The rising popularity of telehandlers has led to their growing role in multiple industries.
As we have watched the rental equipment industry grow to levels beyond imagination over the last 20 years, one product category has benefited from this growth the most: telehandlers. You will find a broad range of sizes at almost every rental branch across the U.S.
Not only do the OEMs and rental companies benefit, but both small and large contractors also use this tool to help build America at a much safer and faster pace. According to industry reports, the global telehandler market is expected to reach $9.2 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 5.6%.
With these machines, everyone wins. They are the first equipment onto a job, and last off.
History of the Telehandler
The telehandler is a relatively young invention in heavy machinery, making its debut in the late 20th century. The need for a multi-purpose, adaptable machine that could operate in diverse environments led to the conceptualization of this novel piece of equipment.
Its closest relatives are the forklift and the crane, and the telehandler is a bit of both, thanks to a telescopic boom that lets the operator to reach higher and farther than traditional forklifts.
Companies like JCB and Manitou were pioneers in the telehandler industry, introducing their initial models in the 1970s. These machines quickly gained traction, quite literally, as they could operate efficiently on uneven terrain, something that forklifts and cranes often struggled with.
The telehandler’s evolution can be traced through innovations that made it more versatile, safer, and efficient. In the 1980s and 1990s, improvements were made in load capacity, reach, and maneuverability.
Innovations in hydraulic systems allowed smoother and quicker boom extension, while enhanced safety features like load moment indicators and sophisticated control systems helped minimize risks associated with lifting heavy loads.
With the advent of computer technology, some modern telehandlers now incorporate GPS and IoT (Internet of Things) for real-time monitoring, which assists in preventive maintenance and efficient operation.
Efficiency and Safety
One of the main drivers behind the growing popularity of telehandlers is the constant demand for efficiency and safety in various industries. Whether in construction sites, where materials need to be moved from point A to B, or in agricultural settings, where heavy lifting is a daily requirement, telehandlers offer an unparalleled combination of reach, height, and lifting capacity.
Advances in safety features such as anti-tipping systems and load-monitoring software are likely to make telehandlers even more appealing to sectors that prioritize worker safety. When projects need to be executed within tight deadlines, the multipurpose capabilities of telehandlers offer a time-saving advantage that few other machines can match.
Telehandlers vs. Small Cranes
Before telehandlers arrived on job sites, there was a market for smaller cranes. There is still a market for small cranes, but in many cases they can’t compete with the versatility, productivity, and easy operation of today’s telehandlers.
Telehandlers now range from small machines with 5,000-lb. maximum capacity to larger rigs that can lift more than 20,000 lbs.
Maximum boom lengths run from 19' to 70', all telehandlers of all sizes press the button of productivity and safety.
You will find few protected dealer territories for telehandlers. Rental companies have been the primary buyers to place these machines into the marketplace, which has helped achieve significant growth. The growth naturally happens when the machines are always on rent, which they are.
On the Farm
The telehandler is the farmer’s chore tractor. Being from a rural community, I understand why telehandlers work so well on farms.
My great-uncle is 91 years old and has three tractors, one of which was used by my great-grandfather Karl Schempp.
Each of those tractors has a loader on the front, usually equipped with an attachment like hay tines or a bucket. The U.S. farmer’s tractor has rear hydraulics for a smaller plow, planter, grader, and brush hog.
In contrast, Fred Layman at Layman Farms uses a model 8042 SkyTrak telehandler that was built in 1998.
Layman is a 4x4 farmer — four weeks in the spring and four weeks in the fall. He runs the biggest equipment he can, and when it’s time to plant, the seeds get sown, and when it’s ready for harvest, they fill up the bins.
I asked Layman why he uses a telehandler, and he said, “They are handy. We use that machine around here more than almost any other machine.”
You would have thought I’d asked him where the fish were biting when I asked him what the applications were.
He said, “It’s a boom with forks; if we need to pick anything up, we grab the SkyTrak telehandler.” Point taken: very handy.
Beyond their immediate functional benefits, telehandlers contribute to long-term farm productivity and sustainability. The time and labor savings are significant. With a single telehandler, tasks that would have taken a full day can often be completed in a fraction of the time.
This efficiency frees valuable human resources for other crucial farm activities, such as planting, tending to animals, or maintenance.
Today’s telehandlers also come with enhanced safety features, such as load sensing and stability control, ensuring that even less-experienced operators can use them with confidence.
As the farming sector increasingly adopts technology to meet the growing demands for a global food supply, telehandlers stand out as a multifaceted tool that can adapt and scale with the needs of any agricultural operation.
Personal Experiences and Observations
My experience with the front-end loader consisted of moving brush with the dirt bucket and using the hay tines to place round bales into a feeder. A telehandler would have made both applications much easier. In my opinion, the U.S. farmer won’t be an easy sell for a machine that can’t handle all the jobs for the money.
I returned to the farm to get on the tractors with the loader and look at the applications. My discovery was something different.
I get back in the truck and drive not even three miles down a county rock road and see a new house in the process of being built by my buddy Mark Klucke. Guess what he is using? A 2005 8042 SkyTrak.
Naturally, all framers and home builders know and use telehandlers, but I’m in Knox County, Missouri, with a population of 4,500. Mark also has a JLG 600SJ boom on the job. I asked Mark which machine he would choose if he had to pick just one. He said, “Both.”
I replied, “You only get to pick one.”
Again, he answered, “Both.”
I left it at that. MKC Builders has grown into appreciating the equipment, and his five-man crew has a 5-star rating for their work in the area. There is no doubt these machines have helped him and his skilled crew succeed.
The Economics of Renting
If you’re considering buying 100 telehandlers of all shapes and sizes to get into the rental game, think again. The price tag on new machines makes for a heavy investment. The rental rates on these machines account for a fraction of the acquisition cost. This has made for a slow return for the investors that buy them for rental. But it has allowed the machine to grow to applications that take them to the Missouri’s second-smallest county.
Thoughts for the Future
Overall, telehandlers have evolved from being an alternative to small cranes into versatile machines that serve multiple industries, from construction to farming.
The constant innovation in this sector suggests that telehandlers will continue to become more efficient, safe, and versatile. Future trends likely include enhanced automation, increased lifting capacities, and perhaps even electric or hybrid powertrains to meet environmental standards.
For those considering investment, whether as a rental company or a user, the key is to look not just at the initial cost but also at the long-term value and versatility a telehandler can bring to various operations. The market has shown a robust demand, suggesting a favorable return on investment over the long term, despite high initial costs.
In summary, the telehandler is a symbol of versatility and innovation in the modern world. Its prevalence in sectors from construction to agriculture underscores its utility and efficiency. As technology continues to advance, there’s every reason to believe that telehandlers will continue to be an indispensable tool in multiple industries for years to come.