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Guide to Telehandlers

A job well done starts with the right equipment. When you're in need of some heavy lifting, telehandlers have what it takes to help your project reach new heights. These versatile machines combine the best features of both forklifts and cranes. Telehandlers come in a variety of types with several attachments, so you can customize your machines to fit the bill for any projects that come your way. 

Equipping your crew with the right telehandlers will maximize your time and increase productivity. Different telehandler types offer various benefits and have specific features to choose from, and knowing all of your options can help you make the best machine decision for your projects and industries. 

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What Is a Telehandler?

Telescopic handlers, or telehandlers, are defined as a type of boom lift, which uses a long arm to raise materials or people on a platform or other attachment. Telehandlers are the machines to use for jobs requiring high lifting and handling of materials. Their sturdy bodies and thick, treaded tires allow you to stay stable while driving over uneven terrain at off-road sites. 

Telehandlers combine the most useful and durable features of several other machines for applications in all types of work, from construction to agriculture and beyond. 

Telehandlers can typically lift to heights between 17 and 56 feet and have lifting capacities between 4,850 and 12,000 pounds. With many feature combinations on the market, you have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a lift that suits your project needs. 

How Do Telehandlers Work?

Telehandlers are most commonly used to lift and lower objects, although in some cases, they're also useful for dumping or scooping with the right attachments. 

Telehandlers are most commonly used to lift and lower objects, although in some cases, they're also useful for dumping or scooping with the right attachments. 

Most telehandlers consist of a chassis with the cab mounted on one side and the telescoping boom on the other side. During lift operations, the boom reaches upward and forward at a consistent diagonal angle. Since forklifts can only reach upward, telehandlers offer more versatility and can reach confined places at hard-to-reach heights by maneuvering the boom lift to the exact spot your crew needs to access. 

Telehandlers are different from other types of boom lifts in that, rather than articulating a series of folded joints, they extend out in a straight line, much like extending a telescope. The boom extends because of hydraulic power, which is the conversion of pressurized fluids into power sources.

Pressurized fluids are stored in the vehicle's accumulator, where the motor and hydraulic cylinders convert the fluids' pressure into mechanical motion. Hydraulic fluids are incompressible, so when pressure is applied, it distributes evenly across the fluid and creates an equal force of movement, which is then distributed through several valves to power different sections of the machine.

How to Use a Telehandler 

Telehandlers are useful, versatile and rugged, but they're also a major responsibility to take on. Safe operation of these machines ensures workplaces are free from injury and mistakes, which allows for efficient and proper completion of projects and machine longevity. Some of the most important factors for using telehandlers include: 

  • Inspection: Before each use, inspect the telehandler for any leaks or defects. Refrain from using machines that exhibit issues before or during use.
  • Safety features: Always wear the provided seatbelts and harnesses. 
  • Securing doors: Close all cab doors, or secure them in an open position if necessary and possible. 
  • Area obstacles: Check the ground you'll be driving on and remove any obstacles. Check for and remove any overhead obstacles. Wait for all pedestrians and other vehicles to exit your travel path. 
  • Stabilizers: When parked and preparing to lift a load, deploy the telehandler's stabilizers if it has them. Stabilizers protrude from the vehicle to the ground to provide additional vehicle stability and increase the lifting capacity. 
  • Lifting capacity: Only lift loads within the specific telehandler model's lift capacity. Lifting heavier loads than the machine is designed to handle can cause tipping and other vehicle damage. Always check the operator's manual to make sure the specific telehandler you're using will be able to lift the load. 
  • Center of gravity: Lifting a load changes the center of gravity of the entire machine. As the heaviest part of the telehandler — the load and boom lift — extends upward, the center of gravity also travels up and out. Only lift the boom when parked on flat ground, as lifting while on a slope could cause the telehandler to tilt. 
  • Lowering the boom: Always drive with the boom lowered. A low center of gravity allows for maximum stability. Visibility is obstructed by the telescoping arm when the boom is raised. 
  • Balanced weight: Keep the load weight balanced. For any lift truck, the weight of the load must be comparable to the weight of the rest of the truck to prevent tipping. You can find the maximum weight for a specific telehandler model in its operator's manual. Center all loads on the lift attachment to prevent uneven distribution of weight. 
  • Parking: After each use, properly park the telehandler on flat, non-graded ground and set the emergency brake. 

