A real alternative?

10 January 2020


Telehandlers are increasingly being used on construction sites, sometimes doing jobs previously performed by small mobile cranes. Their continuous technological evolution is playing a part in it. Sotiris Kanaris reports.

The market for telehandlers has been growing in recent years, as more industries, including construction, are realising the benefits of these machines. The manufacturers are not resting on this success; they have been expanding their portfolio as well as the features of their machines.

A number of new products were launched at Bauma last year, while some manufacturers have revealed their plans to introduce more models in 2020.

“It is a market made up of a few players who compete for market share, and one that is increasingly in need of innovative solutions for the construction sector and heavy industry in general,” says Maria Benassi, communications and marketing manager at Magni.

The Italian manufacturer's latest model is the RTH 13.26. With a maximum lifting capacity of 13t, Magni claims that it is the strongest telehandler in the market. It has a maximum lifting height of 26.2m and maximum reach of 21.3m. Its capacity at maximum height is 8t.

“This year we have won many awards for this model because it is a real challenge to create a telehandler with such capacity,” says Benassi.

The machine’s continuous 360° rotating upper structure allows the telehandler to sit stationary while it lifts and places loads, reducing the need for the machine to move during operation. For operator safety, the automatic leveller and double-armed scissor stabilisers have a wide support base in order to provide stability on various types of terrain.

Benassi highlights that at Magni they are always looking at safety and operator’s comfort for their machines. “Starting from our medium range we have incorporated Liebherr technology for the rotation system – this is an important partnership that stresses Magni’s will to have the highest quality possible on the market. Secondly, we have enlarged the touch-screen in the cabin from 7in to 10in, starting from the medium range again.”

Magni has also put extra safety in the auto-levelling and added a GPS system on all the machines. This system is called MyMagni and helps users manage and check their fleet. “A total overview that enables you to map and track every movement of the machines in your fleet and features the most critical matters on your dashboard,” says Benassi.

The wide range of models and feature additions have increased the demand for the manufacturer’s products in recent years. The strongest markets are North America, the Benelux and Nordic countries.

In Europe, the best selling Magni model for the construction sector is the RTH 5.25, which has 5t maximum lifting capacity and can lift loads up to a height of 25m. For construction applications in the USA and Canada, the most popular model is the RTH 6.35. This machine can lift loads up to a height of 35m and has a maximum capacity of 6t. Both models are equipped with scissor stabilisers to ensure greater safety and stability during working manoeuvres.

The manufacturer has further plans for its rotating telehandler offering. “In 2020 we will have the launch of the new RTH collection. This will be a new range of machines that will be looking more into the small cranes market thanks to their big capacity.”

The idea that the telehandlers can perform some jobs traditionally destined for small mobile cranes is clear for the market players. Communication officer at Manitou Franck Lethorey called the manufacturer’s newest models, the MRT 2470 Privilege Plus and the MRT 3050 Privilege Plus, “a real alternative to mobile cranes.”

Both of these models are all-terrain rotating telehandlers well suited for construction and industrial applications. Manitou characterises them as 3-in-1 units, as they “combine the functions of a telehandler, crane and work platform, making it a valuable asset for handling operations, while full 360° turret rotation means you can carry out various tasks without the need to move the machine.”

“The pentagonal cross-section allows for absolute precision when operating the boom, preserving lateral rigidity regardless of the amount of wear, which translates into greater safety for both you and your teams,” the manufacturer adds.

The MRT 2470 Privilege Plus has a maximum lifting capacity of 7t, maximum lifting height of 24.8m and maximum reach of 20.5m. The MRT 3050 Privilege Plus has a maximum capacity of 5t, maximum lifting height of 29.5m and maximum reach of 25.8m.

Manitou has been investing heavily in the technology of its machines. “For a few years now, we are adding more and more safety features, especially on rotating telehandlers,” says Lethorey, giving as examples the attachment recognition system, cameras, telematics and new stabiliser system.

The most popular Manitou models for construction applications are the 4t MT 1840 fixed telehandler (17.55m maximum lifting height) and the 5t rotating telehandler MRT 2150 (21m maximum lifting height).

Lethorey says the strongest markets for the MT range is Europe and North America. For the MRT range Western Europe is the main market, more specifically Germany, Italy, France, Benelux and the UK. “But we also observe a shift in demand to markets outside Europe,” he adds.

As to how the global demand for telehandlers is at the moment, Lethorey says there is a growing demand for fixed compact machines and high lifts in some areas. “There is also a higher demand for customised solutions for specific applications: mining, train, port. New energies will also come on such machines with alternatives to diesel more and more requested in big cities.”

He says that in 2019, the market reached a very high volume and that he anticipates a slight reduction in 2020 and then for it to remain stable.

At Pettibone they expect the market to plateau in 2020 from 2019 levels, but still remain strong. “However, it is possible for a slight decline in 2021 and 2022,” adds Mitch Fedie, marketing manager for Pettibone.

