Rough-terrain equipment is constantly play a vital role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett looks at some of the issues all around the rough and prepared vehicles.
The most significant issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, with US authorities this current year rolling out the final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.
In accordance with the United States 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 when not all fuel is burned during combustion. NOx – commonly nitrogen monoxide and nitrogen oxide – may also be produced during combustion.
Machinery exhaust, particularly diesel, contains both PM and NOx, together with other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by a number of means, aim to lessen the output of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the amount of emissions-related medical problems. The EPA believes that a reduction in these emissions will, by 2030, bring about approximately reduction of 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations and another million lost work days over the USA.
But exactly how has it affected the rough-terrain forklift market? Most manufacturers have embraced the engine and chassis changes that have been expected to conform to the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, states 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 the new systems has allowed us the ability to improve other areas 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 necessary to meet Tier 4 standards. This current year, AUSA will launch its 4-5 T selection of rough-terrain and semi-industrial forklifts with 56kW Deutz engines fitted with Diesel Oxidation Catalysts (DOC). The engines not just 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, only the ROTO (slewing turret) telehandlers required modification – these have already been fitted having a selective catalyst system (SCT) which meets Tier 4 standards.
Spanish manufacturer Bomaq has redesigned equipment parts and integrated an extra postfilter burner to the rough-terrain machines. Managing director Antonio Martinez says that yet another issue as a result of Tier 4 requirements is using electronics within the engines. “To date, we have now used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to reach the required new levels of regulation, consumption of electronics will be compulsory,” he explains.
There are additional issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of Canada And America-based dealer H&K equipment, indicates. Rich says that from the sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation is bringing about so many problems, a minimum of in the us, that a lot of of his customers are trying to purchase anything they could that may be still Tier 3-rated. “We have not seen one particular company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies a number of impediments including the requirement to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when some companies still have huge reserves of diesel onsite, additional maintenance issues like managing an extra fluid compartment for urea and using specific engine oils which individuals are certainly not accustomed to yet. An appealing consequence of this reluctance to purchase Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is the fact companies have improved the caliber of their in-house services to hold existing equipment running given that possible. Despite his reservations, Rich knows that Tier 4 has arrived to be and in the end companies will adapt – but the process is going to take many years.
Many in the market are worried about 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 to the price. Cameli, however, believes that any price hike is more than offset by operational savings. “Yes, our Tier 4 forklifts are inherently more expensive than our Tier 3 variants (but the difference may well be more than offset by lower overall operating costs such as 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 reduced emissions,” Cameli explains.
Bellesia says initial feedback on Tier 4 engine performance has been positive, but Merlo has already established to mitigate price rises with offers of extra options. The corporation strategically timed the discharge from the new telehandler range to ensure increased prices might be cushioned by the novelty newest operational systems and options.
Pundits have already been killing off the used rough terrain forklift for a long time. First, it was the creation of telehandlers now there is certainly talk that the market has reached ‘maturity’. Figures from 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 this year.
Martinez says the marketplace is challenging to calculate, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their very own niche and may expand for some other applications if manufacturers take note of the needs of users. He says the key markets for Bomaq continue to be in mining, agriculture along with the military.
AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, particularly in the vegetable and fruit sector and then there is popular for rough-terrain forklifts inside the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon states that globalisation has generated ‘new rooms’ in countries in order to develop new markets. AUSA is keen to grow in the US and Eurasian horticultural sectors. He adds that AUSA’s semi-industrial models, according to 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 as soon as the forklift needs to push and pull pallets during loading/unloading of trucks.
Bellesia believes the telehandlers’ versatility has protected them from your market changes. “In Europe, Canada and Australia, Merlo sells mainly in to the agricultural sector. In the us, this is basically the construction sector. The total amount between your two sectors is our strong point. For the time being, sales are consistent with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the current market is mature, but says this is just what makes it a robust and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and performance in rough terrains. Features say for example a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, simplicity of maintenance and overall cost signify the rough-terrain market continues to grow. Cameli says new markets in construction, lumber, oil and gas and concrete industries are continually emerging, in addition to new geographical markets including Peru and Columbia, where the fee for 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, have already been slow and believes that things won’t improve with the roll-out of Tier 4 compliant machines. “Some rough-terrain forklift manufacturers have already 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 expense of the new machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market continues to be very good, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are used a whole lot within 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 process, he says, is usually to keep H&K’s supply of rough-terrain forklifts high enough to satisfy 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 believe that this type of incident occurs far more frequently than acknowledged,” he says. The Safety and health Executive of the UK, the building Plant-Hire Association of your UK and the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia supply acknowledged that also a minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure helps to reduce stability and safe lifting capacity by around 30%. “Because tyres deflect and distort under load, these people have a significant influence on stability and load-carrying ability,” Pirard explains.
Comatra specialises in safety products for your materials handling industry and has designed a unique internal valve-mounted sensor system to keep track of tyre pressure in rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers. “Most rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are fitted with pneumatic tyres as they provide significantly better flotation on soft ground. The disadvantage, however, is a pneumatic tyre can be simply damaged or punctured. Probably the most critical situation is actually a flat or under-inflated tyre 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, safe from dirt and other corrosive materials, plus a monitor is fitted inside of the cab. When the forklift/telehandler is excited, tyre pressure is measured in just one minute. The kit can be easily fitted by a skilled tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres are definitely the preferred option for most rough-terrain forklifts, in recent years alternatives have already been 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 the 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, consequently, will deliver less tyre wear, less heat build-up within the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has continued to evolve a number of safety features which it says are limited to its machines. AUSA’s High Visibility System (HVS) allows operators an unrestricted view both forward and also in reverse while carrying a whole load due to two infrared cameras mounted on top of the cabin along with a colour TFT monitor inside of the cabin. The infrared cameras permit the operator to go on working safely in extremely low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Method is a joystick control that enables the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive while in motion in the press of a button.