Rough-terrain equipment is constantly play an important role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett looks at several of the issues all around the rough and prepared vehicles.
One of the primary issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, along with us authorities this coming year rolling out the final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.
Based on the Usa Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), off-road engines are responsible 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 when they are 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, together with other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by numerous means, attempt to minimize the production of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the quantity of emissions-related health issues. The EPA believes that a reduction in these emissions will, by 2030, lead to an estimated reduction of 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 had been needed to abide by the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, states that although major investment was required, Liftking saw the modifications 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 needed 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 just 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 by using a selective catalyst system (SCT) which meets Tier 4 standards.
Spanish manufacturer Bomaq has redesigned equipment parts and integrated an extra postfilter burner to the rough-terrain machines. Managing director Antonio Martinez states that one more issue arising from Tier 4 requirements is the application of electronics in the engines. “To date, we have used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to reach the desired new quantities of regulation, use of electronics will be compulsory,” he explains.
There are many issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of America-based dealer H&K equipment, highlights. Rich says that from your sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation is causing countless problems, no less than in the united states, that most of his customers are attempting to purchase anything they could which is still Tier 3-rated. “I actually have not seen an individual company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies numerous impediments including the necessity to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when many companies continue to have huge reserves of diesel onsite, additional maintenance issues like managing an extra fluid compartment for urea and the use of specific engine oils which individuals are not utilized to yet. An appealing result of this reluctance to get Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is the fact that companies have improved the quality of their in-house services to maintain existing equipment running so long as possible. Despite his reservations, Rich recognizes that Tier 4 is here now to be and eventually companies will adapt – but the process will take quite a while.
Many in the industry are worried in regards to the inevitable purchase price increases as a result of engine re-designs and upgrades. Rich says the prerequisites could add USD 8,000 to USD 12,000 towards the price. Cameli, however, believes that any price hike is more than offset by operational savings. “Yes, our Tier 4 forklifts are inherently higher priced than our Tier 3 variants (although the difference may well be more than offset by lower overall operating costs for example as much as 5% better fuel efficiency and extended service intervals). The operator will notice improved engine response, with the chance of increased productivity. Additional benefits are quieter operation and reduced emissions,” Cameli explains.
Bellesia says initial feedback on Tier 4 engine performance continues to be positive, but Merlo has already established to mitigate price rises with offers of extra options. The business strategically timed the making from the new telehandler range to ensure increased prices could be cushioned with the novelty of brand new operational systems and options.
Pundits have already been killing from the rough terrain cranes for sale for several years. First, it was the roll-out of telehandlers and now there is 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 the year 2011.
Martinez says the current market is challenging to predict, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their own niche and may expand to many other applications if manufacturers observe the needs of users. He says the primary markets for Bomaq continue being in mining, agriculture as well as the military.
AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, particularly in the fruit and vegetable sector in which there is popular for rough-terrain forklifts from the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon says that globalisation has produced ‘new rooms’ in countries in order to develop new markets. AUSA is keen to expand to 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 interest in wood recycling, metal foundries and outdoor warehouse operations. These machines offer added value as soon as the forklift has got to 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 USA, this is basically the construction sector. The balance involving the two sectors is our strong point. In the meantime, sales are in line with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the marketplace is mature, but says this is just what will make it a robust and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and gratification in rough terrains. Features like a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, easy maintenance and overall cost mean that 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 risen and greater productivity is essential in 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, happen to be slow and believes that things won’t improve with the roll-out of Tier 4 compliant machines. “Some rough-terrain forklift manufacturers already have informed us that they are not having enough their allocations of Tier 3 engines and are only in a position to offer Tier 4 as soon as April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the expense of the brand new machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market is really good, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are employed a great deal from 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 problem, he says, is to keep H&K’s flow of rough-terrain forklifts high enough in order 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 definitely the main dangers, but Luc Pirard, CEO for Belgian company Comatra, strongly believes that uneven tyre pressures can be a hidden source of many roll-overs. “We feel that this kind of incident occurs far more frequently than acknowledged,” he says. The Health and Safety Executive in the UK, the Construction Plant-Hire Association of your UK as well as the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia supply acknowledged that a minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure is able to reduce stability and safe lifting capacity by as much as 30%. “Because tyres deflect and distort under load, there is a significant impact on stability and load-carrying ability,” Pirard explains.
Comatra specialises in safety products for the materials handling industry and possesses developed 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 since they provide significantly better flotation on soft ground. The disadvantage, however, is a pneumatic tyre can be simply damaged or punctured. Probably the most critical situation is actually a flat or under-inflated tyre by using a load within the air – altering the forklift or telehandler’s stability and resulting in a possibly fatal tip-over.” Comatra’s pre-programmed sensors are mounted behind the rim, resistant to dirt and also other corrosive materials, plus a monitor is fitted inside of the cab. When the forklift/telehandler is turned on, tyre pressure is measured in under one minute. The kit can be fitted by a highly skilled tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres would be the preferred option for most rough-terrain forklifts, in recent times alternatives happen to be developed. Chinese-based tyre manufacturer IST (Industrial Solid Tyres) Company has released a good tyre for rough-terrain vehicles. Brine Jiang, spokesman for IST, recommends OTR giant solid tyres for rough-terrain forklifts, particularly for your 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, consequently, will deliver less tyre wear, less heat build-up inside the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has continued to evolve a number of security features which it says are limited to its machines. AUSA’s High Visibility System (HVS) allows operators an unrestricted view both forward and in reverse while carrying an entire load on account of two infrared cameras mounted on top of the cabin as well as a colour TFT monitor within the cabin. The infrared cameras let the operator to carry on working safely in very low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Technique is a joystick control that enables the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive whilst in motion at the press of the mouse.