Submitted by: Schaffer Loaders

Telehandlers have gained enormous popularity in recent years and are now a familiar sight on construction jobs and farms worldwide. There are two type of telehandler those constructed with a rigid chassis and the up and coming telehandlers manufactured with an articulated chassis.

The most common telehandler found is the rigid chassis telehandler which utilizes a side mounted mast. This telehandler platform is great for pallet work, but very inefficient for loading work long term, as the stress on the front CV joints and chassis is immense, when the bucket is filled. The rigid bodied loaders are designed for pallet work arent generally recommended for bucket loading tasks as maintenance costs are high long term.

Articulated telehandlers and loaders are rapidly gaining popularity as users are beginning to identify the longevity benefits when they invest in a quality, heavy duty, articulated telehandler, particularly for bucket work. Articulated loaders are built on a heavy duty articulated loader chassis one that is designed for earthmoving and heavy duty pushing work. There is no doubt worldwide that articulated loaders dominated heavy earthmoving and this same design has been incorporated into the telehandler vehicle. This allows users to benefit from the strength of an articulated loader combined with the lift of a telehandler.

Please note, it is important to decide initially if a telehandler is actually the best choice for the job. An articulated front end loader is often a better choice for most tasks as it is stronger and requires less investment than an articulated telehandler. For heavy duty work it is best to invest in a heavy duty machine, and for small jobs a mini loader is often the best loader for the job. If you are comparing mini loaders and mini telescopics, (i.e. telehandlers under 4 tonne in operating weight) pay careful attention to the tipping height of the telescopic, as the SWL decreases dramatically when the telescopic boom is extended and can easily place the operator in a dangerous position. Generally the less a telehandlers weighs, the easier it is to get in this unsafe position.

This article focuses on comparing true rigid chassis telehandlers to equivalent articulated telehandlers usually those with an operating weight from 5 tonnes. Some of these advantages of an articulated telehandler are outlined below.

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When looking at buying an articulated loader or telehandler it is important to buy a loader with the seating position at the rear of the loader. One of the biggest advantages of articulated vehicles is the great visibility all around the cabin. An articulated telehandler or loader has a mast mounted on the front chassis and the driver sits on the rear. This set up will give the greatest driving efficiency, when reversing, particularly in tight areas. The driver simply reverses the same as a car. However with a few brands on the market, the operator sits on the front chassis. If the operator has to sit on the front of the loader, every time they reverse it is the same as reversing a car and trailer with a very short drawbar. The trailer swings in the opposite direction to the steering wheel and therefore more thought must go into it.

Articulated telehandlers have a great all round view as the mast is mounted in front of the driver and the operator can see both sides of the load. This allows the operator to work in confined spaces, if necessary, as they are confident of not accidently hitting personnel or vehicles in the area. The view out the rear of the loader is also superb as there are no connection points from the mast to the loader.

In a rigid chassis telehandler, the mast is mounted at the back, usually on the right hand side (RHS) of the telehandler. The operator sits on one side of the telehandler and the mast is mounted on the other side. The operator sits very low and has very poor vision of one side of the load, as the mast blocks vision. When stacking, it can be very difficult to make sure the RHS side of the load is stacked in tight. The vision out the RHS is sometimes completely obscured due to the side mounted mast. If the mast is raised anywhere near the operators head height, they cannot see anything to their direct right, it becomes a total blind spot and very unsafe. The mast is also mounted at the back RHS and this post is constructed extremely strongly as it bears the total weight of the mast and load. The post assembly obscures the vision out the back RHS and creates another blind spot. These blind spots force the operator to work very, very carefully, often with someone to monitor personnel and equipment in the vicinity and this significantly slows productivity. The operator must be extremely cautious the whole time. This is a big reason why articulated telehandlers and loaders are gaining even more rapid popularity for their superior view and safety which in turn maximizes productivity.

Some objections exist due to the SWL differences between articulated telehandlers and rigid chassis telehandlers and it would be good to clear up a few points. Rigid chassis telehandlers generally have a higher SWL compared to an articulated telehandler. This is the due to the fact the counterweight in an articulated loader, when fully articulated, comes closer to the front end, so SWL decreases. In a rigid telehandler, the counterweight stays at the same distance, no matter the steering position. The chassis length is longer in an articulated telehandler compared to a rigid chassis telehandler to offset this disadvantage and allows the telehandler to pick up more weight if driven correctly, ie., the operator should always load and unload their bucket with the telehandler straight not articulated. This extra chassis length is a huge advantage in rough terrain work, particularly when coupled with an oscillating rear axle and allows the telehandler to perform on rougher ground and maintain stability where a short wheel based machine cant. The mast height is also restricted in articulated telehandlers by manufacturers to ensure stability.

When comparing the lifting capacity of an articulated telehandler with a rigid telehandler, one must compare the tool frame at the same position out the front of the machine. Articulated telehandlers have a front mounted mast, and to accommodate the tool frame and telescopic sections, the bucket or pallet forks START at 1.2m from the wheels, giving you an effective working distance, to unload trucks for example. Rigid telehandlers on the other hand, have rear mounted masts so the telescopic sections are contained within the length of the chassis and the tool frame starts at the wheels. This retracted position is often not of much use and the tool frame must be extended before a bucket can be loaded or a pallet picked up. For this reason to compare the rigid chassis telehandler lift capacity, one should measure this at the same distance out from the front wheels, identical to the position where the articulated telehandler tool frame starts, as the carrying capacity will be less than the fully retracted position.

For bucket loading work it is usually better to purchase an articulated loader if the mast height is suitable for the application. An articulated loader will give a much faster loading speed than a telescopic as the telescopic cylinder doesnt have to be extended to unload to get above the trucks dump height. The cylinder must then be retracted to load the bucket again. By not having to extend the telescopic cylinder, it saves time and wear on cylinders and bushes, and there is potential to damage the extended cylinder, if the operator forgets to retract the cylinder when loading.

Articulated telehandlers also have a number of other amazing benefits due to their articulated steering. The turning circle of an articulated loader can be incredibly small, due to the front chassis operating somewhat independently to the rear chassis and as it is more like driving two small machines it gives unsurpassed access into confined areas.

One advantage of articulated steering is the ability to use rigid axles that need very little maintenance. Rigid bodied telehandlers however must use CF joints to steer. As the loader bucket is filled, the telehandlers centre of gravity shifts the machines entire weight onto the front wheels, axles and CV joints which end up taking constant punishment as they must steer under this load. However, articulated telehandlers have rigid axles so there are no CV joints to get damaged when the centre of gravity shifts forwards when loading the steering is controlled by articulating the whole front chassis.

Articulated steering also allows the operator to perfectly position a load just by turning the steering wheel, it really functions like an inbuilt side shift. Rigid bodied telehandlers however must move the whole machine to change the position of the load and can waste a lot of time during loading exercise. Crab steer can help somewhat, but the telehandler must still be completely moved to change the loading position at the mast face.

I hope this article has been of benefit showing the operational differences between an articulated telehandler and a rigid chassis telehandler. Articulated telehandlers are rapidly growing popularity worldwide and soon may become as common as the rigid chassis telehandlers due to their superior visibility and high productivity.

About the Author: Schaffer has been the leading brand in mini loaders and front-end loaders for over 50 years. Schaffer provide

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, fork-lifts, telescopic loaders, articulated loaders, skid-steers, mini diggers, articulated fork lifts and all accessories.


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