High times

20 March 2008

Genie says it is seeing favoritism for the larger 10,000 pound telehandlers, in part due to the dema

Genie says it is seeing favoritism for the larger 10,000 pound telehandlers, in part due to the demand for higher structures.

America's current culture seems to be that “bigger is better.” Although it is over the top to suggest that the construction equipment industry has jumped on the “Super–Size” bandwagon, it's impossible to ignore that telehandler manufacturers are producing larger machines with greater height and load capacities. And much to their delight, some end users are saying “bring it on.”

Only 10 to 15 years ago, high reach telehandlers had a maximum lift height of approximately 40 to 45 feet. Today, most of the top manufacturers have models that exceed 50 feet. Within an 8 to 10 feet variable, the sizes in machines appear to grow during a phase of every five to 10 years. The first phase, as noted by Brandon Klein, sales manager for Baltimore–based Valley Supply & Equipment, was the introduction of the 32 foot telehandler. The second phase was the 44 foot lift height machine. With the last phase, Klein said the market was ready for the 50–plus foot machine.

This year, Xtreme Manufacturing may have possibly introduced the next phase in large–scale telehandlers with its massive XRM 1267, which has a lift height of 67 feet and a forward reach of almost 54 feet. The machine weighs 46,300 pounds and has a maximum load capacity of 12,000 pounds. With all that muscle, the XRM 1267 has the industry buzzing and asking, “How much larger can these machines get?”

According to most manufacturers, at these heights, the engineering capabilities are there. But is the market ready?

Last spring at the World of Concrete show where the XRM 1267 was first introduced, Don Ahern, president and CEO of Xtreme, said the company would be marketing the machine in a controlled manner, with the first units going straight to end users.

Elesha Rasmuson, Xtreme's vice president of administration of sales, says the company is going with a cautious approach in order to get a better grip on the market for the larger capacity telehandlers. “It's a new segment of the market that we're trying to understand better,” says Rasmuson. “We've had a very controlled release on this and do not want to let it go wild.”

The Manitou MT 1745 has a maximum lift height of 54 feet, 5 inches. In Europe, Manitou just released its MRT 3050 rotating telescopic machine, which has a lift height of 29.7 meters (97 feet). While the machine is not currently available in North America, the company suggests that it may bring the high reach machine to the US, although no timetable has been set.

At what point will manufacturers put a cap on telehandler height and lifting capacities? Are high–reach, high–capacity telehandlers stealing market share from smaller class cranes?John Wyatt talks with manufacturers and dealers to answers these questions and more.

Deliberately, she says, production of this machine has been small. Overall, the company believes that higher–reach telehandlers will continue to grow in lift height. “I think the US person has a bigger appetite than most,” says Lee Kramer, vice president of engineering for Xtreme. “As a manufacturer though, we have to focus on safety but also we want to do what the operator wants.”

Kramer says because the company has a machine that is lifting heavy loads to heights never done before, Xtreme engineers wanted to ensure the machine was designed to perform “in a safe and reliable manner.”

At this year's ARA Rental Show in Atlanta, meanwhile, Genie introduced its GTH–1056 model telehandler, which has a lift height of more than 56 feet. According to Luke Webber, telehandler product manager, the GTH–1056 is the only handler that can reach that height and that weighs less than 30,000 pounds. He says in North America, the company has definitely seen a larger demand for the heavy duty telehandlers.

“We are definitely seeing favoritism for the larger 10,000 pound telehandlers,” says Webber. “It's partly due to the construction industry building taller structures, such as condominiums, as real estate prices climb higher and higher. It's also partly due to some telehandler owners trying to achieve 80 to 90% machine utilization.”

He says the overall level of activity in the telehandler market will dictate the demand for the “bigger and better” generation of machines. But has the company decided to enter the next phase of high reach telehandlers? Webber says when the customers start talking, the company will have open ears.

Gehl's largest machine to date is the 55 foot, 10,000 pound capacity model DL–1055. This machine is considered a “tool carrier” vehicle, meaning it is built heavier than the “lift and place” machines.

