Rough-terrain equipment is constantly play a huge role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett studies a number of the issues surrounding the rough and prepared vehicles.
One of the greatest issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, around authorities this coming year rolling out of the final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.
According to 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 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 – are also produced during combustion.
Machinery exhaust, particularly diesel, contains both PM and NOx, and also other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by several means, attempt to lessen the production of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the quantity of emissions-related health issues. The EPA believes that a decrease in these emissions will, by 2030, cause approximately decrease in 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations then one million lost work days throughout the USA.
So how has it affected the rough-terrain forklift market? Most manufacturers have embraced the engine and chassis changes which were needed to abide by the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, says that although major investment was required, Liftking saw the alterations in regulations as being an opportunity. “Achieving Tier 4 directives required extensive vehicle redesign and new technology for example advanced cooling, exhaust and treatment systems. Packaging of such new systems has allowed us the opportunity to improve other facets 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 required to meet Tier 4 standards. This coming 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 simply meet Tier 4 requirements, but anticipate the mandatory 2017 normative.
Italian telehandler manufacturer Merlo’s Uliano Bellesia says 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 already been fitted 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 use of electronics in the engines. “Up to now, we certainly have used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to arrive at the specified new amounts of regulation, use of electronics is going to be compulsory,” he explains.
There are many issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of The United States-based dealer H&K equipment, indicates. Rich says that from a sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation is bringing about numerous problems, no less than in the USA, that a lot of of his customers are attempting to purchase anything they are able to which is still Tier 3-rated. “I actually have not seen just one company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies a variety of impediments including the need to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when many companies still have huge reserves of diesel onsite, additional maintenance issues like managing an added fluid compartment for urea and using specific engine oils which individuals will not be accustomed to yet. An intriguing reaction to this reluctance to buy Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is the fact companies have improved the caliber of their in-house services to maintain existing equipment running given that possible. Despite his reservations, Rich understands that Tier 4 will be here to be and eventually companies will adapt – although the process is going to take many years.
Many in the business are worried about the inevitable purchase price increases due to engine re-designs and upgrades. Rich says the requirements could add USD 8,000 to USD 12,000 for 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 higher priced than our Tier 3 variants (nevertheless the difference are often more than offset by lower overall operating costs for example approximately 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 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 company strategically timed the making from the new telehandler range in order that increased prices may be cushioned from the novelty of new operational systems and options.
Pundits have already been killing off the rough terrain forklift for sale for years. First, it was the development of telehandlers and from now on there is certainly talk how the market has reached ‘maturity’. Figures through 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 tough to predict, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their particular niche and can expand for some other applications if manufacturers pay attention to the needs of users. He says the main markets for Bomaq continue being in mining, agriculture along with the military.
AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, especially in the fruit and vegetable sector and then there is high demand for rough-terrain forklifts in the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon states that globalisation has created ‘new rooms’ in countries to develop new markets. AUSA is keen to expand in to 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 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 in the agricultural sector. In the united states, this is basically the construction sector. The balance in between the two sectors is our strong point. At the moment, sales are in line with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the industry is mature, but says this is just what causes it to be a strong and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and gratifaction in rough terrains. Features like a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, easy 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 expense of labour has increased and greater productivity is required within the burgeoning mining and infrastructure sectors.
Rich says 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 informed us that they are running out of their allocations of Tier 3 engines and are only in a position to offer Tier 4 as soon as April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the expense of the latest machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market has been very good, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are employed a good deal in the construction and drilling industries, each of which rely heavily on rentals; so basically 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 availability of rough-terrain forklifts sufficient 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 are the main dangers, but Luc Pirard, CEO for Belgian company Comatra, strongly believes that uneven tyre pressures can be a hidden source of many roll-overs. “We know that this type of incident occurs far more frequently than acknowledged,” he says. The Safety and health Executive from the UK, the development Plant-Hire Association in the UK and the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia have got all acknowledged that a good minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure is able to reduce 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 to the 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 that a pneumatic tyre can be easily damaged or punctured. 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 producing a possibly fatal tip-over.” Comatra’s pre-programmed sensors are mounted behind the rim, resistant to dirt along with other corrosive materials, along with a monitor is fitted inside of the cab. Once the forklift/telehandler is switched on, tyre pressure is measured in just a minute. The kit can be fitted by a seasoned tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres will be the preferred option for most rough-terrain forklifts, in recent years alternatives are already developed. Chinese-based tyre manufacturer IST (Industrial Solid Tyres) Company has released a good tyre for rough-terrain vehicles. Brine Jiang, spokesman for IST, recommends OTR giant solid tyres for rough-terrain forklifts, particularly for your 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 within the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has created numerous security features which it says are exclusive to its machines. AUSA’s High Visibility System (HVS) allows operators an unrestricted view both forward and then in reverse while carrying a whole load due to two infrared cameras mounted on the top of the cabin as well as a colour TFT monitor in the cabin. The infrared cameras enable the operator to carry on working safely in really low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Product is a joystick control that enables the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive during motion at the press of a button.