Indispensable Telehandlers

Words: Dan KamysAugust 2009 Telehandlers

New models increase jobsite productivity, have improved safety features, and offer more benefits.

telehandlers Pettibone - 1530 Photo courtesy of Pettibone

Telehandlers help mason contractors by unloading trucks, lifting bricks or blocks onto scaffolding, moving mast climbers, and assisting with clean up when a job is finished. And, in today’s competitive environment, the machines also help contractors by increasing productivity and boosting their bottom lines.

“The value of any piece of equipment is, ‘Did I move more brick or block? Is it going to save more money?’” says Pete Haikio, VP of sales and marketing for Pettibone in Baraga, Mich.

Even something as seemingly simple as increasing a telehandler’s cycle time can make jobs more efficient, he says.

“That cycle time might only be one to three seconds faster, but if you do that 200 times a day, that has a tangible difference,” Haikio says, noting that telehandlers also have to be easy to operate. “The nature of today’s jobsite is somebody is going to jump on it for an hour, then do something else. That’s all the more reason to make the joystick counterintuitive and easy to operate.”


Heavy-duty machines for moving mast climbers At least two companies, Pettibone in Baraga, Mich., and Manitou North America in Waco, Texas, unveiled new high-capacity telehandlers at 2009 World of Concrete last February. Manitou launched the MHT 860, which has a 13,200-pound capacity and a 26-foot, six-inch lift height.

“This offers the benefit of heavy lifting,” says Ryan Ford, product specialist for Manitou. “This is for moving the Hydro-Mobile or other mast climbing scaffolding that has the larger platforms. What we’ve done is made the high-capacity handlers more maneuverable than a 10,000-pound or 12,000-pound handler. The MHT 860 doesn’t have outriggers, so it’s perfectly capable of operating in tight spaces.”

A two-speed hydrostatic transmission makes the telehandler simple to operate, Ryan says, adding that the enclosed cab provides heat and air conditioning to increase operator comfort. The JSM (joystick switch and move) joystick and load-sensing hydraulic system allow the machine to perform multiple movements simultaneously without a decrease in speed.

“This lets the handler cycle very quickly,” Ryan says. “A lot of thought went into designing this system to make it easy to operate. It’s very intuitive.”

Pettibone’s new 1530, which can lift 15,000 pounds and reach 30 feet, 10 inches, can also be used to move mast climbers. A typical barebones mast climber tower weighs about 8,700 pounds, and mason contractors often move them with telehandlers that have 9,000-pound capacities, Haikio says.

“In reality, these towers don’t get stripped and they’re much heavier. The 1530 is designed to handle towers properly and safely,” Haikio says. “Basically, it’s going to save time, because now you don’t have to strip them down. You’re talking about hours and hours of time saved. You can move [the towers] the way you want to move them.”

Mason contractors can expect even more innovations over the next few years. Cat Lift Trucks in Houston is looking toward green technology for its forklifts. Within the next two years, the company is planning to offer a diesel/lithium-ion hybrid engine, says Chris Anderson, product manager. “This will give you a 30-percent savings in fuel, compared to a truck with the same capacity.”

Cat Lift currently offers a totally enclosed disc brake system that keeps out debris and keeps the brakes clean, Anderson says. “The potential for damaging the brakes with debris is diminished, because everything is encapsulated and gives you a longer service life for your brakes.”

forklifts Cat Lift Trucks Photo courtesy of Cat Lift Trucks

Compact units for tight spaces Jim Siedleck, VP of equipment sales for Stevenson Sales & Service LLC, says that small, compact telehandlers continue to gain in popularity. The Bolingbrook, Ill.-based company sells and rents telehandlers.

Buying the Right Telehandler

When buying a telehandler, mason contractors should follow the 80-percent rule, advises Jim Siedleck, VP of equipment sales for Stevenson Sales & Service LLC in Bolingbrook, Ill. “What is 80 percent of the everyday business you’re doing? Buy the machine that will do that work, then if you need a specialty machine, rent it,” Siedleck says. “You don’t buy a 10,000-pound machine because you occasionally need it. Buy what you need everyday.” Brian Boeckman, product parent for North American telehandlers for JLG Industries Inc. in McConnellsburg, Pa., agrees. He says mason contractors should determine how and where the machine will be used when choosing one. “This will drive decisions such as the capacity and reach needed, what attachments are required, and what options are necessary,” Boeckman says.

“Compact units have their value because people are limited in space. What’s nice is they can get into spaces where you’re limited,” Siedleck says. “You can move products right in the door. We’ve done extremely well renting compact units, because a masonry guy sees the value of these machines and sees it’s another way to get the job done quickly.”

Several new compact telehandlers are now available. Manitou’s 523 series is a step up from skid steer loaders, Ryan says. The 71-inch width, 79-inch height, and 122-inch turning radius let the MT 523 and the MLT 523 Turbo telehandlers fit in confined spaces, including urban jobsites or through double doors on schools or commercial buildings.

“The compacts are probably the fastest growing segment of the industry. People have seen the capabilities of them. They bring a little more to the table,” he says. “Compacts handle 85 percent of the work masonry contractors do every day, maybe even more. They do everything you expect, and you can put it on a gooseneck trailer and hook it to a 1-ton truck. It’ll go where other handlers can’t go.”

In April, JLG Industries Inc. in McConnellsburg, Pa., added two compact telehandlers to its line. The 619A offers nearly 6,000 pounds of lift capacity with a reach of 19 feet, while the 723A has a 7,000-pound capacity with a 23-foot lift.

“The compact dimensions of these machines provide the maneuverability necessary for loading or unloading mulch, transporting bales of hay, or moving pallets on a crowded jobsite,” says Brian Boeckman, JLG product parent for North American telehandlers.

JLG’s new models feature a single joystick control for smooth, precision control, Boeckman says. A suspension seat, tilt steering, and a spacious cab are designed to increase operator comfort and visibility.

forklift JLG - 723A Photo courtesy of JLG Industries, Inc.

Safer, smarter machines protect operators Impressive new features make forklifts and telehandlers safer. For example, a first-of-its-kind Presence Detection System from Cat Lift Trucks ensures that the forklift will not operate unless the driver is in place.

“If, for some reason, the operator is not sitting in his seat, it will lock up the transmission and the hydraulics,” Anderson says. The forklifts also have orange seatbelts, so it’s easy to see if the operators are wearing them.

Manitou offers a platform work system that lets a person operate the telehandler via a radio remote control. To make the system safer, a kill switch turns off the machine in the event of a problem, Ryan says. “One operator can now start and stop the handler and control the boom from outside the cab.”

Newer Manitou telehandlers feature a strain gauge and an LED bar graph on the dashboard inside the cab that warns an operator if the load is unsafe, he says. The telehandler will stop functioning if the problem isn’t resolved.

“It warns if the operator is approaching a dangerous situation and makes him take corrective action,” Ryan says. The company also offers a load moment indicator on the MRT rotating telescopic series. “The indicator tells you the weight, extension, and angle of the boom, and displays it on the dash.”

Stevenson’s Siedleck encourages safety training for telehandler operators, saying that a one-day course can cover everything day-to-day users need to know. His company offers the training program.

“They should do training to protect themselves on any piece of equipment,” he says.

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