The US manufacturer, a longstanding player in the market, has also expanded its product line in 2019. Pettibone announced four new 12K models released in 2019: the Extendo 1246X and 1258X and the Traverse T1246X and T1258X. All four models offer a maximum lifting capacity of 12,000lb (6USt/ 5.44t) and a max lifting height of 46ft (14m) or 58ft. The Traverse models allow the boom to be traversed horizontally along the frame up to 70in and allow the operator to land loads without having to coordinate multiple boom functions. All models are equipped with a Cummins QSF3.8 117hp engine, a Dana threespeed Powershift transmission, and Dana axles.

The manufacturer tells Cranes Today that it will launch a new telehandler at this year’s ConExpo. For general construction Pettibone’s most popular model is the Extendo 944X, but the Traverse T944X is commonly found on masonry jobsites. The Extendo 944X has a 9,000-pound load capacity rating. It achieves forward reach up to 30ft and a maximum lift height of 44ft 6in. Traverse T944X has the same capacity and maximum lift height, but its forward reach is higher at 35ft 10in.

Pettibone says that for both models the newly designed boom with formed boom plates offers greater strength with less weight, while drivetrain and axles have been optimised to provide greater tractive effort with minimal tradeoff on top end speed.

The Baraga, Michigan-based manufacturer has also been upgrading the technology of its machines. Fedie says: “Technology is advancing telehandlers through the use of load sensing systems, proximity sensors and backup cameras for safer maneuverability through busy jobsites as well as digital displays that give more real-time diagnostics of the machine. Telematics are also continually advancing so rental companies and contractors can keep track of their fleets, remotely diagnose issues, and easily keep track of scheduled maintenance. Cameras and digital displays are commonly upfitted on Pettibone equipment and a new telematics software is just around the corner.”

Features facilitating fleet management of customers seems to be a trend in the telehandlers market. In terms of other market demands, Fedie comments: “We are starting to see trends of higher capacity machines becoming available as well as equipment with farther reaches. On the other end, compact telehandlers are becoming increasingly popular for tighter jobsites.”

Another established player in the market is Italian manufacturer Merlo, that has also recently futher expanded its product portfolio. At Bauma, it presented four new Roto rotating turret telehandlers, built according to the modular design concept and hosting new technological features: the Roto 40.16 S, Roto 50.21 S Plus, Roto 50.26 and Roto 50.35 S Plus.

The telescopic handlers of the Roto range allow 360° operation thanks to the rotating turret, which offers a greater range of action compared to a fixed telescopic handler.“The new Roto family marks a new era by introducing new standards in the field of telescopic handlers for the construction sector and expanding the product range with new contents, adapting more and more to the needs of different users,” says Merlo.

The Roto "S Plus" models features include: the multi-position stabilisers with automatic control, the advanced safety system, the continuous turret rotation and the new cab with a modular design, equipped with the exclusive tilting system that adapts the tilt up to 20°. The largest model of the range is the Roto 70.28 S Plus which has a maximum capacity of 7t and boom length of 28m.

Merlo also offers the Panoramic range with the new stabilisers. Also new for this range are the EPD transmission, cab and version of MCDC Safety system. The Merlo Panoramic telehandler capacities range from 3t to 12t, while boom lengths vary from 10m to 18m.

Fellow Italian manufacturer Dieci also offers a wide range of telehandlers for the construction sector, producing fixed, pivot-steer and rotating machines.

The manufacturer’s most recent model is the Apollo 20.4 Smart, the most compact vehicle in the construction range. The Apollo 20.4 Smart has a load capacity of 2000kg and a lifting height of 4.2m.

It features—among other technologies—a high-efficiency steering system; new Kubota 50hp common rail turbo diesel engine with fully electronic control, which has been updated to comply with Stage V/Tier 4f; and a new hydrostatic transmission. “In addition, the combined use of an electronic accelerator and inching pedal enables the vehicle to travel in a slow and controlled way, even with maximum power applied to the boom movement,” Dieci says.

The Pegasus range is Dieci's ultra-high tech line, which the manufacturer says is the most popular for construction applications. It consists of both continuous and non-continuous rotating telehandlers, with lifting heights ranging from 16m to 30m and maximum capacities ranging from 3.8t to 6t. They can be fitted with many different types of accessories to adapt them to many tasks, so a single vehicle can operate as telehandler, aerial platform and a crane.

The Pegasus 45.30 and Pegasus 50.21, featuring the latest innovations, are among the flagship models in the range. The Pegasus 45.30 has a maximum capacity of 4.5t and has a lifting boom, equipped with four proportional extensions, that reaches a maximum height of 30m. The manufacturer increased the hydraulic tank and fuel tank and improved the hydraulic system. “The hydraulic system, in particular, has been improved, allowing more rapid and precise movements of the boom and the equipment, also thanks to the load sensing-flow sharing variable displacement pump that allows the simultaneity of all the turret and boom movements,” Dieci says.

