Heavy Telescopic Handler Showdown

Only about a decade ago, 10,000-lb. telehandlers were the largest commonly seen telehandlers, but engineering feats over the years have more than quadrupled these machines’ capacities. The 2012 Lift and Access Showcase & Symposium featured walkaround demonstrations of four larger telescopic handlers that ranged in capacity from 10,000 to 30,000 lbs. Telehandlers featured in the demonstrations included the 10,000-lb. capacity JCB 510-56 Loadall, the 12,000-lb. capacity JLG G12-55A, the 20,000-lb. capacity Skyjack ZB2044, and the 30,000-lb. capacity Xtreme XR3034.

Applied Machinery Sales, the exclusive distributor of Merlo telehandlers in the United States, had planned to include a 26,500-lb. capacity Merlo P120.10HM, but a unit was not available for the event.

The 10,000- and 12,000-lb. units from JCB and JLG, respectively, are among the larger units found in general rental fleets and contractor yards. They are often used in applications like housing construction, bridge and highway work, industrial construction and maintenance, shoring, steel erection, and masonry work.

The 20,000- and 30,000-lb. models from Skyjack and Xtreme are used in similar applications as the smaller units, as well as handling large loads in the construction and maintenance of power plants, mines, wind farms, large pipelines, logging, crane erection, and other heavy pick-and-carry jobs.

The outlook for telescopic handler markets can be brighter or darker, depending on whom you ask and what segments you consider.

Brian Rabe, product development manager for Manitou, one of the well-known manufacturers of large telehandlers, says that the overall market for telehandlers in the 12,000 lb. and up range has trended downward since 2010, due largely to a slowdown in large commercial construction. Rabe notes, though, that some specific construction market segments are showing growth. Those bright spots include oil and gas work, mining, energy, and road and bridge building. He adds that road and bridge work often involve pick-and-place applications, whereas oil drilling often involves picking and carrying large components.

Scott Krieger, senior product manager for Genie, believes that 2013 and 2014 will be good for telehandler business. “We are seeing a pickup in the oil and gas sector and in residential construction,” he says. Krieger is hearing customers ask for telehandlers that are reliable, easy to use, equipped with comfortable operator compartments, and offer great visibility.

Garth McGillewie, president of Applied Machinery Sales, sees niche applications for larger telehandlers as a bright spot. “We have received many inquiries for telehandlers with capacities of 14,000 lbs. or more,” he says. “The market for larger telehandlers has many untapped opportunities. Potential customers are just beginning to realize how many different ways the larger telehandlers can be used.”

Mark Sichi, vice president of product development for Xtreme Manufacturing, concurs. “The growth is in higher capacity telehandlers that can lift 15,000 lbs. and more,” he says. “Big machines up to 50,000 pounds are becoming more accepted. Users are operating them to do work traditionally done by large wheel loaders and small cranes.”

Sichi explains that many users in the past employed wheel loaders equipped with forks to handle pipe and other large materials. “For anyone who handles large materials on uneven ground, a large telehandler is the better tool. It offers more safety, capacity, and reach,” he says.

Paul Kreutzwiser, Skyjack’s senior product marketing manager who presented the 20,000-lb. ZB2044 at Showcase, said during his walkaround presentation: “With a big telehandler, it’s not all about what the maximum capacity is. One of the real benefits of this machine is the reach and mobility it provides while handling 7,000 lbs.” One such popular application for the ZB2044 is handling lengths of large diameter pipe.

Xtreme’s Sichi also thinks that large telehandlers grow more popular as replacements for small cranes when the new OSHA regulations requiring crane operators to be certified takes full effect in 2014.

He says larger telehandlers are already being used more often to handle forms and other high-reach work on bridges and overpasses because they do the job efficiently and are easy to reposition. “The telehandler’s ability to do the work without needing a certified operator will give contractors more flexibility,” he notes.


Equipment commonalities

All of the telehandlers demonstrated in the Showcase walkarounds share some common features. For example, each machine uses high-quality components, provides excellent rough-terrain travel power, has oscillating axles, rear-axle stabilization, and offers two-wheel/four-wheel/crab steering.

Front stabilizers come standard on three of the four units, and all machines feature an open cab standard, with enclosed cab optional. All are designed to provide easy access for maintenance, make operation as easy as possible, and provide a wide range of attachments.

But each also has some features that are unique to it alone. Read on to get the rundown on these heavy forklifts.


JCB 510-56 Loadall

JCB’s 510-56 Loadall offers 10,000-lb. maximum capacity, as well as the option of lifting on tires or with front-mounted stabilizers. With stabilizer support, it can lift 4,000 lbs. to its full 56-ft. height, or provide 42-ft. forward reach with 3,000-lb. capacity. On tires alone, it can lift 3,000 lbs. to a height of 52 ft. or 300 lbs. at 42-ft. forward reach.

