Rough-terrain equipment continues to play an important role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett looks at several of the issues around the rough and prepared vehicles.
The most significant 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.
According to the U . S . 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 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 – may also be produced during combustion.
Machinery exhaust, particularly diesel, contains both PM and NOx, and also other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by numerous means, attempt to decrease the output of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the quantity of emissions-related health problems. The EPA believes that a reduction in these emissions will, by 2030, bring about approximately lowering of 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations and one million lost work days across the USA.
But exactly how has it affected the rough-terrain forklift market? Most manufacturers have embraced the engine and chassis changes that were needed 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 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 those new systems has allowed us the chance to improve other elements of our vehicles, including 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 current year, AUSA will launch its 4-5 T variety 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, merely the ROTO (slewing turret) telehandlers required modification – these have been fitted 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 its rough-terrain machines. Managing director Antonio Martinez states that an additional issue as a result of Tier 4 requirements is the application of electronics from the engines. “Up to now, we have now used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to attain the necessary new quantities of regulation, use of electronics will likely be compulsory,” he explains.
There are many issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of The United States-based dealer H&K equipment, highlights. Rich says that from the sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation causes countless problems, at the very least in the united states, that a lot of of his customers are attempting to purchase anything they can that is still Tier 3-rated. “I actually have not seen one particular company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies a number of impediments including the need to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when many companies have huge reserves of diesel onsite, additional maintenance issues like managing another fluid compartment for urea and the usage of specific engine oils which people will not be used to yet. An appealing consequence of this reluctance to purchase Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is that companies have improved the caliber of their in-house services to help keep existing equipment running given that possible. Despite his reservations, Rich understands that Tier 4 has arrived to stay and ultimately companies will adapt – although the process is going to take a few years.
Many in the business are worried in regards to the inevitable purchase price increases due to engine re-designs and upgrades. Rich says certain requirements could add USD 8,000 to USD 12,000 on the price. Cameli, however, believes that any price hike is far more than offset by operational savings. “Yes, our Tier 4 forklifts are inherently more expensive than our Tier 3 variants (but the difference will be more than offset by lower overall operating costs such as around 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 organization strategically timed the discharge of their new telehandler range to ensure increased prices could possibly be cushioned through the novelty of new operational systems and options.
Pundits happen to be killing from the rough terrain forklifts for many years. First, it was actually the roll-out of telehandlers now there may be talk that the market has reached ‘maturity’. Figures from your 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 industry is tough to calculate, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their own personal niche and can expand for some other applications if manufacturers observe the needs of users. He says the primary markets for Bomaq continue to be in mining, agriculture along with 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 in the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon states that globalisation has generated ‘new rooms’ in countries in which to develop new markets. AUSA is keen to expand in 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 through the market changes. “In Europe, Canada and Australia, Merlo sells mainly to the agricultural sector. In the us, it is the construction sector. The total amount between the two sectors is our strong point. At the moment, sales are consistent with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the industry is mature, but says and this is what will make it a strong and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and gratifaction in rough terrains. Features like a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, comfort of maintenance and overall cost suggest that the rough-terrain market is growing. 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 price of labour has risen and greater productivity is essential from 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 informed us that they are not having enough their allocations of Tier 3 engines and are only able to offer Tier 4 the moment April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the price of the latest machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market continues to be very good, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are being used a great deal inside the construction and drilling industries, each 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 always to keep H&K’s supply of rough-terrain forklifts sufficient to satisfy 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 source of many roll-overs. “We believe that this particular incident occurs far more frequently than acknowledged,” he says. The Health and Safety Executive of your UK, the building Plant-Hire Association from the UK and also the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia have acknowledged that also a minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure can reduce stability and safe lifting capacity by as much as 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 for that materials handling industry and possesses developed a unique internal valve-mounted sensor system to keep track of 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 that a pneumatic tyre can easily be damaged or punctured. Probably the most critical situation is actually a flat or under-inflated tyre with a load inside 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, protected from dirt as well as other corrosive materials, as well as a monitor is fitted within the cab. Once the forklift/telehandler is switched on, tyre pressure is measured in less than a minute. The kit can easily be fitted by a highly skilled tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres are definitely the preferred selection for most rough-terrain forklifts, recently alternatives have already been developed. Chinese-based tyre manufacturer IST (Industrial Solid Tyres) Company has released a solid tyre for rough-terrain vehicles. Brine Jiang, spokesman for IST, recommends OTR giant solid tyres for rough-terrain forklifts, particularly for that 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 within the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has created numerous 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 as a result of two infrared cameras mounted on the top of the cabin and a colour TFT monitor within the cabin. The infrared cameras permit the operator to go on working safely in suprisingly low light. AUSA’s FullGrip System is a joystick control that allows the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive while in motion on the press of a button.