The telehandler (or telescopic handler) is a four-wheel-drive machine, capable of rough-terrain travel, that is equipped with a heavy-duty multi-section boom that telescopes hydraulically. In most designs, the tip of the boom is configured to accept a hydraulically actuated attachment coupler, which allows the telehandler to work with a number of tools. Most frequently, the machine is fitted with material-handling forks, allowing it to lift and place materials in a range of applications.
The capability of these machines ranges from compact models that might have a lifting capacity of 6,000 pounds and a lift height of 20 feet, to the largest models that might lift in excess of 20,000 pounds to heights of 100 feet.
The appeal of the telehandler, however, extends beyond its ability to serve as a capable, rough-terrain forklift; its hydraulic coupler expands its capabilities, allowing the machine to work with such tools as loose-material buckets, pipe clamps, truss booms, augers, grapples, and brooms.
Compact models, those with less than 6,000 pounds lift capacity, have increased in popularity not only because their compact dimensions make them more maneuverable on congested job sites, but also because their relatively small-displacement engines require only limited exhaust-aftertreatment hardware, thus simplifying machine design and relieving the owner of added maintenance chores.
Among design advances for telehandlers is the rotating upper structure, which allows the boom to rotate for added capability for placing materials, especially on sites where space is limited. Technical advances also include expanded safety systems, such as cameras at the rear of the machine and on the fork carriage, object-detection devices, and proximity alarms. Also, some models have technically advanced control systems that can, for example, identify an attachment and provide the operator a graphic load chart on the in-cab monitor to show the operating bounds of the machine using that tool—and to automatically limit machine functions when those boundaries are approaching. Other safety systems give the operator the ability to control function speeds, for example, to slow down hydraulic response in exacting placement situations.