Can a rotating telehandler replace a crane?

By Lindsey AndersonSeptember 01, 2021

Rotating telehandlers have been around for a while, primarily in Europe, where space on job sites is generally more limited than it is in the U.S. But these versatile machines are becoming a solid choice for getting work done as more contractors in tight urban areas see the benefits rotators offer.

We spoke with Gary Weisman (Magni Telescopic Handlers), Austin Bailey (AMS-Merlo) and Steve Kiskunas (Manitou) to find out what to expect in the future.

How do you see demand for rotating telehandlers shaping up in 2022?

Weisman: Magni’s growth in 2021 vs. 2020 will be well over 100%, and we expect to continue this blistering pace in 2022. Our dealers have experienced excellent growth with Magni and continue to invest in inventory, training and sales efforts. In the coming months Magni will be bringing online a new factory in Italy, which will triple our output worldwide. This will support our continued growth in the United States.

Bailey: Traditionally, rotos are heavily used in dense urban markets where space that would be needed for crane usage is at a high premium such as Raleigh, Charlotte, Boston, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Atlanta and many of the Florida coast cities. We are also seeing usage growth where space is not a premium in and near the Permian Basin as well as areas in the Gulf Coast.

The list of applications for rotating telehandlers is ever-growing, but some of the more popular ones include new builds of distribution and data centers, hospitals, chemical plants and refineries, apartment complexes and general construction that require a telehandler with a reach beyond the capabilities of say a normal 10,000-lb capacity, 56-foot reach machine. Maintenance and upgrades to existing buildings is seeing roto usage growth, also.

Kiskunas: Rotating telehandlers currently serve two very specific job site needs: material placement in confined areas and material

The Manitou MRT 2260 telehandler

placement above 56-foot heights.

For the first, the rotating telehandler can be placed in one spot. With the rotating feature, unload trucks, stage materials and place those materials on the site without needing to reposition the machine.

For the second, rotating telehandlers can both lift higher and reach further than conventional telescopic handlers. These two features place most rotating telehandlers on urban job sites, where their efficient operation and greater working range is needed.

What are the biggest trends in rotating telehandlers?

Weisman: The biggest trend in the industry is end-users’ desire to lift safer, higher and heavier. Magni is the industry leader for all of these.

With industry-leading technology including full LMI standard for all machine models, several models with lift heights exceeding 100 feet (topping off at 167 feet) and capacities from 11,000 lbs to 28,600 lbs, Magni delivers what others cannot.

Training has become a primary focus for Magni. We have invested heavily in creating world-class training for both our dealers and end-user customers. This includes the development of an LMS online learning platform and training videos for end users.

Magni recently partnered with the IUOE (International Union of Operating Engineers) and are working with them to develop a rotating telehandler training program at their national training facility.

Magni has raised the bar for rotating telehandlers by replacing several machines with one, which offers the ability to do most of the work that a crane can do without the permits and crane operator, and our enhanced safety features.

Rotating telehandlers, such as this Magni unit, can be fixed with personnel baskets, transforming them from pick-and-place machines to mobile elvating work platforms.

Bailey: The 20-degree tilting cab, as well as the more intuitive safety features on the Merlo line of rotating telehandlers, has helped to increase the Roto’s usage across industries. We are seeing contractors designating two to three operators for the machine on the job site.

This kind of personnel placement ensures less downtime due to training on the machine, more uptime in machine productivity. It also increases the safe operation of the unit on job sites, as these machines are increasingly being utilized by different subcontractors with different attachment needs.

Crane replacement is a given on jobs that ask for high lift, but not needing huge capacity, especially when job site geography is very tight. On the flip side we are seeing an increase in demand for higher weight capacity machines, which in a number of instances can also replace crane usage.

Kiskunas: Rotating telehandlers continue to push into higher material placement heights. As an example, Manitou Group launched the new MRT 3570 unit in April 2021 with 114-foot maximum lifting height.

OSHA has regulations [for rotating telehandlers] when used as cranes with loads over 2,000 pounds. We also are starting to see an impact on the industry in the U.S. from the enforcement of the new OSHA Crane Standard. A certified crane operator may be required for those rotating telehandlers operating with suspended loads over 2,000 lbs.

Rotating telehandlers are not designed as cranes, however, the broad definition that OSHA uses for their evaluation places most rotating rough-terrain forklifts into the crane regulations when using a hook attachment.

What machine changes/updates can we expect in the coming years for rotating telehandlers?

Weisman: We are continually focused on safety and functionality, so you can expect to see enhancements in these areas. There is a move towards sustainable and environmentally friendly rotating telehandlers, which will include electric-powered rotators.

Magni already has available a twin-energy hybrid electric power option. In the next year Magni will make the switch to Tier 5 final engines, another step towards more sustainable solutions.

Bailey: As these machines become more common on job sites, operator and job site safety should also increase. Merlo already has taken these points and run with them. There are tilting cabs, a boom for the operator plus Merlo upgraded to the more intuitive safety system of the ACSC.

And Rotos now have a SMART arm rest and joystick, which reacts to the presence of an operator’s hands in relation to the machine controls.

Kiskunas: We expect customers will continue to see machine upgrades as the rotating telehandlers continue to adapt to the needs of contractors using the product. We also expect new and updated attachments to be introduced, as these work tools provide greater efficiency when matching the application and tasks to the right attachments.

With a machine that combines fork material handling with suspended load handling and work platform use, the opportunity for attachments that combine these three functions exist – such as the Manitou work platform with winch attachment.

What is the most-recent rotating telehandler your company introduced? 

Weisman: Magni recently reintroduced several models with higher lifting capacities. Examples of these include the RTH 6.25 (13,200 lb capacity, 82 foot height), RTH 7.26 (15,400 lb capacity, 85 foot height) and the RTH 6.51 (13,200 lb capacity, 167 foot height).

Bailey: Earlier this year we added the R70.28 SPLUS rotator to our fleet. This unit has it all with a tilting cab, the intuitive ASCS safety system, ergonomic cab with SMART controls, two horizontal joysticks and Merlo’s 360-degree view from the cab.

It is very compact, even with the independent stabilizers fully extended (20ft 7in). What it has done for us is create its own demand with a heavy-duty rotator whose maximum operating capacity of 15,400 lbs can lift 6,600 lbs up to 92 feet.

Kiskunas: Our entire line of rotating telehandlers has been redesigned and updated with new operator features, increased capacities and higher lift heights. 

Our brand new Vision and Vision Plus rotating telehandlers will include a number of industry firsts – one innovation is a falling object protection structure that is clear for 100% unobstructed vision.

The MRT Vision Plus range of rotating telescopic handlers will replace the MRT Privilege Plus range, with the availability of more powerful models in terms of capacity, visibility and comfort. The MRT Vision Plus telehandlers are ideal for all industrial and construction applications.

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