Rough-terrain equipment consistently play a vital role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett studies some of the issues all around the rough and prepared vehicles.
One of the greatest issues facing all manufacturers is tightening environmental regulations, around authorities this current year rolling out of the final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.
In accordance with the United States Of America 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 of the 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 – can also be produced during combustion.
Machinery exhaust, particularly diesel, contains both PM and NOx, and also other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by a number of means, make an effort to minimize the production of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the amount of emissions-related health issues. The EPA believes that a decrease in these emissions will, by 2030, cause approximately lowering of 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations and something 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 were required to comply with 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 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 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 selection 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 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, simply the ROTO (slewing turret) telehandlers required modification – these happen to be 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 the rough-terrain machines. Managing director Antonio Martinez states that one more issue as a result of Tier 4 requirements is the usage of electronics from the engines. “Thus far, we have used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to achieve the desired new degrees of regulation, utilization of electronics will probably be compulsory,” he explains.
There are many issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of America-based dealer H&K equipment, indicates. Rich says that from your sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation causes a lot of problems, a minimum of in the USA, that a majority of of his customers want to purchase anything they are able to that is certainly still Tier 3-rated. “I have got not seen one particular company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies several impediments including the desire to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when many companies still need huge reserves of diesel onsite, additional maintenance issues like managing an additional fluid compartment for urea and the use of specific engine oils which individuals will not be accustomed to yet. An appealing outcome of this reluctance to buy Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is the fact that companies have improved the caliber of their in-house services to hold existing equipment running so long as possible. Despite his reservations, Rich understands that Tier 4 has arrived to stay and eventually companies will adapt – however the process will take quite a while.
Many in the marketplace are concerned regarding the inevitable purchase price increases on account 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 far more than offset by operational savings. “Yes, our Tier 4 forklifts are inherently higher priced than our Tier 3 variants (although the difference may well be more than offset by lower overall operating costs including approximately 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 continues to be positive, but Merlo has already established to mitigate price rises with offers of extra options. The corporation strategically timed the release of the new telehandler range so that increased prices may be cushioned by the novelty newest operational systems and options.
Pundits are already killing away from the rough terrain forklifts for many years. First, it was actually the introduction of telehandlers and now there may be talk how 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 in 2011.
Martinez says the current market is challenging to calculate, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their own personal niche and definately will expand to many other applications if manufacturers take note of the needs of users. He says the primary markets for Bomaq continue to be in mining, agriculture as well as the military.
AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, particularly in the fruit and vegetable sector in which there is popular for rough-terrain forklifts from the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon states that globalisation has produced ‘new rooms’ in countries in which 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 gaining popularity in wood recycling, metal foundries and outdoor warehouse operations. These appliances offer added value if the forklift has 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 the agricultural sector. In the us, this is the construction sector. The total amount between your two sectors is our strong point. At the moment, sales are in accordance with the expected trend, ” he says.
Cameli agrees the industry is mature, but says and this is what causes it to be a robust and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and gratification in rough terrains. Features for instance a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, easy maintenance and overall cost signify the rough-terrain market is growing. 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 grown and greater productivity is essential 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 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 are only capable to offer Tier 4 as soon as April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the price of the latest machines will negatively affect sales.
However, the rough-terrain rental market has become excellent, Rich adds. “Rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are being used a whole lot in 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 supply of rough-terrain forklifts high enough 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 can be a hidden source of many roll-overs. “We feel that this sort of incident occurs far more frequently than acknowledged,” he says. The Safety and health Executive of the UK, the building Plant-Hire Association from the UK and the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia have acknowledged that even a minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure is effective in reducing stability and safe lifting capacity by up to 30%. “Because tyres deflect and distort under load, these people have a significant result on stability and load-carrying ability,” Pirard explains.
Comatra specialises in safety products for that materials handling industry and possesses 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 easily damaged or punctured. By far the most critical situation is a flat or under-inflated tyre having a load within 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, protected from dirt as well as other corrosive materials, and a monitor is fitted inside the cab. If the forklift/telehandler is excited, tyre pressure is measured in just one minute. The kit can be simply fitted by an experienced tyre-fitter.
Whilst pneumatic tyres will be the preferred selection for most rough-terrain forklifts, lately alternatives have 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 to 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 provide better low-rolling resistance which, consequently, will deliver less tyre wear, less heat build-up throughout the tyre and improved fuel consumption.
AUSA has evolved a number of safety measures which it says are exclusive to its machines. AUSA’s High Visibility System (HVS) allows operators an unrestricted view both forward and also in reverse while carrying an entire load as a result of two infrared cameras mounted on the top of the cabin and a colour TFT monitor inside of the cabin. The infrared cameras enable the operator to carry on working safely in very low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Method is a joystick control which allows the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive during motion at the press of a button.