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What Is A Telehandler? Everything About Telehandlers

What is a Telehandler? Everything About Telehandlers

In the world of construction and material handling, versatility and efficiency are paramount. Enter the telehandler, a powerhouse of adaptability that’s revolutionized how tasks are approached on job sites. Originating from the innovative minds at JLG in the late 20th century, telehandlers have become indispensable in a variety of industries, thanks to their unique blend of strength, reach, and versatility.

A telehandler, or telescopic handler, combines the lifting capability of a crane with the compact size and maneuverability of a forklift. It’s equipped with a telescopic boom, allowing it to extend forwards and upwards, making it ideal for tasks that require high-reaching or distant lifting. With the ability to attach different tools like pallet forks, this machine can handle a wide range of tasks from lifting loads to unloading trucks. As we delve deeper, we’ll explore the intricacies of telehandlers, their uses, and why they’ve become a staple in today’s material handling solutions.

The History of the Telehandler

Originating from the innovative spirit of the late 20th century, the telehandler, or telescopic handler, marks a significant evolution in material handling and construction machinery. This machine represents a pivotal advancement, combining the functionalities of a crane and a forklift, thus addressing a wide range of lifting needs in various industries.

The development of the telehandler can be traced back to the 1970s when manufacturers recognized the need for a versatile and adaptable piece of equipment capable of performing multiple tasks on a construction site. The solution was the creation of a machine with a telescopic boom, capable of extending both forwards and upwards, thereby enhancing the machine’s reach and utility.

JLG Industries, a leading manufacturer of lift equipment, played a crucial role in the early development and popularization of telehandlers. They introduced the concept of adding a telescopic boom to a rugged chassis, equipped with large, durable tires suitable for the rough terrain typically found on construction sites. This innovation allowed operators to lift, move, and place materials with precision and ease, surpassing the capabilities of traditional forklifts.

As the telehandler continued to evolve, manufacturers introduced various attachments, further expanding the machine’s versatility. These attachments include forks for pallet handling, buckets for moving loose materials, and even platforms for lifting personnel. Each attachment was designed to make the telehandler suitable for a wide range of tasks, from loading and unloading goods to assisting with construction and maintenance work at height.

The versatility and efficiency of telehandlers have made them an indispensable tool across multiple industries. From agriculture and construction to mining and logistics, the telehandler’s ability to perform multiple functions with one machine has streamlined operations, reduced equipment costs, and improved productivity.

Today, the telehandler remains a symbol of innovation and versatility in the field of material handling and construction machinery. Its development underscores the industry’s continuous efforts to meet the changing needs of work sites, making it a crucial component of modern material handling solutions.

What is a telehandler?

A telehandler, short for telescopic handler, represents a multifaceted lifting machine that integrates the capabilities of a crane and a forklift. It’s distinguished by its telescopic boom, which can extend forwards and upwards from the vehicle, furnishing the telehandler with an adaptable reach and elevated lifting capacity. Operators have the ability to maneuver the boom to lift, move, and place materials in a variety of configurations, significantly enhancing job site efficiency.

The foundation of a telehandler’s functionality lies in its versatility, primarily attributable to the multiple attachment options available, such as pallet forks, buckets, and lifting jibs. These attachments equip telehandlers to handle a wide array of tasks, from material lifting and transportation to loading and unloading objects at varying heights and distances. This adaptability makes telehandlers indispensable in numerous sectors, including construction, agriculture, and industrial applications.

Equipped with stabilizing counterweights at the rear, telehandlers maintain balance while lifting heavy loads. This stability is crucial for safe operation, particularly when extending the boom at full reach with maximum load capacity. The machine’s design prioritizes both functionality and safety, with features like a Tier 4 Final engine in JLG models enhancing fuel efficiency and reducing environmental impact.

The utility of telehandlers further extends to their ability to navigate diverse terrains, thanks to rugged tires and a robust chassis. This mobility ensures telehandlers are effective in various environments, from uneven construction sites to smooth warehouse floors.

Telehandlers merge the lifting prowess of cranes with the load handling capabilities of forklifts into a single versatile machine. Their extendable booms, coupled with a range of attachments, make them an invaluable asset for tasks requiring reach, precision, and flexibility. As a result, telehandlers continue to be a favorite in industries that require efficient and adaptable material handling solutions.

