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Tips for Telehandler Operation & Training

Expert Q&A - Sep 21

Tips for Telehandler Operation & Training

Jennifer Stiansen
Director of Marketing
JLG Industries

It’s often said, and it’s worth repeating — telehandlers are typically the first machines on the job site and the last to leave. From the initial phases of a large construction project, where the machines can be found unloading trucks and delivering materials, to the closing stages, where they can be utilized for job site cleanup and landscaping.

Because they play such a big role in getting work done, JLG’s Rick Smith, Senior Director of Global Product Training, and John Boehme, Senior Product Manager, offered up these tips for best practices in telehandler operation and training.

At A Glance Tele Tips

What training is required to operate a telehandler? What about to become a certified operator? 

Smith: Telehandlers are covered in the Powered Industrial Truck 1910.178 regulations mandated by OSHA (see: 1910.178 - Powered industrial trucks. | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov)). 

Per OSHA, training shall consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, video tape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator's performance in the workplace. And, all operator training and evaluation shall be conducted by persons who have the knowledge, training, and experience to train powered industrial truck operators and evaluate their competence.

Training, per OSHA, must include:

  • Operating instructions, warnings, and precautions for the types of truck the operator will be authorized to operate
  • Differences between the truck and the automobile;
  • Truck controls and instrumentation: where they are located, what they do, and how they work;
  • Engine or motor operation;
  • Steering and maneuvering;
  • Visibility (including restrictions due to loading);
  • Fork and attachment adaptation, operation, and use limitations;
  • Vehicle capacity;
  • Vehicle stability;
  • Any vehicle inspection and maintenance that the operator will be required to perform;
  • Refueling and/or charging and recharging of batteries;
  • Operating limitations;
  • Any other operating instructions, warnings, or precautions listed in the operator's manual for the types of vehicle that the employee is being trained to operate.
  • Surface conditions where the vehicle will be operated;
  • Composition of loads to be carried and load stability;
  • Load manipulation, stacking, and unstacking;
  • Pedestrian traffic in areas where the vehicle will be operated;
  • Narrow aisles and other restricted places where the vehicle will be operated;
  • Hazardous (classified) locations where the vehicle will be operated;
  • Ramps and other sloped surfaces that could affect the vehicle's stability;
  • Closed environments and other areas where insufficient ventilation or poor vehicle maintenance could cause a buildup of carbon monoxide or diesel exhaust;
  • Other unique or potentially hazardous environmental conditions in the workplace that could affect safe operation.

These training regulations encompass all sizes and classifications of telehandler.

Regulations also require that once an operator is trained and certified to operate a telehandler, operators must be observed annually, and reevaluated once every three years to maintain their operating certification.

That said, ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation (ITSDF) have developed safety standards for these machines, addressed in B56.6 (see: ANSI/ITSDF B56.6-2016 - Safety Standard for Rough Terrain Forklift Trucks). Standards compliance is voluntary, whereas compliance to OSHA’s regulations is mandatory by law.

Who offers telehandler training/certification programs?

Smith: Many telehandler OEMs, including JLG, and rental houses offer telehandler training and certification programs. JLG’s AccessReady™ training program (see: AccessReady Telehandler & Aerial Lift Training | JLG) meets all published OSHA and ANSI specifications for proper telehandler training so operators can walk onto the job site knowing they have the right credentials. And, AccessReady trainers can train operators on both JLG and non-JLG equipment, so they can be successful no matter what.

What operational advice would you offer to someone operating a telehandler? 

Boehme: Telehandlers are able to complete so many different tasks on job sites, like loading (and unloading), picking up, carrying around, moving from place to place, lifting and placing materials and tools. This flexibility means that these versatile machines are often one of the most highly utilized machines on a job site. Because of this, the best advice for every telehandler operator, no matter the size of the machine he/she is using, is that you can’t wing it — you must be properly trained and certified under OSHA regulations, and you must fully understand the capabilities of the machine you are using, especially how what you need to accomplish applies to the telehandler’s load chart. 

This includes (but is not limited to) knowing the following:
• The type of material to be lifted and how much it weighs;
• How high the material needs to be lifted;
• How far the machine needs to reach to get the materials into place;
• What attachments you will be using and the proper load chart for each;

In addition, it is important for operators to know specifics about the job site, such as on what type of surface(s) will the machine will be operating, as well as how much space is available to operate the machine in.

Please break down some best practices for operating a telehandler. 

Boehme: Since telehandlers also have the unique potential to extend those materials away from the vehicle with the telescoping boom, it is best practice for the machine operator to know that the material it’s lifting, placing or carrying with pallet forks (or when using any attachment) is within the rated capability of the unit. Understanding the elements that go into the successful placement of a load are vital to effectively using a telehandler.

