Rough-terrain equipment will continue to play an important role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett looks at a number of the issues around the rough and ready vehicles.
One of the greatest issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, along with us authorities this season rolling out of the final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.
In accordance with 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 the mobile sources. Particulate matter is minute particles of carbon along with other poisonous substances created if 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 a variety of means, aim to reduce the output of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the volume of emissions-related health problems. The EPA believes that a decrease in these emissions will, by 2030, cause an estimated decrease in 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations and something million lost work days throughout 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 necessary to conform to the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, states that although major investment was required, Liftking saw the changes in regulations for an opportunity. “Achieving Tier 4 directives required extensive vehicle redesign and new technology such as advanced cooling, exhaust and treatment systems. Packaging of such new systems has allowed us the opportunity to improve other aspects of our vehicles, like 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 states 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 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 states that an extra issue as a result of Tier 4 requirements is the application of electronics in the engines. “Thus far, we now have used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to arrive at the required new levels of regulation, utilization of electronics will likely be compulsory,” he explains.
There are many issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of North America-based dealer H&K equipment, indicates. Rich states that from the sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation is bringing about a lot of problems, at the very least in the us, that a lot of of his customers are attempting to purchase anything they may that is still Tier 3-rated. “I 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 some 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 people usually are not utilized to yet. An intriguing outcome of this reluctance to purchase Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is that companies have improved the grade of their in-house services to hold existing equipment running given that possible. Despite his reservations, Rich recognizes that Tier 4 will be here to keep and eventually companies will adapt – but the process is going to take many years.
Many in the business have concerns about the inevitable purchase price increases because of engine re-designs and upgrades. Rich says certain requirements could add USD 8,000 to USD 12,000 towards 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 pricey than our Tier 3 variants (nevertheless the difference will 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 greatly reduced emissions,” Cameli explains.
Bellesia says initial feedback on Tier 4 engine performance continues to be positive, but Merlo has received to mitigate price rises with offers of extra options. The organization strategically timed the production from the new telehandler range in order that increased prices might be cushioned through the novelty of brand new operational systems and options.
Pundits have been killing off the used rough terrain forklift for a long time. First, it was actually the introduction of telehandlers now there is talk how 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 this year.
Martinez says the market is tough to predict, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their very own niche and may expand with other applications if manufacturers pay attention to the needs of users. He says the principle markets for Bomaq continue to be in mining, agriculture as well as the military.
AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, especially in the fruit and vegetable sector and then there is sought after for rough-terrain forklifts inside the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon says that globalisation has established ‘new rooms’ in countries where you can develop new markets. AUSA is keen to grow in 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 gaining interest in wood recycling, metal foundries and outdoor warehouse operations. These machines 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 to the agricultural sector. In the us, this is basically the construction sector. The balance in between the two sectors is our strong point. For the time being, sales are in accordance with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the industry is mature, but says this is exactly what causes it to be 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, simplicity of maintenance and overall cost signify the rough-terrain market is growing. Cameli says new markets in construction, lumber, oil and gas and concrete industries are continually emerging, in addition to new geographical markets including Peru and Columbia, where the fee for labour has risen and greater productivity is required in 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, happen to be slow and believes that things won’t improve with the creation 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 able to offer Tier 4 when April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the price of the latest machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market is excellent, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are employed a good 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 task, he says, is always to keep H&K’s source of rough-terrain forklifts sufficient 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 will be the main dangers, but Luc Pirard, CEO for Belgian company Comatra, strongly believes that uneven tyre pressures can be a hidden reason for many roll-overs. “We know that this kind of incident occurs far more frequently than acknowledged,” he says. The Safety and health Executive of the UK, the Construction Plant-Hire Association from the UK along with the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia have got all acknowledged that a good minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure is effective in reducing stability and safe lifting capacity by as much as 30%. “Because tyres deflect and distort under load, they have a significant influence on stability and load-carrying ability,” Pirard explains.
Comatra specialises in safety products for that materials handling industry and has created 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 a pneumatic tyre can be damaged or punctured. One of the most critical situation is really a flat or under-inflated tyre using 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 along with other corrosive materials, and a monitor is fitted inside the cab. When the forklift/telehandler is switched on, tyre pressure is measured in just one minute. The kit can be simply fitted by an experienced tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres would be the preferred choice for most rough-terrain forklifts, lately alternatives have 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 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, subsequently, will deliver less tyre wear, less heat build-up within the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has developed numerous security features which it says are limited 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 because of two infrared cameras mounted on the top of the cabin along with a colour TFT monitor inside the cabin. The infrared cameras enable the operator to keep working safely in suprisingly low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Method is a joystick control that allows the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive during motion with the press of the mouse.