The Pegasus 50.21 has a maximum capacity of 5t and maximum lifting height of 20.5m. The automatic leveling outriggers have been renewed both in the structure and in the control system. The new load sensing flow sharing hydraulic distributor (updated with the latest safety devices) and a new rotary joint with integrated rotation sensor are also some of the added features.

Dieci tells Cranes Today that they are developing the range of the Pegasus 360° rotating telehandlers. “The other 'trump card' is the application of the new 'powerx2 transmission' to our vehicles: a concept born from the partnership between Dieci and Dana Rexroth, and which features the innovative HVT1 transmission.

“To get the best performance out of a new vehicle, it is not sufficient to assemble multiple high-tech components together. Instead they need to be integrated in order to achieve the homogeneous development of the vehicle system as a whole: in short, this was the goal of the synergy between Dieci and Dana Rexroth. The new transmission is a modular unit composed of two main parts, one mechanical and one hydraulic, combined with a single planetary gearbox.

“At the beginning of the movement, power is mainly supplied by the hydraulic part. As the speed increases, the hydraulically delivered power is progressively reduced, while the power supplied by the mechanical part increases. When reaching high speeds, power is supplied exclusively by the mechanical part, thereby obtaining maximum system efficiency. When the driver decreases the speed, the process is reversed and the hydraulic transmission is used exclusively to bring the vehicle to a standstill. The ability to uncouple the vehicle speed from the engine speed substantially reduces fuel consumption without lowering the vehicle’s productivity, with an expected fuel savings of up to 25%; increased performance and driving comfort; reduced emissions, vibrations and noise; reduced wearing of certain components (such as the brakes, which are used more sparingly thanks to hydrostatic braking), resulting in reduced maintenance; and better acceleration, while maintaining the same tractive force.”

Apart from these established players, the telehandlers market has a new-entrant. US company Snorkel introduced its line of telehandlers in early 2018, but has been a well-known brand in the lifting industry for–among other products–its scissor lifts and boom lifts. “Snorkel draws upon 60 years of experience delivering simple, reliable and robust lifting equipment and the telehandler line is no different,” says Matthew Elvin, CEO at Snorkel.

In 2019, the manufacturer expanded its line of telehandlers with two new models, which were presented at Bauma. The Snorkel SR1442, which has a maximum lifting capacity of 4,200kg, can reach a maximum height of 13.5m and has a forward reach of up to 9.5m. The other model is the larger Snorkel SR1745, which can handle loads up to 4,535kg, and has a maximum lift height of 16.4m and a forward reach of 12.6m. These telehandlers weigh in at 11,150kg and 12,180kg respectively.

Elvin says that a new model is going to be introduced this year. “We do have further expansion plans for our telehandler range, and will be launching the Snorkel SR1065 model in early 2020, which has a lifting capacity of 6,500kg and a maximum working height of 9.5m.”

When it comes to the technology incorporated in the manufacturer’s machines, Elvin says: “At Snorkel, technology is deployed where appropriate for safety and to provide the best working experience for the operator—for example, colour LED displays with machine and engine diagnostics—but while maintaining a focus on simplicity of operation and maintenance, as well as a low total cost of ownership.”

For construction applications Elvin says that Snorkel’s compact telehandlers, such as the SR626, are the most popular due to their reduced dimensions for navigating around confined jobsites, and for their ability to pick and place materials and load and unload delivery vehicles. The Snorkel SR626 is just 1.89m wide, yet can carry loads of up to 2,600kg, and has a maximum lifting height of 5.79m.

“Demand for telehandlers globally remains strong currently, due to a large number of major construction and infrastructure projects. With an increasing number of attachments available for telehandlers, they really are becoming the Swiss Army knife of the jobsite, and contractors are requesting more from telehandler manufacturers—both in terms of additional attachments to further expand their use on projects, as well as in terms of lifting capacity, lift height and forward reach capabilities,” says Elvin.

He anticipates demand for telehandlers to remain steady, while construction continues at a similar rate. “There will be longterm growth as adoption of these products increases in other parts of the world, such as Eastern Europe and parts of Asia, and into other sectors,” he adds. 

The Magni RTH 6.35 is the manufacturer’s most popular model for construction applications in the USA and Canada.
The MRT 3050 Privilege Plus has a maximum capacity of 5t, maximum lifting height of 29.5m and maximum reach of 25.8m.
Pettibone’s Traverse T944X has a 9,000lb load capacity rating and a maximum lift height of 44ft 6in.
A Dieci Pegasus telehandler working at a construction site.
Merlo’s Roto 50 35S-Plus.
Snorkel’s SR1745 rough terrain telehandler can handle loads up to 4,535kg, has a maximum lift height of 16.4m and a forward reach of 12.6m.