Each situation involving heavy machinery is unique, and different machines come with different instructions and specs to be aware of. Know your machines, and always use your best judgment to keep your crew safe wherever you're working. 

What Is a Telehandler Used For? 

What Is a Telehandler Used For? The versatility of telehandlers is a large part of their appeal. Telehandlers can move several types of materials and have load capacities, reach heights and maneuvering capabilities that surpass other machines, making them a common all-purpose choice for a variety of industries.

The versatility of telehandlers is a large part of their appeal. Telehandlers can move several types of materials and have load capacities, reach heights and maneuvering capabilities that surpass other machines, making them a common all-purpose choice for a variety of industries.

Forklifts are also good for lifting and carrying loads, but their reach heights are limited. Telehandlers extend the range of traditional forklifts, combining the lift capabilities of a crane with the multi-faceted material carrying options of forklifts to go beyond the scope of other machines. 

Telehandlers' comparably high load capacities make them ideal for use with industrial projects such as construction, logging and distribution. Crews can efficiently move materials such as concrete blocks, industrial pipes, pallets, packaged goods, snow, water, timber and steel bars. These machines are also useful for outdoor maintenance on buildings and docks, as well as moving other materials to and from high, hard-to-reach places.

In agricultural settings, telehandlers and their various functions can replace several other machines, such as wheeled loaders and backhoe loaders. Use them to move materials across farmland or scoop loads from hard-to-reach trailers. 

What Are the Different Types of Telehandlers?

Depending on what you need them for, telehandler makes and models offer a wide array of features. Each telehandler you'll find ultimately falls into one of two categories — fixed or rotating. 

With fixed telehandlers, the telescopic boom and operator's cab are mounted on the chassis in a fixed position. If your crew wants to shift the position or facing direction of a fixed telehandler, they must move the entire machine on its wheels, which involves lowering the boom back to its starting position. Although fixed telehandlers have a slightly impaired range of motion, they come in several makes and models that can fit your reach and lift capacity requirements.

With rotating telehandlers, the telescopic boom and operator's cab can fully rotate on the chassis while the rest of the machine body remains stationary. This functionality allows crews to easily maneuver loads where they need to go or reach particularly tough places without moving the rest of the vehicle. 

What Are the Types of Telehandler Attachments?

Although manufacturers often describe telehandlers as a type of forklift, the functions of telehandlers actually extend far beyond that of the traditional forklift. Part of what makes telehandlers so versatile is their capacity for several different attachments. 

Changing out the features at the end of the boom gives telehandlers a range of unique capabilities. Your crew can use the same telehandler for many different applications just by changing the attachment. You'll save money by buying fewer machines but reaping the benefits of several applications. You'll also minimize the amount of equipment you bring to work sites. 

To get the most out of your machine during any project or operating environment, consider adding attachments such as:

  • Buckets: Telehandler buckets come in a variety of different forms and are ideal for cleaning up sites, loading, carrying, dumping, moving bulky objects, moving loosely packed materials, clamping, dozing, grading and leveling. Some bucket types are also designed to lift workers so they can work on projects at great heights. Buckets are often designed to carry specific materials, such as waste, grass or even water. 
  • Carriages: Telehandler forks mount onto carriages to perform additional functions, such as precise load placement. Common carriage types include standard tilt, side shift, dual fork positioning, swing, standard rotate, wide rotate and wide tilt.
  • Forks: Telehandler forks are ideal for transporting pallets or lumber, with tines purposefully designed for lifting and carrying specified loads at high heights. 
  • Platforms: Telehandler platforms are safe for lifting people so they can work at great heights. Some platforms include controls so workers can move the chassis from above, while others depend on the telehandler operator down below.
  • Lifting jibs: Telehandlers can also suspend loads from a hook or a chain for efficient movement of materials. 

