A telehandler’s true value is in its multipurpose capabilities.Any contractor who needs to lift, move and/or place materials has many equipment options from which to choose, and telehandlers are an ideal choice because they provide all-around utility to meet more than one work site need. Today’s telehandlers incorporate a number of innovative features that manufacturers say improve jobsite productivity, meaning that the unit is able to accurately place loads under any conditions. When evaluating specifications of a telehandler, the go-to productivity features that contractors check first are lift capacity, load capacity, reach capability and the ability to use different types of attachments.
While these options certainly add to a telehandler’s usefulness on projects, getting the most productivity and best return on investment may require a more in-depth comparison of the machine’s less obvious features. Design and performance go hand in hand. Telehandlers that are simple to use and service can help contractors reach new levels of productivity and utilization.
A focus for telehandler manufacturers in the last five years has been to not only increase telehandler performance, but also to improve operator productivity and raise machine utilization rates. This focus has put heightened attention on features such as cab and console configurations, machine maintenance and serviceability and machine options versus standard features.
Ergonomic operator stations that increase comfort and decrease fatigue add up to a better working environment and improved productivity on every job. Comfort contributes to productivity. Telehandlers that are designed around the cab—the operator’s office—focus on what an operator of any size or shape needs to get a job done.
The telehandler operator’s station should be designed with two basic features: simple, logical controls that respond to the operator’s command and a single hydraulically piloted, multifunctional joystick with integrated frame leveling control. This type of joystick allows operators to control the boom and level the machine—up to 10 degrees on either side—without taking a hand off of the joystick.
Efficient operation is provided through easy-to-use controls, diagnostic gauges and load charts positioned where the operator can easily see them.
Features designed around operator positioning in the cab, such as a low dash and tilt steering wheel, an adjustable seat and a side-mounted engine situated for operator visibility, are also necessary for enhanced operator production on any job.
Excellent visibility of the jobsite all around the machine needs to be immediately apparent whether the operator is sitting in a standard open cab or an enclosed cab.
Increasing machine utilization rates and improving an operator productivity come down to how much the machine can be used on any given day. Features that exploit a telehandler’s versatility—its ability to do more than dedicated machines—can greatly influence efficiency.
Properly equipping operators for all-weather operation enhances jobsite productivity, so fully enclosed cabs should come standard with windshield washer and wipers for visibility on rainy days, a standard heater/defroster to keep operators comfortable in cold climates and windows that can be opened on both sides of the cab for increased ventilation.
Another way to increase operator productivity is to make sure telehandlers are set up to work in low-light conditions. Features that can enhance work in the evening or early morning hours include a boom work light, which functions as a headlight, and a rear cab-mounted work light for visibility when maneuvering the machine into place.
Tires can also affect machine utilization. Tire condition, for example, will significantly impact when and where a telehandler can work—whether it is able to climb hills and power through rough terrain. Tires are the No. 1 wear item (and cost of ownership) after the sale of a telehandler. The better the condition the tires are in, the more the telehandler is able to do.
The design of the telehandler’s boom is another important factor. For pick-and-place applications, operators need good visibility around the machine when the load is lifted. This means they should be using a high-pivot boom telehandler model. A low-pivot, or low-profile, boom telehandler is better for pick-and-carry applications because the operator is able to see all the way around the machine when the boom is down.
Don’t forget the telehandler’s ability to use a variety of attachments for added job flexibility and improved efficiency. By using one or more attachments, operators are able to get more pro-ductivity and utilization from a single unit versus switching out machines to do the same work.
Whether the machine excels at pick-and-place or pick-and-carry applications, ensuring a telehandler is outfitted with a quick-attach system will allow operators to easily change out attachments in seconds. Also, telehandlers plumbed with auxiliary hydraulics are able to better meet the needs of the attachment being used. Ideally, telehandlers should be equipped with a standard auxiliary hydraulic system that offers full reversible flow to the boom tip.
The productivity and utilization of any telehandler is largely influenced by regular care and maintenance. Contractors know that preventive maintenance is the key to keeping equipment running at peak efficiency. To help make preventive maintenance a priority, telehandlers need to be designed for easy serviceability.
One design feature that makes maintenance easier is a side-mounted engine. This positions the engine, common service points and sensitive internal components for easy access during maintenance and repair activities, saving time and keeping the machine on the ready line for work.
Another design feature contractors should look for in a telehandler is whether its test ports are conveniently located at the main function manifold so that a qualified technician can quickly and easily check and test all hydraulic functions. Easy access to the internal components of the machine translates to less time spent on maintenance and more time at work on the job.
Make It a Habit
Proper maintenance, as outlined by the manufacturer’s recommended guidelines, will also significantly increase the productivity and utilization of any telehandler. When it comes to maintenance, it is easier to deal with things incrementally rather than have something fail and face the consequences—costly downtime and repairs. Preventive maintenance is a commitment that contractors need to make every day.
Telehandler preventive maintenance tasks should be simple and easy to execute, yet provide attention to detail. The best person to complete the daily maintenance is the operator—the one who knows the most about the machine’s particular sounds and performance. The operator and the service technician also should have regular discussions about how the machine is being used day in and day out, as well as how it’s performing.
Operators and technicians should examine the maintenance records to spot any patterns. Look at what components are failing, and determine why, how and when they failed. It is also important to know which components are holding up over time and to analyze those trends.
As savvy contractors are figuring out how to do more and more on work sites with telehandlers, they must know not only the go-to specifications on these machines, but also how the overall design of the machine will influence and affect operator productivity and machine utilization rates.