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Take a Second Look

March 22, 2014
By: Dan Crummett , Farm Journal
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This year, New Holland will introduce its second generation of ag telehandlers, enhancing cab comforts and lift ability to handle hay and feed.  

New telehandlers built for capacity, steering and speed

After a somewhat ill-fated start in the North American ag equipment market 15 years ago, telehandlers are getting a second look from farmers who swore they’d never have another one.

In the 1990s, a number of farmers took advantage of bargain prices on used telehandlers from the construction rental industry. The machines were primarily designed to lift pallets and were bulky, heavy and slow. 

Early ag machines were designed for European markets, sporting small cabs and inconvenient control panels. The air-conditioning systems good enough for Europe couldn’t keep up in the heat of summer in the U.S. Small buckets and limited lift capacity didn’t fare well with U.S. farmers, either. There was that annoying cycle-time problem of having to power down the boom once the load was dumped (similar to a tractor and front-end loader).

"Those problems didn’t gain the telehandler many fans in the U.S.," says David Wagner, New Holland 

Agriculture’s brand market manager. "In fact, the problems drove away customers to the point telehandler sales have never taken off here as they have in Europe."

That’s all changing, Wagner says. Today’s ag-specific telehandlers are built for capacity, steerability and speed.

Take two. "The new machines have ergonomically designed cabs and controls aimed at North American pro­ducers. They have air-conditioning sys­tems that will keep the all-glass cabs comfortable even on an August day in the Great Plains. They have lift capacities in the 9,000-lb. range and booms that will take service that most Europeans would consider ‘abuse’," Wagner explains.

When some major manufacturers left the telehandler market several years ago, that sent signals to North American farmers that "telehandlers must not be a good idea," says Ray Bingley, ag products sales manager for UK-based JCB. He and Wagner both disagree with that assumption.

Sales figures also indicate there’s life in the telehandler market with Americans buying about 1,000 ag-specific machines per year, compared with 400 to 500 units per year in the late 1990s.

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An engine on one side, driver on the other and boom up the middle is indicative of the JCB design for agricultural telehandlers.

Wagner says material handling is why folks buy skid steers, wheel loaders and telehandlers. 

"If you’re running a huge operation with lots of space, you’re probably happy with one or more wheel loaders," Wagner explains. "If you’re a smaller-scale operation with small stalls to clean, then more than likely you’re already committed to skid steers, or a fleet of them."

But if you’re in that 60% to 70% of the market that isn’t locked into larger wheel loaders or smaller skid steers, Bingley and Wagner say the new telehandler could be a wise choice. The telehandler serves many uses because of its ability to lift more and higher than a skid steer, as well as attach to a variety of tools.

Bingley says of the roughly 20,000 tractors sold in the U.S. each year, half of them are for field work with some loading chores. The other half are primarily sold with loaders to do material handling—and that’s where the telehandler has a chance to increase its market share.

"A modern telehandler will handle loads up to 9,000 lb. with a much larger bucket than a skid steer," Bingley notes. "The telehandler is like a Swiss Army knife when you add multiple sized buckets for feed and manure."

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Early Spring 2014

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