A skid-steer loader can dig more efficiently for longer periods of time, and a full-size telehandler can lift heavier loads to higher heights. But when it comes to doing a combination of both, a compact telehandler is hard to beat.
Compact telehandlers are relatively new to the construction industry, having migrated to North America within the last 10 years. Their heritage can be traced to the agriculture industry in Europe, where farmers used them for everything from cleaning livestock facilities to stacking hay and pulling wagons. For European contractors, they have proven to be essential fleet machines for moving in and around tight spaces and in between close buildings. Since their introduction to this side of the Atlantic, they've been on a roller coaster ride from boom to bust and back again. Today, sales are on the rise, in large part because of the machine's versatility.
"Recently, there has been an upsurge in activity in this market segment," indicates Jay Barth, product manager at JCB. "The whole compact market is really beginning to unfold and heat up. I think we'll see some exciting new features with these machines. A lot of people are now realizing what compact telehandlers can do. They're beginning to see that they aren't toys, but rather fully capable machines."
Operate in tight spaces
The compact telehandler's capability and versatility stems from its design. As its name suggests, it's a small machine' much smaller dimensionally than a large construction telehandler, says Scott Cooper, senior project engineer at Caterpillar.
For example, Caterpillar's TH210 is only 5 ft. 11 in. wide and 6 ft. 5 in. tall. With these dimensions, it can operate in much tighter spaces than its full-size counterpart, including in parking garages and inside buildings that don't have commercial truck doors.
"We see these compact machines in applications where size is critical in industries such as construction, agriculture, landscaping, nurseries and even in rental fleets," says Cooper. "In these applications, large telehandlers may be too large, too heavy or not maneuverable enough to work effectively."
Because they are designed as lifting machines, the compact versions can lift and place materials'although admittedly not to the heights of full-size models, which reach to 42 ft. and beyond. But most compacts will be able to move materials to a height of a two-story building. "Since it is smaller, the physics of the compact machine just don't allow it to lift as high or as much," says Marty Miller, VersaHandler product manager at Bobcat. "But for general contractors, two stories is typically high enough."
Mike Schlauch, Schlauch/Bottcher, Inc., finds that his Gehl RS5 compact telehandlers are a nice complement to his larger units. The custom home builder from Bozeman, MT, has equipped his fleet with three compacts and nine full-size models.
"My smaller machines may not reach as high or lift as much weight, but I would never want to be without them," he says. "They aren't as heavy as my large machines so they don't tear up the ground as much. And I can also use them in lieu of scaffolding for some jobs."
Intended as a tool carrier
While Schlauch uses his compact telehandlers mostly for material handling, he occasionally mounts attachments such as personnel baskets or buckets for loader-type work. This feature is part of the beauty of the compact sizes. Because of its boom design'which is typically two-stage vs. three-or even four-stage'a compact machine can do much more extensive loader work than its larger brother.
"A full-size telehandler just isn't designed to do loader work," says John Koepf, product manager at Gehl. Some manufacturers actually refer to compact telehandlers as tool carriers and tout the many attachments you can use. Some models can utilize attachments directly, while others can connect to essentially any skid-steer attachment via a universal skid-steer adapter.