What is a Telehandler?

Ausdirect telehandler in tunnel on site

This blog post will delve into the fascinating world of telehandlers. These powerful machines, also known as boom lifts, play a crucial role in various industries, including construction, agriculture, and more. We’ll explore what a telehandler is, its history, key components, different types, and how it works. Additionally, we’ll look at the varied applications of telehandlers across diverse industries and discuss the benefits they offer.

Importance and Usage of Telehandlers in Various Industries

Telehandlers are celebrated for their versatility and ability to lift heavy loads, making them indispensable in many sectors. They are particularly prevalent in the agricultural industry but have gained significant traction in other areas like construction.

Their fuel efficiency and simplicity make them cost-effective, reducing operating costs and training requirements. With a variety of attachments available, telehandlers can tackle a wide range of tasks beyond their primary function, including cleaning up worksites.

One of the key features of telehandlers is their increased reach, which enhances productivity and saves time. This adaptability and functionality have made telehandlers a staple in diverse industries, streamlining tasks and enhancing efficiency.

In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into the intricacies of these machines, shedding light on why they’re such valuable assets in today’s modern industries.

Definition of a Telehandler

A telehandler, also known as a telescopic handler, is a versatile and robust machine designed for lifting and moving heavy loads in various environments. Equipped with a boom — a large arm that can extend forwards and upwards — a telehandler can reach heights and distances that other machines can not. At the end of the boom, various attachments can be fitted, depending on the task at hand; these may include buckets, forks, muck grabs, or lift tables.

Telehandlers are typically powered by a diesel engine, and their size can vary significantly, from compact models used in agriculture to larger ones used in construction and industrial settings.

How a Telehandler Varies from Other Similar Machines

While telehandlers might appear similar to forklifts or cranes at first glance, they possess unique features that set them apart. Unlike a forklift, designed to lift loads at close range and transport them over short distances, a telehandler’s boom allows it to reach much farther horizontally and vertically. This makes telehandlers ideal for placing loads on high platforms or roofs.

Compared to cranes, telehandlers offer greater flexibility and maneuverability. While cranes excel at lifting extremely heavy loads to great heights, they’re generally stationary and require time to set up and dismantle. In contrast, telehandlers can move around job sites quickly and easily, making them more suitable for tasks that require mobility.

While telehandlers share some characteristics with other machines, their unique combination of reach, versatility, and mobility sets them apart, making them invaluable in a wide range of industries.

History of Telehandlers

The telehandler, originally known as a telescopic forklift, was first invented in 1977 by JCB. This innovative machine combined the functionalities of a forklift, backhoe, and crane into one versatile piece of equipment, marking a significant shift in the industry.

Before the invention of the telehandler, industries relied on a combination of different machines to carry out tasks that a single telehandler can now accomplish. The development of the telehandler was driven primarily by the need for a high-reaching machine, especially in the agriculture industry.

In 1959, Legrand “shorty” Lull created the Lull telehandler in Minnesota, laying the foundation for the modern telehandler. His company, Lull Engineering Inc., established in 1963, was instrumental in the evolution of these machines.

Over the years, telehandler technology has seen numerous advancements. In 2010, a high-speed telescopic forklift was developed, representing a continuation and development of traditional telehandler designs.

One of the significant milestones in telehandler technology was the launch of Manitou’s first MRT rotating telescopic handler. The MRT 1540 could rotate 360°, showcasing a new level of flexibility and functionality in telehandler design.

Today, telehandlers are widely used in various industries, from agriculture to construction, thanks to their versatility, reach, and power. As technology continues to advance, we can expect to see further innovations in telehandler design and capabilities, enhancing their value in modern industries.

Components of a Telehandler

Understanding the different parts of a telehandler can help you appreciate its functionality and versatility. Below, we will discuss the key components of a telehandler and their primary functions.

The Engine

The engine is the heart of the telehandler. It powers the machine and enables it to perform various tasks. Most telehandlers use diesel engines due to their durability and high torque output, which are crucial for heavy-duty applications.

The Boom

The boom is arguably the most distinctive feature of a telehandler. It’s a large, extendable arm that provides the telehandler with its impressive reach, both vertically and horizontally. Depending on the model, some booms can extend up to 30 meters or more. It’s this component that allows the telehandler to lift loads to significant heights or distances.

The Turret

The turret is the rotating part of the telehandler where the boom is mounted. It allows the boom to swivel left and right, providing the machine with additional flexibility and maneuverability. Some models can rotate their turret up to 360 degrees.

The Forks

The forks are the standard attachment at the end of the boom and are used primarily for lifting and moving palletised loads. They function similarly to the forks on a forklift but can reach much higher and farther thanks to the telehandler’s boom.


