Get the Most from Your Telehandler Rental

Sept. 28, 2010

Look around, and it's obvious that the telehandler has become a popular machine on construction sites. And with the machine's popularity also has come continual design refinement, which today seems to allow tailoring the telehandler's capabilities to the user's specific needs. The point is, simply, that if you understand the capabilities these various telehandler designs provide, then you'll be better at economically matching a rented machine to your jobs.

If you take the long view, telehandler models today seem to fall into perhaps four basic design categories. But, we caution right up front that these categories are not official industry classifications, and that not every manufacturer's models will fit neatly into these pigeon holes. That said, you can probably make a case for these telehandler categories: lift-and-place forklift; forklift/tool-carrier; tool-carrier; and compact.


The conventional lift-and-place forklift is designed essentially to pick up loads with forks, transport them across rough terrain, then place them at considerable heights. These machines likely have three- or four-section booms to attain good lift heights, and the boom may be pinned high in its support towers at the rear, giving the machine a "high-profile" configuration. These machines typically also have frame-leveling ability, which allows transporting and landing loads evenly on rough and hilly terrain. They also can handle different fork carriages and truss booms quite capably, but are less proficient at handling such attachments as buckets and sweepers.

Typically, the lift-and-place forklift is the most prevalent telehandler on rental-house lots because it's a strong lifting machine with which many contractors are familiar and comfortable.

Its high-profile design is sometimes criticized, though, with detractors saying that the boom obstructs the operator's visibility to the right side, unless loads are carried high enough to sight under the boom. But, say proponents of the machine, when you're negotiating a load of 18-foot-long 2×8 planks between piles of aggregate and pickup trucks on a congested site, you have to carry the load high to avoid mishaps. In this situation, they say, you actually have better right-side visibility than with a machine having a lower profile. So, if you want a basic machine to lift and place loads at a productive pace and at an economical rental rate, then a lift-and-place forklift may be the machine for you.

When you rent this machine, as when renting any telehandler, make sure the person at the rental counter understands exactly how you intend to use it for lifting. How high must loads be placed? How much does a typical load weigh? Where will loads be placed (roof, scaffolding or structure interior)? How much reach is needed to place loads over obstacles, such as unfinished sidewalks? What materials will you be handling and how are they packaged? Rebar and long sheets of drywall, for instance, may be more easily handled with a wider fork carriage, and longer forks might simplify handling materials in bulky packages. Also, a rotating or side-shifting carriage may simplify maneuvering loads that must be eased into place.

Reaching for versatility

If your jobsites would benefit from a machine with greater versatility, however, you might want to try the telehandler that we've categorized (and at least one manufacturer categorizes) as a forklift/tool-carrier. These models are designed to do a competent job not only at lift-and-place tasks, but also at handling a moderate range of attachments. Some of these machines, in fact, may have more lift height and capacity than typical lift-and place models, while also retaining such useful lift-and-place features as frame leveling and outriggers. Booms for forklift/tool-carrier models, although perhaps of three- or four-section design, typically are heavier in construction than lift-and-place booms and often allow effective use of a bucket. Some models, in fact, allow adapting their joystick controller to a conventional forklift control pattern or a wheel-loader-type pattern.

Many forklift/tool-carrier models are designed with the boom pinned lower in the rear support towers than is the boom on a typical lift-and-place machine, giving a "low-profile" stance. The low position of the boom, which is nestled between the engine/transmission pod on the right and the operator's station on the left, allows excellent visibility to the right when loads are transported at a low height. In fact, many low-profile models allow 360-degree visibility during load transport because the rear support towers often also are low.

The boom's basic design, according to some proponents of forklift/tool-carriers, provides a stable, rigorous structure for pushing with a bucket. And, typically, these models are more attachment friendly than a lift-and-place machine, often providing auxiliary hydraulics with quick coupler fittings and a carriage that readily accepts a range of attachments.

The rental rate for such a machine is higher than for a lift-and-place model, of course, but, then again, so is its usefulness at the jobsite. If you need considerable lifting power and range, coupled with the ability to handle attachments, then a forklift/tool-carrier is for you. But you may not readily find these models on the lot of a typical rental yard. If not, ask about their availability, or you may want to visit a telehandler dealer with a rental fleet.

If serious bucket work and attachment handling are key factors on your jobsite, but you still need a machine with forklift-like lift capacities to moderate heights, then a tool-carrier-type telehandler may be your best choice.

Typically designed with a stout, two-section boom that is reinforced to absorb bucket-digging stresses, these low-profile models may feature Z-bar linkage at the boom tip to increase breakout force and the range of bucket rotation, and may offer a hydraulic attachment coupler that allows changing non-powered attachments from the cab. Attachment choices may include multi-purpose buckets, grapple buckets, sweepers, clamps and truss booms, along with conventional choices for forks and carriages. Rotating and side-shifting carriages may be useful with these models, since most are not equipped with frame-leveling capability.

Some make the point that such a machine may, in fact, eliminate the need for a small rough-terrain crane and a small wheel loader on site. And the same might be said of the last telehandler category—the compact—because these machines reflect the same basic design of the tool-carrier telehandler, except on a smaller scale. So if you need the capabilities of a tool-carrier, but your site is extremely tight, investigate some of the new compact models. Your telehandler choices are expanding, so choose what suits you best.

Material Weights as Typically Packaged

Source: Scott Cooper, Caterpillar
When renting a telehandler, keep in mind that night work may require extra boom lights, and that the climate may require an enclosed cab.
Tool-carrier-type telehandlers can be
When renting a telehandler, keep in mind that night work may require extra boom lights, and that the climate may require an enclosed cab.
Tool-carrier-type telehandlers can be aggressive earthmoving machines, yet provide substantial lift capacity and moderate lift height.
Today's smaller telehandlers tend to be aimed at the tool-carrier concept, designed to handle a range of attachments, often with a hydraulic coupler.
Before using a telehandler to lift people, check the requirements pertaining to the design and attachment of a fork-supported work platform.
Two Telehandler Profiles—High and Low

These illustrations from JCB literature for the 508C Loadall (top) and 532 Loadall (bottom) point out the enhanced visibility to the right side with the low-profile design. Many low-profile telehandlers provide 360-degree visibility when transporting loads at a low height.

In this story:
Material Weight (lb.)
Asphalt roofing (light)  1,440 
Bricks, cored  2,100 
Roof tile, concrete (light)  2,100 
Roof tile, concrete  3,000 
Roof tile, clay  3,200 
Lumber, studs  2,211 
Lumber, 16-ft. mixed  3,707 
Shingles, composite  2,400 
Shingles, composite (HD)  5,280 
Drywall, 4x8  2,520 
Drywall, 4x12  3,780 
Bricks, paving  2,700