Large demand

Kirst says there is a strong demand in North America for the larger range machines but that the market may be limited to the major metro areas where buildings and structures are taller. Telehandlers have been strongly utilized in dense urban areas where construction sites are increasingly tight. The smaller and agile telehandlers are easier to use and can often do the same work as some of the smaller rough terrain cranes and even self–erecting tower cranes.

This begs the question: Are telehandlers starting to overlap with other lifting equipment, such as smaller mobile cranes? Some in the industry believe this may be the case.

“Yes, but only in certain instances,” says Kirst. “You have to remember that a telehandler is primarily designed to pick up things/supplies from underneath (with forks) such as materials that are on a pallet. Cranes are designed to pick up things/objects from over the top (with a sling)such as trusses or air conditioning units. It's a matter of best and safest practices.”

Pete Bell, vice president of Cincinnati–based High Lift Equipment, says that once heights get above that 40 foot level, he has customers that want to rent telehandlers instead of cranes because “they are so versatile and cheaper.” High Lift Equipment's fleet includes the JLG Lull 1044C–54 model that has a lift height of 54 feet, and with the 8 foot tower attachment can extend the lift height to 62 feet. Bell says high reach telehandlers have replaced some of the smaller class cranes because the same operator isn't needed to work a forklift. A forklift driver can operate a handler, and there is less set up work required compared to cranes, he explains.

“With the cranes you have to get into the setting up of the machines,” says Bell. “Whereas, the forklift, you unload and use it.”

Dan Blondeau, Pettibone product manager, says that in some cases high reach telehandlers are replacing cranes that previously were used for the same work. Because the telehandler in general is such a versatile machine, in some applications they are replacing boom trucks. “These units are more versatile and offer more maneuverability than a crane,” says Blondeau.

High Lift Equipment's fleet includes the JLG Lull telehandler 1044C–54 model. The JLG dealer says customers are buying a lot of used 10,000 pound machines in the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky area.

Pettibone is evaluating higher capacity machines and will be introducing another 10,000 pound model in 2008. Currently, its highest reach model is the Extendo 10056 telehandler, which has a maximum lift height of 561/2 feet.

“I think from our standpoint, we impact the crane market to some extent,” says Manitou's Ryan Ford, construction and agricultural product specialist. “Telehandlers are easier to maneuver on the job site and don't require the trained crane operator. Anywhere you don't need the extreme lift height that you need with a crane, obviously the telehandlers impact that market.”

Too high?

In Florida, Gordy's Equipment of Broward Inc. has rented high reach machines to customers who initially wanted to go with smaller rough terrain cranes. Jim Beale, general manager of Gordy's Pompano Beach rental branch, says in his area, where there is ample development of tract housing, condominiums and townhouses, a large rough terrain forklift is ideal because of its ability to skate around a job site. But Beale is reluctant about the size of telehandlers growing too large. He is concerned about the safety aspect of a machine reaching heights too high.

Brandon Klein of Valley Equipment & Supply isn't convinced the market is ready for the next phase of high reach machines. Klein admits he has found a rental niche for the Lull 1044C–54 handler with the 8 foot tower attachment, but he says no customers have come to him asking for something higher. Serving markets in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and as far as Richmond, VA, Valley Equipment & Supply has done well in both rental and sales, especially in the housing market. But whether it's a rental or sale, telehandlers are chosen because of their versatility, not just their lifting capabilities, he says.

“I can tell you most guys that get above 54 feet and they are calling for a crane,” says Klein. “The versatility of moving the telehandler, having it available, using it around the yard, that makes it attractive. But at that high, is there really an application for it?”

The answer to Klein's question is a toss up at this point, with safety also coming into question when working at heights above 70 feet.

If Xtreme is taking it slow with the release and distribution of its XRM 1267 in order to get a better grasp on the market for higher reach machines, it appears that other manufacturers are taking a wait–and–see approach.    

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