Rough-terrain equipment consistently play an important role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett studies some of the issues around the rough and prepared vehicles.
One of the biggest issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, around authorities this current year rolling out the final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.
Based on the United States Of America 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 along with other poisonous substances created when not all fuel is burned during combustion. NOx – commonly nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen oxide – can also be produced during combustion.
Machinery exhaust, particularly diesel, contains both PM and NOx, and also other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by several means, aim to reduce the production of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the quantity of emissions-related health issues. The EPA believes that a decrease in these emissions will, by 2030, bring about approximately decrease in 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations and one million lost work days across the USA.
But just how has it affected the rough-terrain forklift market? Most manufacturers have embraced the engine and chassis changes that have been needed to conform to the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, states that although major investment was required, Liftking saw the adjustments in regulations as being an opportunity. “Achieving Tier 4 directives required extensive vehicle redesign and new technology for example advanced cooling, exhaust and treatment systems. Packaging of such new systems has allowed us the chance to improve other aspects 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 year, 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 merely 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, just the ROTO (slewing turret) telehandlers required modification – these have been fitted having a selective catalyst system (SCT) which meets Tier 4 standards.
Spanish manufacturer Bomaq has redesigned equipment parts and integrated yet another postfilter burner to its rough-terrain machines. Managing director Antonio Martinez says that an extra issue as a result of Tier 4 requirements is the use of electronics from the engines. “Up to now, we have now used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to reach the desired new levels of regulation, utilization of electronics will probably be compulsory,” he explains.
There are additional issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of Canada And America-based dealer H&K equipment, indicates. Rich says that coming from a sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation is bringing about a lot of problems, at the very least in the united states, that a lot of of his customers are attempting to purchase anything they are able to that is still Tier 3-rated. “I have got not seen an individual company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies several impediments including the necessity 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 application of specific engine oils which people will not be employed to yet. An appealing consequence of this reluctance to get Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is that companies have improved the standard of their in-house services to help keep existing equipment running as long as possible. Despite his reservations, Rich is aware that Tier 4 is here to be and finally companies will adapt – nevertheless the process is going to take many years.
Many in the industry have concerns about the inevitable purchase price increases as a result of engine re-designs and upgrades. Rich says the requirements could add USD 8,000 to USD 12,000 to the price. Cameli, however, believes that any price hike is much more than offset by operational savings. “Yes, our Tier 4 forklifts are inherently more expensive than our Tier 3 variants (however the difference may well be more than offset by lower overall operating costs including up to 5% better fuel efficiency and extended service intervals). The operator will notice improved engine response, with the opportunity of increased productivity. Additional benefits are quieter operation and cut down tremendously emissions,” Cameli explains.
Bellesia says initial feedback on Tier 4 engine performance continues to be positive, but Merlo has had to mitigate price rises with offers of extra options. The business strategically timed the release of the new telehandler range so that increased prices could be cushioned by the novelty of brand new operational systems and options.
Pundits have been killing from the rough terrain forklift for sale for a long time. First, it was the development of telehandlers and from now on there exists talk how the market has reached ‘maturity’. Figures from 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 2011.
Martinez says the market is tough to predict, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their own niche and will expand to many other applications if manufacturers take note of the needs of users. He says the principle markets for Bomaq continue to be in mining, agriculture and also the military.
AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, particularly in the vegetable and fruit sector and then there is popular demand for rough-terrain forklifts in the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon states that globalisation has generated ‘new rooms’ in countries where you can develop new markets. AUSA is keen to expand into the US and Eurasian horticultural sectors. He adds that AUSA’s semi-industrial models, depending on a rough-terrain chassis – but more compact, with higher diameter wheels and increased ground clearance – are becoming popular in wood recycling, metal foundries and outdoor warehouse operations. These appliances offer added value when the forklift must push and pull pallets during loading/unloading of trucks.
Bellesia believes the telehandlers’ versatility has protected them from any market changes. “In Europe, Canada and Australia, Merlo sells mainly into the agricultural sector. In the us, it is the construction sector. The balance between your two sectors is our strong point. For the time being, sales are in step with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the marketplace is mature, but says this is exactly what makes it a strong and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and performance in rough terrains. Features such as a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, ease of maintenance and overall cost suggest that the rough-terrain market continues to grow. 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 grown and greater productivity is necessary inside the burgeoning mining and infrastructure sectors.
Rich states that sales of rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers, especially in the 5-6 T (12,000 lb.) range, are already 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 running out of their allocations of Tier 3 engines and are only capable to offer Tier 4 once April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the fee for the newest machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market is very good, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are employed a good deal in the construction and drilling industries, both of which rely heavily on rentals; so while we don’t see any new markets coming online, the rental demand is increasing.” The task, he says, is usually to keep H&K’s availability of rough-terrain forklifts high enough to meet demand.
Roll-overs and tip-overs are an occupational hazard for rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers. Uneven ground, slopes, dips, mud and unbalanced loads are the main dangers, but Luc Pirard, CEO for Belgian company Comatra, strongly believes that uneven tyre pressures certainly are a hidden cause of many roll-overs. “We think that this kind of incident occurs far more often than acknowledged,” he says. The Safety and health Executive of the UK, the Construction Plant-Hire Association in the UK along with the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia have acknowledged that a good minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure is able to reduce stability and safe lifting capacity by up to 30%. “Because tyres deflect and distort under load, these people have a significant result on stability and load-carrying ability,” Pirard explains.
Comatra specialises in safety products to the materials handling industry and it has designed a unique internal valve-mounted sensor system to check tyre pressure in rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers. “Most rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are fitted with pneumatic tyres as they provide significantly better flotation on soft ground. The disadvantage, however, is that a pneumatic tyre can be easily damaged or punctured. The most critical situation is really a flat or under-inflated tyre with a load within the air – altering the forklift or telehandler’s stability and causing a possibly fatal tip-over.” Comatra’s pre-programmed sensors are mounted behind the rim, safe from dirt along with other corrosive materials, along with a monitor is fitted inside the cab. If the forklift/telehandler is excited, tyre pressure is measured in just a minute. The kit can be simply fitted by a highly skilled tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres are definitely the preferred choice for most rough-terrain forklifts, in recent years alternatives happen to be developed. Chinese-based tyre manufacturer IST (Industrial Solid Tyres) Company has released a great tyre for rough-terrain vehicles. Brine Jiang, spokesman for IST, recommends OTR giant solid tyres for rough-terrain forklifts, particularly for the construction and mining sector, because 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 in the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has created a variety of security features which it says are exclusive to its machines. AUSA’s High Visibility System (HVS) allows operators an unrestricted view both forward and in reverse while carrying a whole load because of two infrared cameras mounted on the top of the cabin plus a colour TFT monitor inside of the cabin. The infrared cameras allow the operator to continue working safely in really low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Method is a joystick control that enables the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive while in motion with the press of the mouse.