Rough-terrain equipment is constantly play a vital role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett looks at several of the issues around the rough and prepared vehicles.
One of the biggest issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, with US authorities this coming year rolling out the final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.
According to the Usa 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 mobile sources. Particulate matter is minute particles of carbon and also other poisonous substances created when they are not all fuel is burned during combustion. NOx – commonly nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen oxide – are also produced during combustion.
Machinery exhaust, particularly diesel, contains both PM and NOx, together with other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by a variety of means, make an effort to reduce the production of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the amount of emissions-related health issues. The EPA believes that a decrease in these emissions will, by 2030, cause an estimated lowering of 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations then one million lost work days all over the USA.
But how has it affected the rough-terrain forklift market? Most manufacturers have embraced the engine and chassis changes which were required to comply with the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, says that although major investment was required, Liftking saw the alterations in regulations as an opportunity. “Achieving Tier 4 directives required extensive vehicle redesign and new technology like advanced cooling, exhaust and treatment systems. Packaging of the new systems has allowed us the opportunity improve other facets 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 necessary to meet Tier 4 standards. This year, AUSA will launch its 4-5 T array 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, only the ROTO (slewing turret) telehandlers required modification – these have already been fitted with 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 additional issue as a result of Tier 4 requirements is the application of electronics from the engines. “Thus far, we have now used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to achieve the specified new amounts of regulation, consumption of electronics will probably be compulsory,” he explains.
There are additional issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of North America-based dealer H&K equipment, highlights. Rich states that from the sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation is bringing about a lot of problems, no less than in the us, that many of his customers want to purchase anything they are able to that may be still Tier 3-rated. “I have got not seen one particular company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies several impediments including the need to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when a lot of companies still need huge reserves of diesel onsite, additional maintenance issues like managing an extra fluid compartment for urea and the usage of specific engine oils which individuals are not utilized to yet. An appealing reaction to this reluctance to acquire Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is the fact that companies have improved the caliber of their in-house services to maintain existing equipment running as long as possible. Despite his reservations, Rich is aware that Tier 4 has arrived to be and eventually companies will adapt – but the process is going to take quite a while.
Many in the marketplace are concerned concerning the inevitable purchase price increases on account 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 a lot more than offset by operational savings. “Yes, our Tier 4 forklifts are inherently higher priced than our Tier 3 variants (nevertheless the difference are often 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 potential of increased productivity. Additional benefits are quieter operation and greatly reduced 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 organization strategically timed the discharge of the new telehandler range in order that increased prices could possibly be cushioned by the novelty of new operational systems and options.
Pundits are already killing off of the rough terrain cranes for sale for several years. First, it was actually the creation of telehandlers and from now on there is talk that this market has reached ‘maturity’. Figures in 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 industry is tough to predict, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their very own niche and can expand for some other applications if manufacturers observe the needs of users. He says the main markets for Bomaq continue being in mining, agriculture as well as the military.
AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, especially in the vegetable and fruit sector in which there is popular for rough-terrain forklifts inside the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon states that globalisation has established ‘new rooms’ in countries where you can develop new markets. AUSA is keen to grow in to the US and Eurasian horticultural sectors. He adds that AUSA’s semi-industrial models, according to a rough-terrain chassis – but more compact, with higher diameter wheels and increased ground clearance – are gathering 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 to the agricultural sector. In the united states, this is basically the construction sector. The balance between your two sectors is our strong point. At the moment, sales are in step with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the market is mature, but says this is what makes it a strong and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and gratifaction in rough terrains. Features such as a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, easy maintenance and overall cost imply that the rough-terrain market continues to grow. Cameli says new markets in construction, lumber, oil and gas and concrete industries are continually emerging, along with 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 says that sales of rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers, especially in the 5-6 T (12,000 lb.) range, have already been slow and believes that things won’t improve with the creation of Tier 4 compliant machines. “Some rough-terrain forklift manufacturers have already informed us that they are running out of their allocations of Tier 3 engines and will only be in a position to offer Tier 4 once April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the fee for the new machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market has become very good, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are used 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 availability 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 really are a hidden reason behind 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 building Plant-Hire Association from the UK as well as the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia have got all acknowledged that a minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure helps to reduce stability and safe lifting capacity by up to 30%. “Because tyres deflect and distort under load, these people have a significant influence on stability and load-carrying ability,” Pirard explains.
Comatra specialises in safety products to 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 while they provide far better flotation on soft ground. The disadvantage, however, is a pneumatic tyre can be easily damaged or punctured. Probably the most critical situation can be a flat or under-inflated tyre having a load in 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, safe from dirt along with other corrosive materials, and a monitor is fitted inside of the cab. When the forklift/telehandler is switched on, tyre pressure is measured in just a minute. The kit can be easily fitted by an experienced tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres are definitely the preferred choice for most rough-terrain forklifts, in recent times alternatives are already 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 to the construction and mining sector, while 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, therefore, will deliver less tyre wear, less heat build-up in the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has continued to evolve a variety of safety measures which it says are exclusive to its machines. AUSA’s High Visibility System (HVS) allows operators an unrestricted view both forward and then in reverse while carrying an entire load on account of two infrared cameras mounted on the top of the cabin and a colour TFT monitor inside of the cabin. The infrared cameras enable the operator to carry on working safely in suprisingly low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Product is a joystick control that allows the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive during motion with the press of the mouse.