The Basics of a Telehandler

Telehandlers, or telescopic handlers, embody a blend of versatility and power, making them a cornerstone in the material handling and construction sectors. Originating as an innovative solution to multifaceted lifting tasks, a telehandler combines the essential traits of forklifts and cranes, equipped with a telescopic boom that extends both forwards and upwards, offering an unparalleled range of motion.

The core of a telehandler’s functionality lies in its telescopic boom. This pivotal feature allows for the application of various attachments like forks, buckets, and platforms, transforming the telehandler to suit different tasks, including but not limited to, lifting pallets, moving loads, and elevating personnel to significant heights. The adaptability provided by these attachments ensures that telehandlers meet the specific needs of industries such as agriculture, construction, mining, and more.

Stability and mobility are fundamental to the telehandler’s design. Equipped with stabilizing counterweights and a robust chassis, it safely manages heavy loads, even at extended reaches. The integration of Tier 4 Final engines underscores a commitment to efficiency and environmental considerations, offering a balance between power and emissions control.

Moreover, telehandlers are designed for maneuverability across diverse terrains. Their durable tires and optimized weight distribution allow for smooth operation whether on rough construction sites or in expansive agricultural fields. This ability to navigate various conditions underscores the telehandler’s role as an indispensable piece of machinery, capable of enhancing workflow, productivity, and safety.

In essence, a telehandler is more than just another piece of heavy-duty machinery. Its unique blend of reach, power, and adaptability positions it as a critical tool in the arsenal of industries seeking to optimize operations and tackle a broad spectrum of material handling tasks efficiently and safely.

What Is a Telehandler Used For?

Telehandlers, owing to their unique blend of reach, power, and versatility, find widespread use across several industries. As an advanced lift and place tool, a telehandler surpasses traditional forklifts with its superior extension ability and flexibility in attachment options, enhancing its utility in a multitude of tasks.

In agriculture, telehandlers aid in material handling tasks such as lifting and transporting large bales of hay or feed, a task facilitated by their extendable booms and capability to maneuver over uneven terrain. The attachments, like forks and buckets, enable tasks ranging from clearing debris to distributing feed.

Construction sites heavily rely on telehandlers for their ability to move heavy materials across varying heights and distances. Whether it’s lifting steel beams to higher floors or transporting loads of bricks around the site, telehandlers streamline operations, improving productivity and safety. With stabilizers and a range of attachments, these machines ensure precise placement even in tight spaces.

In the realm of logistics and warehousing, telehandlers contribute significantly to loading and unloading goods. The telescopic boom extends into freight containers or high shelves, simplifying the process of moving goods. This capability is indispensable in facilities where space constricts the use of conventional forklifts.

Event setups and industrial maintenance tasks also benefit from telehandlers. They provide a stable platform for workers to reach elevated positions safely, useful in setting up stages, lighting fixtures, and performing overhead repairs or installations.

Mining and quarry operations employ telehandlers for their robustness and ability to operate in rugged environments. They move raw materials, clear rubble, and assist in maintenance tasks, demonstrating their adaptability and resilience.

Telehandlers serve crucial roles in agriculture, construction, logistics, events, and mining industries, among others. Their combination of lifting power, reach, and versatile attachments make them an essential piece of machinery for efficient, safe, and agile material handling and operations.

What Are the Benefits of a Telehandler?

Different Attachments

Telehandlers offer unparalleled versatility through a wide array of attachments that significantly expand their utility across various tasks. Attachments such as pallet forks, muck grabs, work buckets, and lifting jibs enable operators to customize their telehandler for the specific demands of each project. This ability to swap out attachments not only makes a telehandler adaptable to different jobs but also enhances the machine’s efficiency and productivity. Whether it’s moving loads, lifting pallets, or transporting materials, the right attachment transforms the telehandler into the ideal tool for the task at hand.

Great in Any Environment

Designed to excel on rough terrain, telehandlers come equipped with large tractor tires featuring advanced rubber compounds and deep lugs. These features, combined with their 4-wheel drive, crab steering, and front-wheel steering modes, allow telehandlers to maintain excellent traction and maneuverability in diverse environments. From agricultural fields and quarries to construction sites, telehandlers can navigate uneven ground and off-road conditions securely. Their robust construction and capability to stay level even on uneven surfaces ensure they remain a reliable choice for industries demanding both mobility and stability.

