Rough-terrain equipment consistently play a crucial role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett studies several of the issues surrounding the rough and prepared vehicles.
One of the biggest issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, around authorities this current year 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) coming from all mobile sources. Particulate matter is minute particles of carbon along with other poisonous substances created when they are not all fuel is burned during combustion. NOx – commonly nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen oxide – will also be produced during combustion.
Machinery exhaust, particularly diesel, contains both PM and NOx, as well as other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by several means, make an effort to decrease the output of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the number of emissions-related health issues. The EPA believes that a reduction in these emissions will, by 2030, lead to approximately decrease in 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations and another million lost work days all over 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 necessary to conform to the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, says that although major investment was required, Liftking saw the adjustments in regulations being an opportunity. “Achieving Tier 4 directives required extensive vehicle redesign and new technology like advanced cooling, exhaust and treatment systems. Packaging of such new systems has allowed us the chance 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 required to meet Tier 4 standards. This 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 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, just the ROTO (slewing turret) telehandlers required modification – these happen to be fitted with a selective catalyst system (SCT) which meets Tier 4 standards.
Spanish manufacturer Bomaq has redesigned equipment parts and integrated one more postfilter burner to its rough-terrain machines. Managing director Antonio Martinez states that one more issue arising from Tier 4 requirements is the application of electronics within the engines. “Up to now, we have used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to reach the necessary new quantities of regulation, consumption of electronics will probably be compulsory,” he explains.
There are more 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 so many problems, at the very least in the us, that most of his customers want to purchase anything they could that is certainly still Tier 3-rated. “I actually have not seen an individual company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies several impediments including the desire to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when most companies have huge reserves of diesel onsite, additional maintenance issues like managing an additional fluid compartment for urea and using specific engine oils which people usually are not accustomed to yet. An appealing consequence of this reluctance to purchase Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is companies have improved the quality 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 ultimately companies will adapt – however the process is going to take a couple of years.
Many in the industry have concerns regarding the inevitable purchase price increases on account 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 a lot more than offset by operational savings. “Yes, our Tier 4 forklifts are inherently more expensive than our Tier 3 variants (although the difference could 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 potential 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 to ensure that increased prices could possibly be cushioned with the novelty of brand new operational systems and options.
Pundits are already killing from the used rough terrain forklift for a long time. First, it had been the roll-out of telehandlers now there is certainly talk the 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 calculate, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their own niche and can expand to other applications if manufacturers observe 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 vegetable and fruit sector and then there is popular for rough-terrain forklifts from the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon states that globalisation has produced ‘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, based upon 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 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 united states, this is the construction sector. The balance between the two sectors is our strong point. For the time being, sales are in line with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the market 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 satisfaction in rough terrains. Features like a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, simplicity 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, and also new geographical markets including Peru and Columbia, where the price of labour has increased and greater productivity is needed 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, are already slow and believes that things won’t improve with the introduction of Tier 4 compliant machines. “Some rough-terrain forklift manufacturers already have informed us that they are running out of their allocations of Tier 3 engines and are only in a position to offer Tier 4 when April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the cost of the latest machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market has been great, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are being used a great deal inside the construction and drilling industries, both of which rely heavily on rentals; so basically we don’t see any new markets coming online, the rental demand is increasing.” The challenge, he says, is to keep H&K’s supply of rough-terrain forklifts high enough to fulfill 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 for many roll-overs. “We believe that this sort of incident occurs far more often than acknowledged,” he says. The Health and Safety Executive of the UK, the Construction Plant-Hire Association of the UK and the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia have got all acknowledged that also a 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 impact on stability and load-carrying ability,” Pirard explains.
Comatra specialises in safety products for your materials handling industry and possesses created 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 a lot better flotation on soft ground. The disadvantage, however, is the fact a pneumatic tyre can be damaged or punctured. One of the most critical situation is actually a flat or under-inflated tyre with a load from 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, as well as a monitor is fitted inside the cab. If the forklift/telehandler is turned on, tyre pressure is measured in less than one minute. The kit can easily be fitted by an experienced tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres are 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 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, while they feature better puncture resistance than pneumatic tyres, 76dexmpky traction on difficult terrain, and stability under heavy loads. Solid tyres provide better low-rolling resistance which, consequently, will deliver less tyre wear, less heat build-up in the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has continued to evolve a number of safety measures 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 complete load as a result of two infrared cameras mounted on top of the cabin along with a colour TFT monitor within the cabin. The infrared cameras permit the operator to continue working safely in extremely low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Method is a joystick control that allows the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive when in motion in the press of a button.