Telehandler forks are ideal for transporting pallets or lumber, with tines purposefully designed for lifting and carrying specified loads at high heights. 

Attachments help maximize your telehandler use, but each one also changes the dynamics of the machine. The specs for the vehicle in its original form change once you add a new attachment. Always account for how each attachment will affect the telehandler's stability and functionality. 

All attachments also reduce the lift capacity of the telehandler. Consult your machine's manufacturer or supplier to know what the new capacity will be with each attachment you want to use. Make sure the attachment you're planning to use is designed to work with your telehandler's make and model. 

Telehandler attachments are quick and easy to add to your machines. Many attachments use a quick hitch method or another simple attachment requirement. Be sure to add each attachment according to its specifications, and always check that your crew has attached all parts securely before use. 

How to Know What Type of Telehandler to Use

The different types of telehandlers are designed for specific uses. Depending on what you want to lift and what height you want to lift it to, different telehandlers are capable of lifting to a range of heights and maneuvering in many ways. For best results, think about the type of work you'll be doing, and choose a lift based on those specifications. Consider:

  • The type, size and weight of the loads you'll be lifting 
  • The height you'll need to be able to reach
  • How far the loads need to be carried, and what terrain you'll be driving on
  • The space available at the site
  • Whether you'll need to rotate your loads or can raise and lower them from a fixed position
  • What roads you'll be driving on
  • The job location, thinking about visibility, slopes and terrain 

You may need a smaller telehandler to get into tighter spaces or one that can fit in the required space even with the stabilizers deployed. Or you may need machinery that can drive on public roads. Additionally, consider any potential attachments you're planning to use:

  • Is the make and model of your telehandler compatible with the attachment you want to use?
  • What type of work do you need the attachment for?
  • What will change about the telehandler's load capabilities with the addition of this new attachment? 
  • Can your telehandler still accommodate the load weight and boom height with this added initial weight?
  • Does the job location permit the type of work this attachment can do?

Telehandler Operation Training and Certification 

Like many other heavy machines, to operate a telehandler, everyone must have proper training and receive official certification. Training ensures you and your crew know how to operate these vehicles correctly and can create a safe environment for those around. Training includes lessons on how to operate the telehandlers, the specifications of different models, how to conduct vehicle inspections, operating limitations and more. 

Learning how to establish and maintain a safe workplace environment is another important aspect of telehandler training. Working with this equipment invites potential hazards, such as dropping materials from high in the air and accidentally extending the telescoping boom into other vehicles or structures. You must be aware of how to safely operate around pedestrians, how to load and unload specific materials and how to navigate narrow spaces and sloped surfaces. 

Your crew may need additional training for the use of certain telehandler attachments. Since these attachments change the capabilities and functions of the machine, it's important to check with the manufacturer for updated information regarding who can operate telehandlers with attachments and under what circumstances. 

As with the operation of any heavy machinery, consider the risks and follow a plan to minimize opportunities for injury or damage. Always check your surroundings and the machine's operating specs to make sure you can carry out your job safely. 

Explore Telehandler Options With Holt of California

Explore Telehandler Options With Holt of California. Browse Equipment.

The right piece of equipment can make all the difference. Telehandlers and their attachments come in many varieties to satisfy your every need. 

Holt of California has over 85 years of experience helping businesses find exactly what they need to get the job done safely and efficiently. Browse our extensive collection of telehandlers from Caterpillar to see what machines work best for you. To learn more about the equipment we offer or to speak with one of our knowledgeable representatives, fill out our contact form, and we'll be in touch!