Rough-terrain equipment continues to play a crucial role in materials handling and Melissa Barnett studies some of the issues 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 your final phase of Tier 4 regulations for engines between 75 and 175 HP.

Based on the U . S . 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 mobile sources. Particulate matter is minute particles of carbon as well as 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, and also other poisonous substances. Tier 4 regulations, by a number of means, make an effort to decrease the output of these by-products, thereby significantly reducing the volume of emissions-related health problems. The EPA believes that a decrease in these emissions will, by 2030, bring about approximately decrease in 12,000 premature deaths, 8,900 hospitalisations and one million lost work days across the USA.

But exactly how has it affected the rough-terrain forklift market? Most manufacturers have embraced the engine and chassis changes which were expected to adhere to the regulations. Guido Cameli, sales manager for Canadian manufacturer Manitex Liftking, says that although major investment was required, Liftking saw the modifications in regulations as an opportunity. “Achieving Tier 4 directives required extensive vehicle redesign and new technology such as advanced cooling, exhaust and treatment systems. Packaging of the new systems has allowed us the opportunity to improve other areas of our vehicles, such as 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 coming year, 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 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, just the ROTO (slewing turret) telehandlers required modification – these happen to be fitted having a selective catalyst system (SCT) which meets Tier 4 standards.

Spanish manufacturer Bomaq has redesigned equipment parts and integrated an additional postfilter burner to its rough-terrain machines. Managing director Antonio Martinez states that an additional issue arising from Tier 4 requirements is the application of electronics inside the engines. “So far, we now have used mechanical systems for fuel injection, but to attain the required new amounts of regulation, use of electronics will be compulsory,” he explains.

There are other issues, as Richard Rich, wholesale manager of The United States-based dealer H&K equipment, highlights. Rich says that coming from a sales perspective, Tier 4 implementation is causing a lot of problems, a minimum of in the united states, that most of his customers are trying to purchase anything they could that is still Tier 3-rated. “We have not seen an individual company change over or update yet,” he says. Rich identifies numerous impediments including the requirement to use ultra-low sulphur fuel when some companies have 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 are not employed to yet. An intriguing reaction to this reluctance to get Tier 4 equipment, Rich says, is that companies have improved the quality of their in-house services to maintain existing equipment running as long as possible. Despite his reservations, Rich is aware that Tier 4 is here to keep and in the end companies will adapt – although the process is going to take a couple of years.

Many in the market are involved regarding the inevitable purchase price increases because of engine re-designs and upgrades. Rich says the prerequisites 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 more pricey than our Tier 3 variants (however the difference could be more than offset by lower overall operating costs for example up to 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 is positive, but Merlo has had to mitigate price rises with offers of extra options. The organization strategically timed the making of the new telehandler range so that increased prices could possibly be cushioned with the novelty newest operational systems and options.

Pundits have been killing off the used rough terrain forklift for several years. First, it was actually the roll-out of telehandlers now there may be talk that 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 the year 2011.

Martinez says the current market is difficult to predict, but believes rough-terrain forklifts have developed their very own niche and may expand to other applications if manufacturers take note of the needs of users. He says the main markets for Bomaq continue to be in mining, agriculture and also the military.

AUSA specialises in rough-terrain forklifts for agriculture, especially in the fruit and vegetable sector in which there is high demand for rough-terrain forklifts inside the lighter, more compact 3T (6,000 lb.) two-wheel-drive range. Perramon says that globalisation has produced ‘new rooms’ in countries in order 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, according to 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 machines offer added value once the forklift has to push and pull pallets during loading/unloading of trucks.

Bellesia believes the telehandlers’ versatility has protected them from the market changes. “In Europe, Canada and Australia, Merlo sells mainly into the agricultural sector. In the us, it will be the construction sector. The balance between the two sectors is our strong point. For now, 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 strong and growing field as customers realise the machine’s value and satisfaction in rough terrains. Features like a tight turning radius, compact length, simplicity of design, comfort of maintenance and overall cost signify the rough-terrain market keeps 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 price of labour has risen and greater productivity is needed inside the burgeoning mining and infrastructure sectors.

Rich states that sales of rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers, particularly in the 5-6 T (12,000 lb.) range, are already slow and believes that things won’t improve with the development of Tier 4 compliant machines. “Some rough-terrain forklift manufacturers already have informed us that they are not having enough their allocations of Tier 3 engines and will only be able to offer Tier 4 as soon as April, 2015,” he says. Rich believes the cost 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 used a lot inside 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 problem, he says, would be to keep H&K’s source 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 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 believe that this type of incident occurs far more frequently than acknowledged,” he says. The Safety and health Executive of the UK, the Construction Plant-Hire Association of your UK as well as the Telescopic Handler Association of Australia supply acknowledged that a good minimal 5% drop in tyre pressure can reduce stability and safe lifting capacity by around 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 the materials handling industry and possesses developed a unique internal valve-mounted sensor system to observe tyre pressure in rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers. “Most rough-terrain forklifts and telehandlers are fitted with pneumatic tyres while they provide much better flotation on soft ground. The disadvantage, however, is that a pneumatic tyre can be simply damaged or punctured. Probably the most critical situation is a flat or under-inflated tyre with 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, protected from dirt as well as other corrosive materials, and a monitor is fitted in the cab. If the forklift/telehandler is turned on, tyre pressure is measured in under one minute. The kit can easily be fitted by a seasoned tyre-fitter.

Whilst pneumatic tyres would be the preferred selection for most rough-terrain forklifts, recently 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 your 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, subsequently, will deliver less tyre wear, less heat build-up throughout the tyre and improved fuel consumption.

AUSA has created a number of security features which it says are only at its machines. AUSA’s High Visibility System (HVS) allows operators an unrestricted view both forward as well as in reverse while carrying a complete load because of two infrared cameras mounted on the top of the cabin along with a colour TFT monitor inside the cabin. The infrared cameras permit the operator to go on working safely in suprisingly low light. AUSA’s FullGrip Product is a joystick control that enables the operator to engage/disengage four-wheel-drive while in motion at the press of the mouse.