Drive past any multi-story building construction site and you can’t help but notice telehandlers in action. At first glance, these souped-up forklifts seem to be ill-equipped for landscaping installation jobs. But upon closer inspect, they offer landscapers many advantages that aren’t immediately obvious to a casual observer.
Often referred to as rough-terrain forklifts, a telehandler’s primary function is the delivery of palletized construction materials to elevated work areas. But the four, large, equal-sized tires the machines are fitted with and their four-wheel-drive capability offer outstanding traction and flotation in muddy conditions. Even better, many telehandlers give operators a choice of three different steering modes, each with its own inherent advantages on jobsites.
In conventional steering mode, the telehandler steers just like your family car. Toggle a rocker switch on the dash, however, and you can opt for either crab- or four-wheel steering modes. Four-wheel steering, as its name suggests, allows all four wheels to coordinate their articulation to provide unsurpassed maneuverability combined with an incredibly tight turning radius. Crab steer allows all four wheels to steer in parallel tracks, allowing the machine to move at angles of up to 45 degrees off the nose of the machine. Both steering modes are tremendously helpful when working in tight conditions.
Dig a hole and plant a tree with a single machine
Bobcat prefers to call its telehandler product line “VersaHandlers.” And Bobcat marketing manager Bryan Zent says they are ideally suited for landscaping applications. “These are compact, agile machines capable of performing a variety of light construction tasks,” he explains. “Fitted with a standard bucket, you can capitalize on their inherent heavy lift capacity and long reach when loading, unloading and transporting plants and loose material such as fill, topsoil, gravel, rock or mulch.”
The bucket can be used to dig, grade and level as well, Zent notes. At the same time, the machine’s extendable boom allows the VersaHandler to reach areas that other equipment may not be able to access – and not just for vertical placement. A telehandler’s boom can be used to reach over and across sensitive surfaces – freshly seeded lawns, for example – and deliver loads such as blocks or bricks to crews.
Attachment use is another bonus telehandlers bring to landscaping installation jobs. “Pallet forks are obvious,” Zent says. “They can be used to load, unload and place pallets of sod or patio pavers. Pallet forks can also be used with a sling to transport and place trees – after you use an auger to dig the hole for the tree, of course.”
Start looking at other attachments and telehandlers’ full capabilities become apparent. Grapples can pick up and place materials such as rock for retaining walls, while a combination bucket can also be used to load, unload and transport loose materials, pick up and place materials, as well as doze, level and dig to prepare a site.
“Bobcat’s Brushcat rotary cutter can clear a site of brush and small trees, leaving behind mulch that can be worked back into the soil with a tiller attachment,” Zent adds. “Then, a landscape rake is the perfect ground preparation finishing tool. It rakes and collects surface debris while smoothing and leveling the soil. If you’re installing irrigation systems, a trencher attachment is just the thing. And, at the end of the day, the landscaper can clean up the jobsite with a powered angle broom, leaving the client with a clean driveway, parking lot, or sidewalk.”