Giving Your Construction Site the Right Lift

Construction projects require building materials, which need to be moved around the jobsite as activities and locations change.


Although wheel loaders and excavators can often handle the job, they are usually engaged employed in high-production activities. It is better to get a construction forklift for pick and carry, trailer loading/unloading and placing needs.

A construction forklift is used by some to refer to a rough terrain forklift and by others to refer to a telehandler. A rough terrain forklift is similar to an industrial forklift, but it is designed for traversing on unfinished surfaces, so it has pneumatic tires, stronger axles and greater bounce absorption for a smoother ride. A telehander looks similar to a large skid steer loader, but with a single, telescoping boom capable of reaching great heights. It is what you use for placing loads higher up than two stories.

“Sure, it’s common to hear the terms telehandlers and forklifts used interchangeably, along with other frequently used names, such as shooting boom fork truck, telescoping forklift, variable reach forklift and rough terrain forklift,” says John Boehme, JLG senior product manager, telehandlers.


Rough terrain forklifts are designed for lifting heavy weights and traversing the rough terrains of construction sites.

High Reach manufactures the Orion line of heavy fork lift trucks. “Primarily designed for indoor, machinery moving and installation as well as fabrication, the Orion’s short wheelbase and low travel height suit them to exactly this kind of indoor, precision-sensitive applications,” says George Dudley Warbeck, vice president, High Reach. “However, we have recently made modifications to machines to better-suit them to outdoor work.”

In particular, the machines have been equipped with Tier 4 Diesel engines, redsigned cabs and tread-cut, softer tires (70 durometer). The introduction of a hydrostatic no-spin makes for better performance too. “But make no mistake, the Orion line are low, short, and easily transportable, not the characteristics of your average pneumatic-tired fork lift truck,” says Warbeck.

The Orion 80K was used recently on a bridge construction project. In this case, the short wheelbase and low travel height of the Orion proved to be more advantageous than a rough terrain forklift.

orion forklift THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

Brandt Company created its own forklift for outdoor applications, called the RTF. In order to create the RTF, Brandt Company took a John Deere wheel loader, pulled the boom off and fastened a third-party mast. “We designed and engineered an integrated and optimized mast system solution including hydraulics, electronics, frame mounting points and counterweighting,” says Sanjay Jachack, senior sales director – BESL & BAPL Products – dealer channels, Brandt Company.

The mast on an RTF can be equipped with different mast options in order to meet the various demands of working on a construction site. Options include mast rotators, so operators can rotate the entire assembly for easier access of loads in difficult location and overarms on the mast, which function like clamps and stabilize loads during transport. These are typically used when lifting round loads such as logs, pipe, or other non-uniform extended length loads.

There are a number of key things that make Brandt’s RTF series different than a standard rigid frame based rough terrain forklift. Firstly, not all rough terrain forklifts are fully ANSI certified to ensure the optimum balance of productivity, capacity, and safety.

“The trade-off in not having an ANSI certified RTF is that you end up handling lighter loads, traveling at slower speeds under load, and making more trips which uses more fuel,” says Jachack. “Other RTF’s may work in less demanding applications but aren’t necessarily the safest when called on to be productive when the going gets tough.”

However, a lot of companies who need a forklift only occasionally will attach fork racks to a wheel loader. The downside to using this method is that the lifting capacity of the wheel loader is significantly less than a rough terrain forklift because the load is extended farther out from the wheel loader than it is on a rough terrain forklift. “So, then they will use more purpose-built machines, such as a telehandler,” says Boehme.


Telehandlers are ideal at loading/unloading and placing, and high-capacity telehandlers can even outperform wheel loaders in these applications.

“High-capacity telehandlers save time, money and labor on the jobsite by allowing operators to accomplish multiple tasks with one machine,” says Boehme. “Their higher lift capacity and enhanced versatility cut down on the time it takes to complete work.”

“Due to the versatility of Skyjack’s telehandlers, it is challenging to pinpoint just a couple applications where our Skyjack telehandlers are well suited,” says Braden Spence, product manager, Skyjack. The company reports seeing Skyjack telehandlers used in heavy-duty applications such as oil and gas and stockpile management to countless to limited access sites, such as parking garages, agriculture and landscape.

“Additionally, we are starting to see Skyjack’s telehandlers even displace other equipment lines,” says Spence. “For instance, through available options, the ZB2044 can displace the need for front end loaders, excavators and rough terrain cranes.” Also, Skyjack’s SJ519 TH, when equipped with the skid steer adaptor attachment plate, can displace a skid steer loader.

Some of the features that make Skyjack telehandlers ideal for construction applications include Skyjack’s AXLDRIVE, which is an axle-based drive system for excellent rough terrain traction and the company’s ECOSHIFT mechanical continuously variable transmission option, which provides an infinite number of gear ratios for intuitive operation and smooth drive performance.

Telehandlers are versatile; they are typically the first machines on the jobsite and the last to leave. The applications for these machines vary greatly from the initial phases of a large construction project, where the machines can be found unloading trucks and delivering materials, to the closing stages, where they can be utilized for jobsite cleanup and landscaping. “That versatility is really what propels the popularity for telehandlers,” says Boehme.


Years ago, common telehandler attachments included just forks, carriages and buckets. Then manufacturers developed more attachments that do more refined applications, such as pipe, trash and tire handling. JLG, for example, now has close to 30 attachments.

“People see how versatile these machines are, and, with an increased focus on ROI, telehandlers are a clear choice to have in any fleet,” says Boehme. “Industries such as wind, oil and gas, steel erection, industrial construction and mining present unique challenges to equipment operators.”

With a wide range of industry-specific attachments, high-capacity telehandlers can adapt to demanding jobsites and replace other traditional machines. Plus, their ability to handle heavy, bulky loads makes them ideal for performing maintenance on other machines in the rental yard.

“If your telehandler can adopt a skid steer or truss boom attachment, it could mean less large pieces of equipment on your jobsite as your telehandler can now do the work of both,” says Spence.

So, by examining the attachment possibilities and reach potential, as well as machine application and jobsite conditions, you can give your construction site the right lift.

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