Rough-terrain equipment consistently play a crucial role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett examines a few of the issues around the rough and ready vehicles.
One of the primary issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, around authorities this current year rolling out your final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.
In line with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), off-road engines are accountable for the emission of 47% of particulate matter (PM) and 25% of Nitrogen oxides (NOx) from all of the mobile sources. Particulate matter is minute particles of carbon and other poisonous substances created if not all fuel is burned during combustion. NOx – commonly nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen oxide – may also be produced during combustion.
Machinery exhaust, particularly diesel, contains both PM and NOx, and also other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by a number of means, aim to lessen the production of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the amount of emissions-related medical problems. The EPA believes that a reduction in these emissions will, by 2030, bring about approximately decrease in 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations and one million lost work days throughout the USA.
But how has it affected the rough-terrain forklift market? Most manufacturers have embraced the engine and chassis changes that had been expected to conform to the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, says that although major investment was required, Liftking saw the alterations in regulations for an opportunity. “Achieving Tier 4 directives required extensive vehicle redesign and new technology including advanced cooling, exhaust and treatment systems. Packaging of those new systems has allowed us the ability to improve other elements of our vehicles, such as sight-lines and maintenance access,” he explains.
Xavier Perramon, products strategy manager for Spanish manufacturer AUSA, notes that considerable financial investment was expected to meet Tier 4 standards. This season, AUSA will launch its 4-5 T range of rough-terrain and semi-industrial forklifts with 56kW Deutz engines fitted with Diesel Oxidation Catalysts (DOC). The engines not only meet Tier 4 requirements, but anticipate the mandatory 2017 normative.
Italian telehandler manufacturer Merlo’s Uliano Bellesia says that new Tier 4 engine adaptations and subsequent testing were expensive and time-consuming. Changes mainly affected Merlo’s 55 kW to 130 kW telehandler range. Above 130 kW, only the ROTO (slewing turret) telehandlers required modification – these happen to be fitted with a selective catalyst system (SCT) which meets Tier 4 standards.
Spanish manufacturer Bomaq has redesigned equipment parts and integrated an additional postfilter burner to its rough-terrain machines. Managing director Antonio Martinez says that yet another issue arising from Tier 4 requirements is the usage of electronics in the engines. “To date, we certainly have used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to achieve the required new quantities of regulation, usage of electronics will be compulsory,” he explains.
There are more issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of Canada And America-based dealer H&K equipment, indicates. Rich says that from the sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation is causing countless problems, no less than in the USA, that a lot of of his customers are attempting to purchase anything they could that may be still Tier 3-rated. “We have not seen just one company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies several impediments including the requirement to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when most companies have huge reserves of diesel onsite, additional maintenance issues like managing an added fluid compartment for urea and the usage of specific engine oils which individuals will not be utilized to yet. A fascinating reaction to this reluctance to get Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is the fact companies have improved the caliber of their in-house services to keep existing equipment running provided that possible. Despite his reservations, Rich understands that Tier 4 has arrived to remain and finally companies will adapt – but the process is going to take quite a while.
Many in the industry are involved regarding the inevitable purchase price increases because of engine re-designs and upgrades. Rich says the requirements could add USD 8,000 to USD 12,000 towards the price. Cameli, however, believes that any price hike is far more than offset by operational savings. “Yes, our Tier 4 forklifts are inherently higher priced than our Tier 3 variants (although the difference could be more than offset by lower overall operating costs like as much as 5% better fuel efficiency and extended service intervals). The operator will notice improved engine response, with the potential for increased productivity. Additional benefits are quieter operation and cut down tremendously emissions,” Cameli explains.
Bellesia says initial feedback on Tier 4 engine performance has been positive, but Merlo has received to mitigate price rises with offers of extra options. The corporation strategically timed the discharge of the new telehandler range in order that increased prices could be cushioned with the novelty of the latest operational systems and options.
Pundits are already killing from the rough terrain cranes for sale for a long time. First, it was the creation of telehandlers and today there is certainly talk the market has reached ‘maturity’. Figures through the Industrial Truck Association for class 4/5 (class 7 figures unavailable) for 2013 US shipments show sales of 66,473 units – up from 58,483 in the year 2011.
