The Rising Demand for High-Capacity Telehandlers

Visit almost any construction site, and you’re likely to see one of the equipment industry’s most versatile machines—the telescopic handler. From building projects to road work to masonry and lumberyards, telehandlers have the power and lifting capacity to move materials efficiently from Point A to Point B.
Because different jobsites and applications have different challenges, telescopic handlers come in a wide range of sizes and lifting capacities. The smaller machines typically can pick up anywhere from 4,000 to 5,500 lbs. and have maximum lifting heights between 13 and 20 ft. As building sites continue to become more confined, these compact telehandlers have grown in popularity thanks to their ability to maneuver in small areas.
Compact telehandlers are also increasingly versatile. Fitting a skid steer coupler on the front end allows the operator to run a plethora of skid steer attachments—sweepers, grapple buckets, augers, and more—making these machines a veritable “Swiss army knife” when it comes to potential applications. That versatility makes it possible for users to consolidate their fleets in order to reduce total ownership costs. An example of such a machine would be JCB’s 525-60 compact telehandler with a 5,500-lb. capacity and a maximum lifting height of 20 ft.
Demand for much larger, more powerful telehandlers is growing, too. For years, the highest capacity telehandlers maxed out at 12,000-lb. lifting capacity, but now, the industry is seeing models with capacities ranging from 14,000 to 16,000 lbs. in North America. 
As evidence of this burgeoning trend toward larger telescopic handlers, JCB launched a 14,000-lb. unit in late 2013, and we now plan to introduce our first-ever 16,000-lb. unit in the second quarter of 2015. Also in Q2, JCB plans on introducing a machine with a maximum lifting height of 66 feet.
Other manufacturers are also producing larger machines, but the phenomenon is still relatively new. JCB’s efforts to introduce larger, higher capacity machines reflect its desire to be on the cutting edge as the market continues to shift toward larger telehandlers.
When bigger is better
Applications such as oil and gas production, bridge building, and general construction, are demanding higher capacity telehandlers that offer a more productive solution while saving time and money.
For example, a 16,000-lb-capacity unit can lift 33% more than a 12,000-lb.-capacity model, so the larger machine’s operator can move more material faster and move on to the next job. Over time, higher capacity leads to completing more jobs, which in turn allows the business to be more profitable.
High-capacity telehandlers have also become more important as builders and contractors are forced to “build up” instead of “build out” at increasingly smaller construction sites. In some situations, a high-capacity telehandler can do the job of a crane for lower cost. Another important factor in this trend is that the oil and gas industry has seen massive growth over the past five years, and new rig sites are now in place. Since that industry is now seeing profits drop due to declining oil prices, companies will see an even greater emphasis on increasing productivity while reducing costs. As a result, more high-capacity telehandlers are likely to be used in this industry.
While higher capacity machines have the obvious benefit of being able to lift heavier loads, it might seem that these telehandlers could be bulkier and more difficult to handle than their smaller counterparts. However, manufacturers are taking steps that make it possible to have a higher capacity machine without sacrificing maneuverability. For example, JCB designs its machines with three steering modes—four-wheel, two-wheel, and crab—to help the operator maneuver in tight spaces. We also incorporate a single all-in-one joystick control that is easy to use intuitively.
Future trends
All signs point to continued growth in the high-capacity telescopic handler market. An increase in the number of commercial jobs, like roads, bridges, mining, and oil and gas production will keep pushing greater demand for larger machines. However, compact telehandlers are also going to remain popular in the residential and masonry markets due to their ability to fit into the tightest, most confined work spaces.
The bottom line? It’s all about getting a machine that’s as productive as possible but still sized appropriately for the application.
About the Author: 
stuart fox

Stuart Fox

Stuart Fox is material handling product manager for JCB North America, specializing in telescopic handlers and rough-terrain forklifts. He can be reached at