 6,500 14' 0" 14,550
Bobcat V623 VersaHANDLER 6,500 23' 7" 6,500 13' 9" 14,550
John Deere 3400 6,600 23' 0" 4,630 13' 0" 15,520
Caterpillar TH340B 6,600 30' 0" 3,307 21' 0" 16,910
Caterpillar TH350B 6,600 36' 0" 6,000 24' 0" 18,700
JLG TF6-42 6,600 41' 0" 6,600 28' 0" 21,280
Gradall G6-42P 6,600 42' 0" 6,000 29' 0" 20,460
JLG G6-42A 6,600 42' 0" 6,000 29' 0" 20,400
Haulotte TL 17-30 6,614 55' 9" 4,409 34' 5" 27,227
Ingersoll Rand VR-623 6,700 23' 2" 6,000 13' 8" 14,760
Case 686G Ser 2 6,700 36' 0" 6,000 20' 5" 18,300
Ingersoll Rand VR-636B 6,700 36' 4" 6,000 22' 6" 18,500
Case 686G XR Ser 2 6,700 42' 0" 6,000 28' 0" 19,600




Web Resources
Ingersoll Rand
John Deere
Lift King
Load Lifter
Manitou N.A.
New Holland
Omega Lift
Sellick Equip.
Stonehall Equip.
Tovel Mfg.
Traverse Lift