Full Range of Motion

A defining feature of telehandlers is their telescopic boom, allowing for a full range of motion that enhances the machine’s utility in tight and complex spaces. These booms extend up to around 20 meters, with the capability to lift heavy loads vertically or horizontally with precision. This flexibility is crucial when navigating obstacles, reaching over and around barriers, or operating in cramped spaces. The rotational telehandlers add another dimension to this flexibility by rotating around the chassis, providing exceptional maneuverability even when stationary. With a design that emphasizes stability and control, telehandlers can lift materials to significant heights and distances while minimizing the risk of tipping, making them indispensable for varied lifting tasks.

Common Uses of Telehandlers

Telehandlers, also known as telescopic handlers, excel in a variety of tasks across multiple industries due to their unique combination of reach, power, and versatility. In the oil and gas sector, these machines are pivotal for tunneling efforts and infrastructure development at airports, as well as in mining operations. Their adaptability also extends to container stuffing, illustrating their utility in logistics and cargo handling.

In construction and manufacturing sites, telehandlers are indispensable for moving heavy loads off trucks, aiding in site cleanup, and relocating materials. Their capability to plough through dirt or sand makes them a valuable asset in ground preparation and landscaping. The agricultural sector benefits from telehandlers in the efficient movement of hay and hay bales, streamlining farm operations.

Moreover, telehandlers support a safer work environment by reducing the need for manual lifting. They can be fitted with various attachments such as pallet forks, scoops, hooks, and buckets, enhancing their functionality beyond that of traditional forklifts. This allows for the removal of palletised cargo from trailers and the lifting of loads to rooftops or upper floors of buildings with precision and ease.

Safety features, including front stabilizers and onboard computers, alert operators when approaching weight limits, further extending their utility and ensuring task completion without risk. However, the operation of these machines is confined to trained and qualified individuals, underlining their role in promoting on-site safety and efficiency.

From improving operational efficiency in logistics to enabling intricate lifting and moving operations on construction sites, telehandlers are a cornerstone in modern industry. Their robust design, combined with the ability to navigate uneven or slippery surfaces, positions them as a versatile tool in challenging environments.

Manufacturers & Models of Telehandlers

The telehandler market boasts various manufacturers, each offering diverse models to suit different project requirements. Renowned for their innovation and quality, companies like JCB, Bobcat, Caterpillar, and JLG lead the industry, providing advanced options for buyers and renters.


Founded by John L. Grove in 1969, JLG Industries introduced its first boom lift in the 1970s and has since expanded its product line to include telehandlers. JLG telehandlers are known for their environmental friendliness, featuring Tier 4 Final engines that enhance fuel efficiency. The company offers two primary varieties: the High Capacity Telehandlers and the standard JLG Telehandler. With lift capacities ranging from 5,500 to 12,000 lbs and maximum reaching heights of up to 55 feet, JLG telehandlers are designed with ultra-strong booms, extending their reach and height capabilities beyond other brands.


Bobcat Company, originating from Melroe Manufacturing Company founded in 1947 by Edward Gideon Melroe, transitioned to telehandler production following the skid steer’s success. The Bobcat VersaHANDLER impresses with its versatility, higher lift heights, and extended reach. Investments in attachments further enhance the VersaHANDLER’s utility, making it a favored choice for a variety of tasks beyond typical construction duties.


A pioneer in the telehandler market, JCB’s 520 Loadall, launched in 1977, marked the industry’s first foray into combining a forklift, crane, and backhoe into a singular, versatile machine. This innovation led to the development of both two-wheel and four-wheel drive versions, accommodating a wide range of attachments for different applications. Today, the JCB Loadall range remains among the company’s most successful lines, embodying JCB’s commitment to innovation and versatility in telehandler design and functionality.


Caterpillar Inc., founded by Benjamin Holt in 1907 and officially formed in 1925, entered the telehandler market with a focus on durability and performance. Caterpillar telehandlers are distinguished by their stability and safety, engineered with independent leverage devices and rear weights to counteract loads effectively. Caterpillar’s models are suited for heavy lifting tasks, capable of reaching up to 65 feet and handling over 20,000 lbs, embodying the company’s legacy of heavy machinery excellence.

