Rough-terrain equipment continues to play a crucial role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett examines a number of the issues all around the rough and prepared vehicles.
One of the primary issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, around authorities this coming year rolling the final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.
In line with the Usa Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), off-road engines are responsible 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 and other poisonous substances created if 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, along with other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by a variety of means, aim 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 then one million lost work days over the USA.
So how has it affected the rough-terrain forklift market? Most manufacturers have embraced the engine and chassis changes that have been needed to adhere to the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, says that although major investment was required, Liftking saw the changes in regulations as an opportunity. “Achieving Tier 4 directives required extensive vehicle redesign and new technology for example advanced cooling, exhaust and treatment systems. Packaging of the new systems has allowed us the ability to improve other aspects 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 needed to meet Tier 4 standards. This season, AUSA will launch its 4-5 T array 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 are already fitted by using 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 says that an extra issue arising from Tier 4 requirements is the usage of electronics from the engines. “Thus far, we now have used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to arrive at the desired new degrees of regulation, usage of electronics will be compulsory,” he explains.
There are many issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of Canada And America-based dealer H&K equipment, points out. Rich states that from the sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation causes numerous problems, at the very least in the united states, that a majority of of his customers want to purchase anything they are able to which is still Tier 3-rated. “I have got not seen a single company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies several impediments including the desire to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when some 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 individuals usually are not used to yet. An intriguing outcome of this reluctance to get Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is the fact companies have improved the quality of their in-house services to keep existing equipment running provided that possible. Despite his reservations, Rich recognizes that Tier 4 has arrived to be and in the end companies will adapt – but the process will take quite a while.
Many in the business are worried in regards to the inevitable purchase price increases as a result of engine re-designs and upgrades. Rich says the prerequisites 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 expensive than our Tier 3 variants (nevertheless the difference will be more than offset by lower overall operating costs such as up to 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 experienced to mitigate price rises with offers of extra options. The organization strategically timed the release of its new telehandler range to ensure that increased prices may be cushioned by the novelty of brand new operational systems and options.
Pundits have already been killing away from the rough terrain forklifts for years. First, it was the development of telehandlers and now there may be 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 2011.
Martinez says the market is difficult to predict, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their particular niche and may expand with other applications if manufacturers pay attention to the needs of users. He says the main markets for Bomaq continue to be in mining, agriculture and the military.
AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, particularly in the vegetable and fruit sector in which there is popular demand for rough-terrain forklifts within the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon says that globalisation has established ‘new rooms’ in countries to develop new markets. AUSA is keen to expand 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 becoming popular in wood recycling, metal foundries and outdoor warehouse operations. These appliances offer added value when the forklift must 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 in to the agricultural sector. In the united states, this is the construction sector. The balance in between the two sectors is our strong point. In the meantime, sales are in accordance with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the industry is mature, but says this is what causes it to be a robust and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and performance in rough terrains. Features for instance a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, easy maintenance and overall cost imply that the rough-terrain market keeps 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 expense of labour has increased 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, have already been slow and believes that things won’t improve with the introduction of Tier 4 compliant machines. “Some rough-terrain forklift manufacturers have informed us they are not having enough their allocations of Tier 3 engines and will only be able to offer Tier 4 once April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the price of the newest machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market is excellent, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are used a great deal from 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 to keep H&K’s flow 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 certainly are a hidden reason for many roll-overs. “We know that this sort of incident occurs far more often than acknowledged,” he says. The Safety and health Executive of the UK, the Construction Plant-Hire Association of the UK and the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia have all acknowledged that a good minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure helps 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 contains 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 since they provide a lot better flotation on soft ground. The disadvantage, however, is a pneumatic tyre can be simply damaged or punctured. By far the most critical situation is a flat or under-inflated tyre by using 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, resistant to dirt and also other corrosive materials, as well as a monitor is fitted inside the cab. Once the forklift/telehandler is turned on, tyre pressure is measured in under a minute. The kit can be easily fitted by a seasoned tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres would be the preferred option 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 that 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, in turn, will deliver less tyre wear, less heat build-up in the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has continued to evolve a variety 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 then in reverse while carrying a full load on account of two infrared cameras mounted on top of the cabin plus a colour TFT monitor inside of the cabin. The infrared cameras let the operator to go on working safely in suprisingly low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Product is a joystick control that permits the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive while in motion on the press of a button.