Productivity Guide: Telescopic handlers (6,000 pounds lift capacity/40-foot reach height)

Telescopic handlers are among the most specialized types of construction equipment working on jobsites today, but contractors who use these machines solely in logistical roles are robbing themselves of productivity in other areas. Telehandlers in this class can use buckets for limited site prep or cleanup work in addition to other attachments such as augers or hydraulic breakers.

These attachments have led many contractors to use telehandlers as support machines on jobsites. They can supplement, or even do away with, the need to employ skid steers, compact wheel loaders or backhoe loaders if employed properly. Yet, because of their specialized design, telehandlers must be used correctly in support roles. “Machines in this class are not designed for digging,” cautions Beau Anderson, telehandler product manager, Terex. “Bucket use should be limited to lighter duty use such as moving loose material or cleaning up debris. Always bear in mind aggressive digging may cause premature boom wear or damage.”

Other popular attachments help these machines excel in their original role as vertical-load delivery systems. “Masonry contractors have a pretty straightforward telehandler application,” explains Jay Barth, product manager, JCB. “They typically have pallet-sized material that’s always going to be a certain size and cubed. The telescopic handler will pick it up and place it where it needs to go. In those situations, special carriages or booms aren’t necessary, although you might want to spec fork carriages or block tines, depending on the application.”

Roofing contractors employ telehandlers in the same basic role. But instead of lifting compact loads, they often have to elevate roof trusses and other large, awkwardly shaped materials. In these cases, standard forks can do the job, but not as efficiently as specialized telehandler attachments like truss booms, jibs and wider width carriages.

Other optional telehandler systems can fine-tune the machine for load-specific applications. “You might want to consider adding side-tilt- or swing-carriage systems to your base machine specs,” Barth adds. “That way you can ensure telehandler productivity regardless of your jobsite conditions.”

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According to Mark Eckert, telehandler product specialist, JLG Industries, work platforms round out the listing of top telehandler attachments. “There are two types of work platforms,” Eckert says. “There are over-the-fork styles, which are cheaper to purchase, or those that attach to the machine via a quick coupler.” Regardless of the type of work platform selected, these attachments are designed to let workers reach elevated work areas safely. The telehandler cannot be moved once the work platform is in the air. Never lift workers on fork tines, in buckets or other unsuitable attachments.

Take advantage of all a telehandler’s assets
Properly spec’ing a telehandler for construction applications is a straightforward affair. Consider the machine’s rated lift capacity as well as its lift height and forward reach. While your natural inclination may be to simply opt for as much capacity and reach as your checkbook can handle, paying for extra capacity that never gets used is rarely helpful to your company’s bottom line. At the same time, larger machines will be harder to maneuver on crowded and restricted jobsites, so overall productivity could suffer if you select a telehandler too large for your application.

Telehandlers come equipped with many standard features that help them perform effectively in their capacity/lift height window. One of the most important, according to Ryan Ford, construction telescopic specialist with Manitou North America, is turbocharged engines. “I don’t think you’ll find a machine in this class that is not turbocharged,” Ford says. “Turbocharged engines give the telehandler a big boost in performance, most notably in the machine’s low-end torque. And that’s where you need the power in telehandler operations to move across a jobsite and extend and retract the machine’s boom quickly.”

It’s only natural to think in terms of vertical load placement when planning telehandler use on your jobsite. But remember these machines can also offload trucks and move material quickly across sloppy terrain to staging areas at ground level. Moreover, operators can use the machine’s boom extension to deliver loads horizontally over barriers such as freshly poured concrete slabs. And those booms can be used to deliver and place loads below grade. “We’re not talking about extensive below-grade capability,” Ford notes. “For example, our 6642 model gives you 14 inches of below-grade placement capability. That can put loads within reach of crews working in a basement.”

Telehandlers in this class also feature three standard steering modes that allow you to use the machine effectively in a wide array of jobsite conditions. Two-wheel steer is the standard steering mode. In this configuration, one set of wheels articulates and steers the machine. This is your best choice for long, uncongested haul routes in open areas.

Many operators on crowded and busy jobsites prefer to leave their machine in four-wheel-steer mode. Selecting this steering configuration allows the front and rear wheels to counter-articulate, giving the telehandler an impressive boost in terms of maneuverability. A machine’s turning radius can be reduced by half when operating in this steering mode. This tighter turning capability makes maneuvering in constricted areas easier as well.

