Versatile, Agile and Quick, Compact Telehandlers Act as the Swiss Army Knives of Construction

We all know those handy little knives that fit into pockets or purses and have a host of specialized blades that do dozens of useful jobs, from opening bottles to stripping wire and snipping hangnails.

Like those versatile tool kits tucked into a handle, compact telehandlers are highly useful machines that have the features and attachments to do all kinds of work in construction, demolition, landscaping, masonry, agriculture, and many other applications.

Small, powerful, and agile, they are all-purpose workhorses that dart in and out of buildings, and through a congested project’s tight alleys in order to lift , dig, grab, or do just about any other kind of work needed on a site.

At least one industry expert has speculated that their versatility, combined with the ability to reach up nearly 20 feet, may enable them to take some work now done by skid-steer loaders.

At the Lift and Access Showcase & Symposium in November 2011, four major manufacturers of compact telehandlers displayed their 5,500-pound-capacity, 19-foot vertical-reach models for executives of major equipment rental companies and contractors.

They were the Gehl S5-19, Genie GTH-5519, JLG G5-18A, and Manitou MLT 625. This photo essay provides an overview of the features and intended applications of the four models exhibited at the Showcase.

Three of the four models have been around for four or more years, and have seen major improvements over their lives. The fourth, Manitou’s MLT 625, was introduced in 2011. It’s hard to imagine a more competitive group of machines. Th eir capacity, reach, and maneuverability are closely matched, and many offer similar features. Th e chart on page 19 shows an overview of the group’s key features and capabilities, as well as some of the attachments available for them.

The Gehl, Genie, and JLG models demonstrated at the Showcase were designed primarily for use by contractors, or by rental companies that serve contractors. Gehl chose to show its most basic, open cab. Genie and JLG displayed units with optional enclosed cabs. The fourth machine, Manitou’s MLT 625, was designed primarily for the agricultural market, although it also has application in construction work. Because of its agricultural focus, where one owner spends a lot of hours in a machine he or she owns, the standard Manitou MLT 625 comes with comforts that are optional or unavailable on the other compact telehandlers at the Showcase.

For example, its standard equipment includes the enclosed cab, air conditioning, deluxe seat, digital dashboard, and insulation to make the cab quieter. About two months aft er the Showcase, Manitou rolled out a new 5,500-pound, 19-foot-vertical-reach compact telehandler named the MT 5519 aimed at construction applications. (Read more in story posted Feb. 1 on Lift andAccess.com)

One trend among the compact telehandlers featured at the Showcase was the use of new, cleaner-running Tier 4 Interim diesel engines, the use of quick-change connections systems, and providing easy access for maintenance.

The telehandler models equipped with engines of 75 hp or more were required by law to meet Tier 4 Interim emission standards starting in January 2012. But even the Showcase units with engines of less than 75 hp have gone to the Tier 4 level, too.

Another common feature was the use of multi-axis joystick controls that let an operator accurately and easily operate many functions together for faster and more productive performance. Because of its agricultural and ground-engaging focus, the MLT 625’s joystick not only controls all of the boom functions, its built-in roller switches also let the operator run hydraulic attachments.

The JLG G5-18A’s control system is unique because with the fl ip of a switch, the operator can put it into “lift -loader mode” so the joystick control pattern matches loader controls commonly used by equipment operators on construction sites. Th e familiarity makes operators more productive when using the telehandler for bucket operations, says JLG.

Many of the manufacturers also recognize that if they make maintenance easy, it is more likely to be done properly and on schedule. So all of the Showcase compact telehandlers feature engine compartments with hoods or doors that open wide to provide easy access, gauges that are easy to see, and service points that are out in the open and easy to reach.

With versatility being a key feature of compact telehandlers, all of the Showcase machines offer optional auxiliary hydraulic circuits for running attachments. All of them also feature quick-connection systems that let the operator change the attachment on the end of the boom in seconds.

Not surprisingly, each of the Showcase models can be equipped with a universal skid-steer connector that lets it use the vast array of skidsteer attachments available from many sources in the marketplace.

As the capabilities of compact telehandlers continue to expand, it’s a sure bet that a growing range of users will fi nd new and interesting jobs these versatile workhorses can do.