December 1, 2012 by Andrew Snook
If there is any one word that describes a telehandler, its “versatile.” These machines are used in a wide variety of applications, from moving palletized loads, to lifting pipes and concrete blocks, to cleaning up job sites. With the right attachments, these machines have the potential to significantly increase a contractor’s productivity and efficiency.
“A telehandler is the Swiss Army knife of a contractor’s job site,” says Scott Krieger, senior product manager for Terex Aerial Work Platforms (AWP).
Due to the increased popularity of these multi-use machines on job sites, Krieger says contractors and rental houses are keeping a wide variety of attachments on hand, including various types of carriages and buckets, truss booms, lift-hooks, spreader bars, lift-and-tow type products and more. The most common attachments his company sees being used these days are forks, lift hooks and truss booms, but the use of buckets is becoming increasingly popular. He says customers who require a wheel loader, but do not have enough work to justify the expense, will sometimes purchase or rent a bucket attachment for their telehandler instead, and use it as a light-duty wheel loader, for job site cleanup and other light-duty applications.
Taking advantage of a telehandler’s versatility has the potential to increase productivity on the job site, so contractors should take the time to carefully consider which attachments will help them get the most for their money.
“We like to let the project define what type of tool and machine is needed,” says Wayne Goodall, telehandler product specialist for Caterpillar. “That said, our TH407 utilizes almost all of the tools available due to its standard joystick, reinforced boom head, Z-Bar linkage and low-profile boom.”
Goodall says the TH407 telehandler is one of the company’s most versatile machines. It features attachments such as: block forks, general purpose buckets, grapple buckets, light material buckets, material handling buckets, pallet forks and even a push broom to help with job site cleanup. Another helpful upgrade now available for the TH407 telehandler is ride control.
“This assists greatly with material retention when using a bucket, and load stability when using forks,” says Goodall.
Manitou telescopic handler product specialist John Rau says knowing the kinds of loads you’re handling and what you intend to do with the telehandler are vital aspects to consider when choosing attachments.
“Are you doing all pallet work? Then you want to go with the pallet forks. Are you doing more lumber where you’re going to need the more tapered forks? Then you go with the tapered forks. How deep are the loads you have? Are you only picking up 48-in. or 42-in. loads or are you going to need a 60-in. fork? You have to choose the right forks to meet your needs,” explains Rau.
Switching between various attachments at a job site doesn’t have to be time consuming, according to Rau. He says almost all telehandlers on the market are equipped with a quick-attach system for easy changing of attachments on the fly.
“In less than five minutes you can change any attachment, that’s un-hook and hook into the next one,” says Rau.
He recommends that contractors have the auxiliary attachment on the front of the machine for powered attachments, to increase the machine’s versatility.
Give yourself options
Judith Lefebvre, marketing and communications coordinator for Manulift EMI Ltée, says choosing the right attachments for a job sometimes requires some unorthodox thinking.
“Most people are surprised to realize how many attachments there are on the market,” she says.
Lefebvre says buying or renting additional attachments for telehandlers offers contractors significant savings.
Manulift offers contractors a remote-controlled telehandler option, designed to reduce the amount of manpower needed at a job site. Lefebvre says a worker might want to operate a vehicle remotely to have better visibility when moving the machine or a load.
“A radio-controlled remote, designed and built by Merlo, allows all functions to be controlled easily and with precision,” says Lefebvre. “Jobs are done quickly, economically and in complete safety.”
Regular day-to-day job site operations aren’t the only place telehandlers come in handy. Manulift offers contractors a choice of dozens of different attachments for its machines, manufactured by Merlo Group. In addition to a wide variety of attachments for construction and agriculture-related applications, Manulift has boat handlers, snow plows and glass and window installation attachments complete with suction cups.
Snow removal attachments are popular with Bobcat’s V417 VersaHandler, which offers contractors a choice of approximately 20 different attachments, including: pallet forks, angle brooms, snow blowers, trenchers, tillers, sweeper buckets, seeders and more.
Bobcat product specialist Tom Connor says the V417’s snow removal attachment is particularly popular with contractors because of its reach. He says the machine works well in parking garages and parking ramps, where machine height is critical.
“If you get into parking lot situations where you don’t have the luxury of getting the snow loaded and out of there right away, then your desire is to stack it as high as you can to consume fewer parking spots,” he explains.
Krieger says the biggest tip he can give contractors when they are buying or renting telehandlers is not to skimp on the optional attachments.
“It’s all about reducing costs and increasing productivity and efficiency,” he says. “It’s amazing how if you have it on hand you’re going to use it. You’re going to see its value and its benefit to job site efficiency… it’s a highly productive, highly efficient tool.”