Crab steer is the third, and perhaps least understood, steering mode on telehandlers in this class. When this configuration is selected, both the front and rear wheels on the machine articulate in the same direction. This allows the machine to move laterally at angles of 20 degrees or so, allowing precise load placement in tight working conditions.

Telehandlers’ large, rough-terrain tires and four-wheel – drive systems provide excellent traction even in sloppy ground conditions. Other machine features can ensure solid performance on a jobsite too, according to Anderson. “Spec robust front and rear axles for reliability,” he suggests. “Inboard, multiple wet-disk brakes provide excellent cooling for resistance to brake fade, reliability and durability.”

On Terex telehandlers, Anderson says dual frame-leveling cylinders on the front axle provide up to 10 degrees of leveling capability – a boon when lifting loads on uneven ground. “A declutch system can really help reduce cycle times as well,” Anderson notes. “This system automatically disengages the transmission when the brakes are applied. This allows the operator to speed up hydraulic functions by increasing engine rpm and get the boom rising faster with no tendency of the machine to fight against the brakes.” If you routinely work in extremely slick or muddy conditions, Anderson suggests selecting an optional locking front differential for your telehandlers. A locking differential increases traction in slick or muddy conditions by unitizing the machine’s powertrain and ensuring the front and rear wheels pull in unison when the machine is traveling across difficult terrain.

Think logically when planning telehandler routes
Features and equipment are important when considering your telehandler operations. So is proper planning and deployment of the telehandlers in your fleet. Calculating the correct number of machines needed for a particular job is a good place to start.

“I’ve seen jobsites in California where the trucks can’t get close to a jobsite for a variety of reasons,” notes Pete Haikio, telehandler product specialist, Pettibone. “Telehandlers shuttle materials to that jobsite over a half-mile road all day long. On the other hand, you have masons and framers who have higher duty cycles for their machines, typically driving shorter distances, but spending more time with their booms in the air. Those two types of contractors use their telehandlers differently and the number of machines required in each case will reflect those specific jobsite realities.”

The bottom line, Haikio says, is to be observant and note how your materials are flowing across a jobsite. “Obviously, if you’ve got telehandlers sitting idle, waiting to pick up or place a load, you have too many machines on site,” he notes. “Likewise, if you’re experiencing production delays because crews are waiting on building materials, you probably need to add another machine into the logistics flow.”

Lay out your jobsite with telehandlers in mind to enhance productivity. Scope out the best possible routes for the machines and set up staging areas and delivery points as logically as possible. More importantly, you need to remember that jobsite maintenance for telehandlers is an ongoing project within the overall job. “Try to keep the surfaces in the telehandlers’ working area as smooth as possible,” Barth suggests. “That’s one of the advantages of having a tool carrier with a quick coupler. You can put a bucket on your telehandler and maintain those haul routes as needed, then simply uncouple the bucket and go back to load-and-carry work.”

JCB 506
Features include:
· Comfortable, spacious cab with clear visibility
· Frame sways +/- 10 degrees for placing material on uneven surfaces
· Easy-to-use joystick controls

Liftking LK 641R
Features include:
· Automatic load-leveling system
· Load-holding valves on frame level
· Naturally aspirated or turbocharged diesel engine

Lull 644E-42 Place Ace
Features include:
· Automatic fork-leveling system
· Stabil-Trak stability control system
· Cummins diesel engine with four-speed powershift transmission

Pettibone 6044 Extendo & T6044 Extendo
Features include:
· Single-joystick control for boom functions
· Rapid-response hydraulic system
· Auxiliary boom tip hydraulics

Sky Trak 6042
Features include:
· Redesigned cab for improved operator comfort and safety
· Stabil-Trak stability control system
· Four-speed modulated transmission with high-performance axles

Terex TH644C
Features include:
· Spacious cab
· Four steering modes
· Powershift transmission

Tovel TL 6-44-42 ToveLazer
Features include:
· Perkins turbocharged diesel engine
· Powershift transmission
· Frame-leveling system

ZoomBoom ZB6042
Features include:
· Pilot-operated joystick controls
· Hydraulic frame leveling system
· Automatic self-leveling forks