Each of these manufacturers contributes uniquely to the telehandler market, offering machines that serve a wide range of industries with efficiency, safety, and versatility. Whether for construction, manufacturing, agriculture, or snow removal, there’s a telehandler model tailored to meet specific project needs, reflecting the dynamic evolution and growing importance of telehandlers in global industries.

Practices for Safe Operation

Operating telehandlers safely is paramount to ensuring the well-being of operators and surrounding personnel, along with maintaining efficiency on work sites. The unique capabilities of telehandlers require adherence to specific safety practices to mitigate risks.

First and foremost, operators must undergo proper training before operating a telehandler. This training ensures that they are familiar with the machine’s controls, capabilities, and limitations, along with specific safety procedures.

Following the manufacturer’s guidelines and weight restrictions is crucial. Every telehandler has designated limits that ensure stability and safety when lifting loads. Overloading or improper balancing can lead to accidents and machine tipping.

Checking blind spots before and during operation helps prevent collisions. Telehandlers, like many large pieces of machinery, have significant blind spots that can hide nearby workers or obstacles. Operators should always be aware of their surroundings and use spotters or camera systems when available.

Organizing work projects to minimize interactions between the telehandler and ground personnel reduces the risk of accidents. Creating clear zones of operation and ensuring ground personnel are aware of the telehandler’s movements can significantly enhance site safety.

Wearing a seat belt while operating a telehandler may seem basic, yet it’s a critical safety measure. In the event of sudden stops or machine tipping, a seat belt can prevent serious injury to the operator.

Lastly, it’s essential to acknowledge that telehandlers should not transport individuals using skid steer attachments or other improvised methods. These machines are not designed for carrying passengers, and doing so poses a significant safety hazard.

To drive a telehandler on public roads, registration and licensing are required. Taking proper steps to legally and safely transport a telehandler ensures compliance with road safety regulations and reduces the risks associated with moving large machinery.

Adhering to these best practices for safe operation significantly contributes to a safer work environment, optimizes telehandler use, and maintains the focus on achieving operational goals efficiently and safely.

Who Should Rent a Telehandler

Understanding telehandlers is key for industries aiming to boost efficiency and safety in their operations. Whether you’re in construction, agriculture, or logistics, renting a telehandler can significantly contribute to your project’s success. With a variety of models from top manufacturers like JCB and Caterpillar, there’s a telehandler to fit every need. However, it’s not just about having the right equipment; knowing how to use it safely is paramount. Adhering to safe operation practices, including proper training and respecting weight limits, ensures not only the safety of operators but also the longevity of the equipment. So, if your project demands versatility and you prioritize safety, renting a telehandler could be the game-changer you need.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a telehandler?

A telehandler, or telescopic handler, is a multi-purpose lifting machine commonly used in construction, agriculture, and industry. It can lift, move, and place materials with high precision and versatility, thanks to its extendable boom.

How has the telehandler evolved over the years?

The telehandler’s design has evolved significantly, with advancements in technology leading to increased reach, lifting capacity, and versatility. Manufacturers have incorporated computer-aided control systems, improved safety features, and a wider range of attachments, making telehandlers more adaptable to various tasks and environments.

What industries benefit most from using telehandlers?

Telehandlers are particularly beneficial in construction, agriculture, logistics, and oil and gas industries. Their versatility and efficiency in handling materials make them indispensable for projects requiring high maneuverability and precision.

Why is safety training important for telehandler operation?

Proper safety training is crucial for telehandler operators to understand machine capacities, operating principles, and safety practices. It helps minimize the risk of accidents, ensures compliance with regulations, and maximizes the efficiency and longevity of the equipment.

Can a telehandler transport people?

Telehandlers should not be used to transport people unless they are equipped with a securely attached and certified personnel basket. The operator must follow strict safety protocols and guidelines to ensure the safe transportation of individuals.

How do different models of telehandlers cater to project needs?

Manufacturers like JCB, Bobcat, Caterpillar, and JLG offer a variety of telehandler models with unique features and capabilities. These range from compact designs for tight spaces to high-capacity models for heavy lifting, ensuring there is a telehandler suitable for virtually any project requirement.

What are the key safety measures for operating a telehandler?

Key safety measures include proper training, adhering to weight restrictions, checking blind spots, efficient work project organization, wearing seat belts, avoiding unauthorized transportation of individuals, and complying with road safety regulations. These practices are essential for a secure work environment and optimal telehandler operation.

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