During the Showcase walkaround demonstration, Chris Giorgianni, vice president of product, noted that JCB is unique in that the company manufactures many of its equipment’s components itself, ranging from the frames, to the engines, transmissions, axles, cabs, and even hydraulic cylinders. JCB feels that manufacturing so much of the machine in house gives the company maximum control over quality.

To help make the operator more comfortable and productive, JCB has lowered the cab, made it more spacious, and rearranged the controls so all are within easy reach. JCB is also touting the ability to convert the standard open cab to a fully enclosed unit by adding panels, without altering the cab’s basic frame.

The 510-56 Loadall features a clean running, 109-hp JCB Ecomax diesel engine that meets Tier 4 Interim emission regulations without needing any exhaust after treatment. Eliminating the need for after-treatment equipment helps keep the engine a compact package that fits cleanly into a low-profile compartment and enables easy access and maintenance. The engine compartment’s low profile also offers excellent visibility to the right.


JLG G12-55A

JLG’s G12-55A offers 12,000-lb. maximum capacity with outriggers down or up. With outrigger support, it can lift 5,000 lbs. to its full 55-ft. maximum height, or provide 42-ft. forward reach with 3,500-lb. capacity. On tires alone, it can lift 4,000 lbs. to a height of 55 ft., or 500 lbs. at 37-ft. forward reach.

John Boehme, product manager, said during the Showcase walkaround demonstration that JLG has introduced a new paint scheme featuring a black chassis, black inner boom sections, and an orange cab to help users readily identify Tier 4-compliant models.

The G12-55A uses a 140-hp Cummins diesel engine that complies with Tier 4 Interim emission regulations using only a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC), which replaces the muffler. JLG has positioned the DOC behind the engine to protect it and reduce the risk of theft. All maintenance checks and service points are easy to see and reach.

The frame-mounted outriggers provide solid support for lifting and are designed so that nothing hangs below the frame when they are raised. Firestone DuraForce MH tires, which come standard, have a self-cleaning tread, damage-resistant sidewalls, and low profile that provide three times the life of grader tires, according to the company.

JLG has widened the cab and lowered it for added operator comfort and productivity. The controls feature hydraulic power steering and a single joystick for all boom functions.


Skyjack ZB2044

Skyjack’s ZB2044 can lift 20,000 lbs. capacity with its boom fully retracted and its outriggers down or up. With outriggers supporting the machine, the telehandler can lift 12,000 lbs. to its full 44'10" maximum height, or provide 7,000-lb. capacity at 27'5" forward reach. On tires alone, it can lift 10,000 lbs. to a height of 44 ft., or lift 4,000 lbs. at 27'5" forward reach.

During the Showcase walkaround demonstration, senior product marketing manager Paul Kreutzwiser said that although the ZB2044’s maximum capacity is impressive, its real value comes from its ruggedness and its high capacity throughout a large work envelope. He also noted the ZB2044’s 45,000-lb. overall weight and 8'6" overall width allow highway transportation by truck.

A lockable steel door at the rear of the ZB2044 swings wide open for easy checking of hydraulic lines, manifolds, cylinders, and batteries. The engine and hydraulics are mounted down the middle of the chassis, rather than off each side. All around the machine, steel covers remove easily for access to all checkpoints and service items.

The rugged design with lots of heavy steel gives the ZB2044 durability and the balance to sit solidly even when handling large loads. The boom’s plate thickness, big cross section, and large overlap between its three telescoping sections give it a solid feel.


Xtreme XR3034

The highest-capacity telehandler featured in the 2012 Showcase walkarounds was Xtreme Manufacturing’s XR3034. Designed as a pick-and-carry telehandler, it does not have outriggers, so all capacities are on rubber. It can lift its maximum capacity of 30,000 lbs. to a height of 27 ft., or lift 12,000 lbs. to its maximum lift height of 34 ft. The machine will handle that same 12,000 lbs. at its maximum forward reach of 17'6".

As a pick-and-carry model, the XR3034 has a two-section boom and no outriggers. Sichi emphasized the company’s focus on ruggedness, saying, “We like steel,” and noting that the company’s warranty covers structures for 10 years, booms for five years, and the entire machine, bumper to bumper, for two years.

The hydraulic controls are mounted directly to the Hawe valve. Xtreme says this design gives the operator the best feel of operation. A unique yoke control lever lets an operator control frame sway with his or her forearm while operating the boom with one hand. That leaves the other hand free for steering.

All-around visibility, including to the rear, is one of Xtreme’s key considerations. The diesel engine and hydraulics are mounted in the middle of the frame to help provide stability and set low in the frame to enable good visibility all around.

One of Xtreme’s signature features is a boom that telescopes smoothly on long-life steel rollers rather than slider pads.