Martinez says the market is hard to calculate, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their very own niche and may expand to other applications if manufacturers pay attention to the needs of users. He says the primary markets for Bomaq continue to be in mining, agriculture and also the military.
AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, especially in the vegetable and fruit sector and then there is popular demand for rough-terrain forklifts from the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon says that globalisation has generated ‘new rooms’ in countries where you can develop new markets. AUSA is keen to expand in the US and Eurasian horticultural sectors. He adds that AUSA’s semi-industrial models, based on a rough-terrain chassis – but more compact, with higher diameter wheels and increased ground clearance – are gaining popularity in wood recycling, metal foundries and outdoor warehouse operations. These appliances offer added value once the forklift needs to push and pull pallets during loading/unloading of trucks.
Bellesia believes the telehandlers’ versatility has protected them from the market changes. “In Europe, Canada and Australia, Merlo sells mainly in the agricultural sector. In the us, this is basically the construction sector. The balance involving the two sectors is our strong point. At the moment, sales are in accordance with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the industry is mature, but says this is what can make it a strong and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and satisfaction in rough terrains. Features such as a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, ease of maintenance and overall cost signify the rough-terrain market keeps growing. Cameli says new markets in construction, lumber, oil and gas and concrete industries are continually emerging, as well as new geographical markets including Peru and Columbia, where the expense of labour has increased and greater productivity is essential from the burgeoning mining and infrastructure sectors.
Rich says that sales of rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers, particularly in the 5-6 T (12,000 lb.) range, have been slow and believes that things won’t improve with the roll-out of Tier 4 compliant machines. “Some rough-terrain forklift manufacturers have previously informed us that they are not having enough their allocations of Tier 3 engines and are only in a position to offer Tier 4 when April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the price of the brand new machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market has become really good, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are employed a great deal inside the construction and drilling industries, both of which rely heavily on rentals; so basically we don’t see any new markets coming online, the rental demand is increasing.” The challenge, he says, would be to keep H&K’s source of rough-terrain forklifts high enough to fulfill demand.
Roll-overs and tip-overs are an occupational hazard for rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers. Uneven ground, slopes, dips, mud and unbalanced loads will be the main dangers, but Luc Pirard, CEO for Belgian company Comatra, strongly believes that uneven tyre pressures certainly are a hidden reason behind many roll-overs. “We feel that this sort of incident occurs far more frequently than acknowledged,” he says. The Health and Safety Executive in the UK, the development Plant-Hire Association from the UK and also the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia have all acknowledged that a minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure can reduce stability and safe lifting capacity by approximately 30%. “Because tyres deflect and distort under load, these people have a significant effect on stability and load-carrying ability,” Pirard explains.
Comatra specialises in safety products for the materials handling industry and has designed a unique internal valve-mounted sensor system to monitor tyre pressure in rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers. “Most rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are fitted with pneumatic tyres since they provide far better flotation on soft ground. The disadvantage, however, is the fact a pneumatic tyre can be easily damaged or punctured. One of the most critical situation is actually a flat or under-inflated tyre having a load from the air – altering the forklift or telehandler’s stability and creating a possibly fatal tip-over.” Comatra’s pre-programmed sensors are mounted behind the rim, resistant to dirt and also other corrosive materials, along with a monitor is fitted in the cab. Once the forklift/telehandler is turned on, tyre pressure is measured in less than one minute. The kit can be fitted by a highly skilled tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres will be the preferred choice for most rough-terrain forklifts, in recent years alternatives have already been developed. Chinese-based tyre manufacturer IST (Industrial Solid Tyres) Company has released an excellent tyre for rough-terrain vehicles. Brine Jiang, spokesman for IST, recommends OTR giant solid tyres for rough-terrain forklifts, particularly to the construction and mining sector, as they feature better puncture resistance than pneumatic tyres, 76dexmpky traction on difficult terrain, and stability under heavy loads. Solid tyres have better low-rolling resistance which, in turn, will deliver less tyre wear, less heat build-up within the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has created a number of security features which it says are only at its machines. AUSA’s High Visibility System (HVS) allows operators an unrestricted view both forward and also in reverse while carrying a full load on account of two infrared cameras mounted on top of the cabin as well as a colour TFT monitor inside of the cabin. The infrared cameras enable the operator to go on working safely in extremely low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Technique is a joystick control that allows the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive while in motion with the press of a button.