One of the resources you need to consult before using a telehandler is the machine’s load capacity chart. Every telehandler is equipped with one for each of the different attachments it can support, such as a fork carriage, bucket or truss boom. The load capacity chart highlights two key elements: 1) A telehandler’s operating range and 2) it’s operating envelope. 

  • The operating range of the telehandler reflects minimum and maximum boom angles, as well as fully retracted and extended boom positions. 
  • The operating envelope is located relative to the load center position of the attachment being used. 

To effectively utilize the load capacity chart, you must initially determine some basic criteria:

  • The weight of the product or material being elevated
  • Desired height or reach that needs to be achieved
  • The model’s load capabilities 

Once equipped with this information, the load capacity chart will provide you with guidance that will allow you to confidently utilize your telehandler. 

When using a telehandler to lift materials into place, what advice can be shared for the approach?

Boehme: As mentioned above, the two of the most important aspects of telehandler operation, especially when preparing to lift material into place, it is important to know 1) how much weight needs to be lifted and 2) how high the load needs to be lifted. Like larger models, compact telehandlers are generally categorized by maximum lift capacity and/or maximum lift height, and the equipment is rented (or sold) based on these key attributes. But contractors can’t assume a higher lift capacity means the unit has a greater maximum lift height. Some models will be designed to lift heavier loads at lower heights. 

What should operators be aware of when operating a telehandler?

Boehme: Before using a telehandler, it is also important for operators to walk the job site to be aware of their surroundings before operating the equipment. For example, operators should know what and where obstacles and/or potential hazards are. And, they should check on these obstacles regularly as job site conditions change frequently. Also, operators should investigate their route before operating a telehandler to see what the ground conditions are, where any power lines are locate and where people may be, as well as what other equipment may be in the machine’s travel path.

How can operators safely road from jobsite to jobsite with their telehandler? 

Smith: When traveling from job site to job site with a telehandler, it is important for telehandler operators to obey all of the traffic rules and/or laws that apply to the road they are traveling on – same as if an operator was traveling the same path in an automobile. Also, any telehandler going on the road should be properly equipped with road lights, including headlights, brake lights and turn signals. And when driving on the road, operators should make sure the telehandler is used in front-wheel steer mode.

What new technologies or aids are available to assist telehandler operators? 

Boehme: Technologies are changing today’s worksites — and shaping the worksite of tomorrow.  You can see examples of this in the latest telehandler features introduced in the market, which are specifically designed to improve equipment productivity, increase operator confidence and enhance job site safety.

For example, telehandlers equipped with a Load Stability Indication (LSI) system can aid operators by helping them to remain within the forward load capacity of the telehandler. 

Although not specific to telehandlers, digital solutions are also expanding for use during the initial design and planning stages through finish work. These solutions are making job sites more efficient. Some examples include BIM libraries and augmented reality apps, which can help rental companies and contractors plan for and select the right equipment for the work at hand.

Also, advancements in back-up camera technology, like a multi-reverse camera system, can help operators see more on the backside of the machine. Giving operators more confidence when backing up, this feature increases job site awareness by displaying multiple views from behind the machine — left, right, and rear.

Finally, advancements in boom control technology, such as remote boom control, enables operators to control the telehandler’s boom from outside the cab. This feature provides operators with improved visibility during load placement.

How are telematics playing a role in telehandler usage?

Boehme: There are a multitude of trends impacting design, development, features, functions and benefits of construction equipment, including telehandlers. One such trend is connectivity. IoT is changing how we develop equipment and how equipment interacts with each other, operators and technicians. For operators and owners, equipment is becoming more connected, allowing it to provide valuable data throughout the workday for decision making and planning purposes. The JLG ClearSky™ fleet management telematics solution is available on telehandlers, providing equipment owners and operators access to critical engine and equipment operational data, including location, engine hours, usage, fuel and battery levels, and maintenance schedules. 

Are autonomous technologies being integrated into the latest telehandlers?

Boehme: A fully autonomous job site may be in the distant future, but telehandlers users are embracing “moments of autonomy” through their already connected devices. For example, augmented reality (AR) apps can make machine selection more intuitive, and AR apps can also help with machine visualization to better understand how telehandlers can be used around job sites. 

Virtual reality (VR) programs that can assist in operator training, and building information modeling (BIM) also aids with machine visualization because models look and act as the real equipment would on the job.

In the telehandler market, increasing operator confidence and productivity on job sites are the biggest drivers with the introduction of new features and technologies for these machines. There are always jobs to be done, and JLG continues to look at ways that these machines can help operators do more work, as well as help operators be more effective and efficient in the work they have to do. 

For details on JLG® telehandler training offerings, click here. To learn more about the JLG telehandler product line-up, visit here.

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