ROUGH AND TUMBLE:
ROUGH-TERRAIN FORKLIFTS AND TELEHANDLERS
FORKLIFTACTION – SPECIAL REPORT
Wednesday, 5 Jun 2019 ( #926 )
In industry sectors where robust and versatile equipment is required, two materials handling options – telehandlers and rough-terrain forklifts – stand out. Construction, heavy industry and mining continue to take advantage of rough- and all-terrain forklifts, while construction and agriculture have discovered the versatility of telehandlers. Melissa Barnett takes a look at what is happening in the rough-terrain and telehandler market.
In a changing and fluctuating market, the rough-terrain forklift and telehandler sector is not without its challenges. Juan Urkijo, sales and marketing director for AUSA, believes a current challenge is the constant engine evolution towards zero emissions. “The engine regulations that are being (frequently) introduced force manufacturers to keep up to date in order to be competitive. In addition, the electric-powered trend has been a critical point,” says Urkijo.
The global forklift market has had a resurgence in the last two years but constant R&D, particularly in electric industrial vehicles and smart equipment, is essential, says Bob Wang, marketing director for Chinese manufacturer Hangcha. Although Hangcha’s 35 series of rough-terrain forklifts hasn’t moved to electric yet, Wang says Hangcha has developed the A160 16 T electric forklift to meet market demand. The company, in collaboration with the Contemporary Amprex Technology Company, is also developing lithium batteries for Hangcha’s lighter weight XC series of ‘new energy’ forklifts.
Since 2009, construction sites have changed, says Paul Murray, general manager for JCB Teletruk. There is more redevelopment than new sites, with materials handling being done more on hard ground than mud in many cases. Underground and high-rise construction are also growing, with challenges around reduced space, noise and having to work in closer proximity to people. “In construction and construction materials distribution, space is one of the key constraints. Construction projects are typically in urban environments where space is at a premium, so the compact telehandler is JCB’s fastest-growing segment,” says Murray.
Murray believes that JCB’s Teletruk Construction series TLT 30 -35D telehandlers offer builders’ merchants and construction sites the world’s only telescopic counterbalance forklift tailored to meet their demands. “The range’s side-mounted boom allows for unrivalled forward visibility as well as saving 32 sqm of space or the equivalent of 72 packs of bricks or blocks. The added bonus with this machine is that it has a turning circle of just 2.5 m, compared to a standard forklift with fork extensions at 3.7 m,” says Murray.
Workplace health and safety are always a challenge for rough-terrain forklifts, says Urkijo. AUSA recently launched a new range of all-terrain 2 – 3.5 T capacity forklifts featuring technological elements and safety systems like the hill holder. “The new forklifts feature a digital screen on the dashboard providing the driver with all the machine information while being able to interact with the different screens via the same joystick that moves the mast. Driver visibility has improved by 30% and the hill holder technology engages the brake automatically so the machine can stop easily on any slope,” he explains.
Rough-terrain forklifts offer great versatility and are often called to fill a niche application. In 2011, Ireland’s Combilift was asked to design a rough-terrain forklift for the UK poultry processing company, Keyo Agricultural Services. The Combi-RT was developed as a purpose-built forklift to make the process of handling and transporting live poultry faster, quieter and less stressful to the animals. The Combi-RT’s low profile allows it to work under the low-level eaves inside the poultry house, and the 300 mm clearance enables the machine to minimize ground litter disturbance. A compact turning radius is achieved by way of large tires on a three-wheel chassis with all-wheel traction and differential lock.
What else is happening?
Rough-terrain and telehandler manufacturers have not been sitting on their hands over the past few years. A number of companies have invested in substantial R&D and new models. The trend appears to be for more compact machines with greater reach. This is a response to the changing face of construction sites and the interest of agricultural enterprises in the versatility of telehandlers.
French telehandler manufacturer Haulotte recently released its most compact telehandler to date, the HTL3207. The small but robust machine can neatly fit into a container for unloading and has a boom reach of 10 m. Haulotte has three telehandlers ranging from 3.2 T to 5.2 T, all equipped with 2-wheel, 4-wheel and crab steering capabilities.
