The fact that many compacts offer auxiliary hydraulics pumped to the front of the machine also makes the use of attachments such as grapples and augers possible. "When you get into the larger machines with three-stage booms, it's more difficult to plumb the hydraulics to the end so you lose some versatility in those larger units," says Miller. "But with the boom design of the compacts, you can more easily utilize hydraulically controlled attachments." "That ability to use skid-loader attachments really opens up the door," adds Koepf. "If you already own a skid loader, you don't have to go out and buy a whole new series of attachments."
A skid-steer replacement?
Some contractors will even use a compact telehandler in place of a skid-steer loader, especially if they need extra reach for tasks such as lifting spoil into trucks or backfilling along retaining walls.
"Contractors who don't have enough height with their skid loaders are moving to a compact telehandler to gain additional reach," says Koepf.
For example, Gehl's 7810 skid loader has a 12-ft. reach. Many compact telehandlers can easily reach to this height and beyond'up to 18 ft. in the case of Gehl's CT6 model.
Scott Rozier, an owner of Rosch Co., is one contractor whose situation exemplifies this dilemma.
He uses a Bobcat V518 compact telehandler for large retaining wall projects in the St. Louis, MO, area. He equips his machine with forks and buckets to lift and place blocks on top of the work zone, as well as move granular materials such as dirt and sand. "In situations where there is no access from the back of the wall, we use the V518 to backfill from the front," he explains. "We have several Bobcat skid steers that we use when we can access the back of the wall, but they just don't have a high enough reach for the larger projects where access is limited."
Koepf also relates that mobility of a compact telehandler is a bit different than that of a skid-steer loader. "With a compact telehandler you don't have the skidding action of a skid loader," he explains. "A compact telehandler has four-wheel steer with a tight turning radius. They're really very maneuverable. When you compare the cost of a compact telehandler with a skid loader, the prices are comparable so it boils down to what features you really need."
More bells and whistles
You will likely find enhanced ergonomics and more creature comforts in a compact telehandler vs. a full-size version. You're also likely to find some noticeable differences compared to a skid-steer loader, including easier entrance into the machine'you can just step into the cab rather than climb over buckets or loader arms.
Many of the differences between a compact and full-size telehandler stem from the fact that full-size models are typically used intermittently during the day, says Eric Brown, VersaHandler product specialist at Bobcat. "A contractor may put on some pallet forks and lift a load three stories high," he says. "Then the machine may sit for three hours. The smaller units tend to get used continuously throughout the day."
Most compact telehandlers will have enclosed cabs with heating and air conditioning, whereas full-size models may just offer a canopy, although cabs and other amenities are available options. Other creature comfort features include boom suspension, which smooths out the ride. Adjustable steering columns and seats, servo hydraulics and single-handed joystick controls are additional features typically offered as standard equipment on today's compact models.
Visibility will also be improved on a compact unit. "Compact telehandlers will have a low-profile boom so visibility around the machine will be better," relates Brown. "That's definitely an advantage when using attachments. The full-size models have a higher profile boom for visibility when the boom is in the air because that's how it will be used much of the time."
Because compacts are typically owned rather than rented, enhanced ergonomics become important to owner/operators who want to work in comfort. Many contractors also feel they're an advantage in boosting productivity for employees. "Typically, comfort equates to productivity," says Miller.