Telehandlers, also called reach forklifts, combine the lift height of a crane with the strength of a forklift for moving and lifting heavy loads on a jobsite. Paired with a bucket, pallet fork, work platform, grapple or other attachment, telehandlers can do the jobs of several machines, saving time and money. If you’re wondering what is the best telehandler to buy or rent, you’ll want to learn about the different types of telehandlers before deciding the best telehandler for your needs.
Here’s a guide to the types of telehandlers available and other important factors to consider when buying or renting one of these go-to machines.
Types of telehandlers: Fixed and rotating
There are two main telehandler categories, both with unique capabilities that make them ideal for specific applications and settings.
Fixed telehandlers offer the stability necessary for lifting the heaviest loads on rough terrain and over long distances. Commonly used in construction and agriculture, they have a cab that does not rotate and a forward-facing boom that pivots up and down. Variable reach fixed telehandlers have a telescopic boom that extends and retracts to lift and place loads at varying reaches. Telescopic booms are convenient for reaching over obstacles and moving people or materials into otherwise inaccessible areas.
Rotating telehandlershave a cab and boom (telescopic) that can rotate 360 degrees on a stationary base. This range of motion make these telehandlers a good choice on jobsites where space is limited. The operator can pick up materials on one side of the machine and place them on the other side, or to the front or back, without moving the telehandler. The tradeoff is generally a lower capacity.
Whether you want a fixed or rotating telehandler, size is the next major consideration when choosing the best telehandler for your jobsite or project. Size translates to lifting capacity, which is the maximum weight the telehandler can carry.
Telehandlers are available in three general sizes based on lifting capacity:
- Small telehandlers have capacities from 4,500 to 6,000 pounds and are best for light- to medium-duty jobs around a construction site or warehouse. Subcompact models are the size of a small tractor.
- Medium telehandlers move 10,000- to 20,000-pound loads to heights up to 55 feet and are ideal for moving construction materials or crews onto rooftops, for example.
- Large telehandlers are heavy lifters, with capacities starting at 20,000 pounds. They are often used in commercial construction.
A telehandler’s lift capacity decreases as the boom is lifted and extended, so consider not only the maximum weight of the loads you’ll be moving but also how high and far you need to move them. The telehandler load chart details how much weight the machine can safely lift based on the attachment you’re using and how high or far you want to lift the material.
Load charts can be found in the telehandler’s cab or the operator’s manual. Most manufacturers also make them available online.
When considering the maximum capacity you need, remember to include the weight of the attachment you plan to use in the total weight calculation.
Telehandler weight and dimensions
Consider the machine’s operating weight and width and whether they suit the jobsite and terrain. Wet, muddy or unstable soil may limit the size of the telehandler you can operate safely. Some models may be too large for crowded jobsites or tight urban environments — or for the trailer you have available.
How much does a telehandler weigh? On the lower end, a telehandler with a 5,000-pound capacity weighs about 10,000 pounds. On the higher end, a high-capacity telehandler with a capacity of 35,000 pounds weighs about 45,000 pounds.
If your jobsite is cluttered with materials and objects or otherwise requires moving through tight spaces, look for a telehandler with the smallest turning radius for your lifting needs. Compact models offer a turning radius as small as 11 feet, making them highly maneuverable.
The boom design is another important consideration. A high pivot pin puts the boom above the operator for improved visibility. Operators typically prefer this design for lifting lumber and other materials. Low-pin models, common in compact telehandlers, allow the operator to see over the boom when carrying pallets and other loads close to the ground.
Tires: Pneumatic or cushion
Most telehandlers can be outfitted with pneumatic or cushion tires. If your project is outdoors, choose a telehandler with pneumatic tires. Filled with compressed air, these tires absorb the shock of rough terrain and uneven surfaces. Rubber cushion tires provide less traction and lower ground clearance and are intended for indoor floors and smooth, level surfaces.
Most telehandlers are diesel-powered, though gas and electric models are available. Generally, diesel machines are larger than other models. They offer more power and torque, greater lift capacity and faster acceleration and lifting than gas and electric models, and they require less maintenance than gas telehandlers. Because they emit fumes, they are appropriate for outdoor use only. Today, electric power is available only with the smallest telehandlers.
The answer to “What is the best telehandler to buy or rent?” depends on how and where you intend to use it. For help deciding on the best telehandler for your project, talk with a knowledgeable rental provider, who can steer you to the most appropriate model for your application and budget. If your goal is to purchase a telehandler, renting first can help you zero in on the model you want.