Telehandler manufacturer Xtreme launched two new telehandler models early last year – the XR1055 which fills the reach gap between 16.7 m and the XR1270, the tallest fixed-boom telehandler, with a 21.3 m reach. Xtreme also launched the smaller XR630 at the same time. Xtreme’s new range made it into Construction Equipment magazine’s top 100 products awards for 2018.
Canadian rough-terrain forklift manufacturer Liftking recently signed a 10-year contract with the van Santen Group to supply the Netherlands military. The multi-million-Euro contract covers over 100 optional units, for delivery and maintenance. “Their decision to go with a Liftking product was in part due to the versatility of Liftking’s robust rough-terrain forklift,” says Mark Aldrovandi, sales manager at Liftking. The main duties of the LK30P-NL will be to handle 20 ft ISO containers using forks or a top handler, at multiple locations worldwide. With a capacity of 10,000 kg at 1.5m load centre, it will be the backbone of the Netherland Military’s rough-terrain materials handling solution for its transportation fleet of 2,000 trucks it recently purchased with a container system.
Hyster-Yale recently showcased its redesigned Hyster H360HD2 with new mast and carriage. The redesign includes modifying the forklift chain and the mast inner channel to create a wider window creating better visibility. The mast has been mounted closer to the truck, allowing for a higher load capacity whilst maintaining its compact size. Hyster-Yale in its first quarter of 2019 report indicated that rough-terrain and electrified big trucks are being added to its product line-up for the North American market.
The most recent report from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) points to a plateauing of sales in the main market sectors for rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers, at least in the USA. Benjamin Duyck, AEM director of market intelligence, suggests that there will be a slowing of the agricultural and construction sectors in the USA, as we move towards 2020. “The amount of working capital a farmer has is about 25% less this year than last year. This means less money to buy new equipment, and the risk for insolvency is the highest it’s been since 2002. While AEM members are still reporting equipment sales growth, they are much closer to zero than in the past, and optimism for the future is waning,” he says.
The construction industry appears to be in a slightly stronger position, but Druyk says this sector is also cooling. “Most of this growth (in the construction sector) is being driven by residential, and we’ve seen double-digit growth over the course of the last seven years. With rising interest rates and construction costs, we expect this market to cool,” he explains, adding that non-residential construction growth increased only slightly in 2018, on the heels of tremendous growth in the years prior to 2017 in manufacturing and commercial. And, while the overall construction industry is poised for sustained success, most of It will be in residential construction.
What this means for the rest of the global rough-terrain and telehandler market is anyone’s guess but Forkliftaction respondents have specific strategies in place. Wang says that Hangcha will continue to invest in rough-terrain R&D, particularly in developing equipment with more tonnage and configurations.
Haulotte has recently developed ‘Blue’ technology for its elevated working platforms and will introduce the e-driven electric technology to more of its product range in the future.
A Maximal spokesman believes that better segmentation strategies will become key to success in niche products in the near future. With this in mind, Maximal plans to concentrate R&D on efficient, cost-effective machines based on battery power or hybrid technology for the construction sector.
Urkijo says that after very good results in Europe over the past couple of years for rough-terrain forklifts, he fears that Europe will experience a decrease in economic growth in the next few years. Despite this, R&D continues at AUSA. “We will see how the evolution of the electric-powered machines progresses and how batteries continue to be developed to last a whole working day on a steady basis. We will also see how this lowers the final cost of the machine,” says Urkijo. “From my point of view, we have an uncertain but interesting future ahead of us. AUSA are focusing its products in a good direction with innovative features, particularly in the construction sectors supported by government investment,” he adds.
Murray is slightly more optimistic and believes that telehandlers have become essential tools in their work method for many customers. “Industry and customer needs continue to evolve to handle a range of materials in different sites. The compact telehandler is the fastest growing segment. These machines are replacing traditional forklifts and rough-terrain forklifts due to their increased versatility, safety and capacity; also, the ability to work better with delivery vehicles, lorries and containers. These specialist segments will continue to grow,” says Murray.
Rough-terrain forklifts, in particular, have always had to work hard for their market share and it seems that, after a few good years of sales, it could be back to status quo for them. Telehandlers look to a slightly more optimistic future but they too will have to contend with the economic variances in their main market sectors.