One of the unique features of telehandlers is their ability to use various attachments, enhancing their versatility. These attachments are fitted at the end of the boom and can be quickly swapped out depending on the task at hand. Some common attachments include:

  • Buckets: Used for scooping, lifting, and transporting loose materials like gravel, sand, or soil.
  • Muck Grabs: Used in agriculture for handling manure or silage.
  • Lift Tables: Used for lifting workers to significant heights, effectively turning the telehandler into a mobile elevated work platform.

In summary, each component of a telehandler plays a crucial role in its operation, allowing it to perform a wide range of tasks across various industries.

Types of Telehandlers

Telehandlers come in various types and sizes, each designed to meet the specific needs of different industries. Below are some of the main categories based on industry usage:


Agricultural telehandlers, also known as farm handlers or agri handlers, are typically compact and maneuverable, designed to navigate narrow spaces and rough terrains commonly found in farms. They are often used for tasks such as lifting and moving bales of hay, handling livestock feed, or loading and unloading supplies.

Key features of agricultural telehandlers may include a low boom design for better visibility, hydrostatic transmission for smooth and precise control, and a wide range of attachments like bale spikes, buckets, or muck grabs.


Construction telehandlers are larger and more robust, designed to handle heavy loads and reach significant heights. They are often used to lift and place construction materials, assist in building assembly, or serve as mobile elevated work platforms.

Features of construction telehandlers often include powerful engines, long-reaching booms, four-wheel drive for navigating uneven terrains, and a variety of attachments like lift tables, buckets, or jib extensions.


Industrial telehandlers are designed for heavy-duty applications in warehouses, factories, or shipping yards. They are usually equipped with high-capacity engines and reinforced structures to lift and move heavy loads over significant distances.

Industrial telehandlers may feature enclosed cabs for operator comfort and safety, advanced precision-control load management systems, and specialised attachments like container handlers or coil rams.


Mining telehandlers are designed to operate in harsh and challenging environments. They are typically rugged and durable, with features designed to withstand dust, debris, and extreme temperatures.

Mining telehandlers often include reinforced structures for durability, high ground clearance for navigating rough terrains, dust suppression systems to protect the engine and operator, and specialised attachments like rock buckets or drill rod handlers.

While all telehandlers share a common design and function, different types are tailored to meet the unique demands of various industries, showcasing the versatility and adaptability of these machines.

How a Telehandler Works

A telehandler operates on the principles of hydraulics and leverage. The engine provides the power, which is transferred to the hydraulic pumps. These pumps control the movement of hydraulic fluid, which in turn powers the boom and any attached implements.

Operational Mechanism

When the operator pushes the control levers, they activate the hydraulic pumps. The pumps then force hydraulic fluid through the system, causing the pistons inside the boom’s cylinders to move. This motion extends or retracts the boom, depending on the direction of fluid flow.

The forks or other attachments at the end of the boom are also controlled hydraulically. They can be tilted up or down to secure loads and prevent them from slipping off during lifting or transporting.

Telehandlers often feature four-wheel steering for enhanced maneuverability. Depending on the task and environment, the operator can choose between front-wheel, all-wheel, or crab steering.

Safety Measures and Precautions

Operating a telehandler requires training and awareness of safety measures. Here are some key precautions:

  • Load Limit Adherence: Overloading can lead to tipping or mechanical failure. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s specified load limit and never attempt to lift a load heavier than this limit.
  • Stability: Ensure the telehandler is on stable ground before lifting a load. Uneven surfaces can affect the machine’s balance and increase the risk of tipping.
  • Visibility: The operator should always have a clear view of the load and surrounding area. If visibility is compromised, use a spotter to guide the operation.
  • Regular Inspections: Before each use, inspect the telehandler for any signs of damage or wear. Regular maintenance checks are crucial to ensure the machine’s safety and efficiency.
  • Proper Training: Only trained and certified operators should use a telehandler. Understanding the machine’s operation and safety features is essential for safe use.

A telehandler works by converting engine power into hydraulic power, which controls the boom and attachments. Safe operation requires adherence to load limits, stability, visibility, regular inspections, and proper training.


In this post, we’ve deeply explored telehandlers, examining their key components, different types, and how they operate. We’ve seen how the engine powers the machine, how the boom provides impressive reach, and how the turret and forks add to its versatility. 

We’ve also looked at the various attachments that can be used to adapt the telehandler to specific tasks.

We’ve explored the different types of telehandlers available, each tailored to the unique needs of industries such as agriculture, construction, industrial operations, and mining. Each type has features and capabilities that make it well-suited to the tasks and environments it is designed for.

The operational mechanism of a telehandler was also discussed, highlighting the crucial role of hydraulics and leverage in its function. Safety measures and precautions were outlined, emphasising the importance of load limit adherence, stability, visibility, regular inspections, and proper training.

Thanks to their versatility and adaptability, telehandlers have become essential machines in today’s modern industries. They can perform a wide range of tasks, from lifting heavy loads to reaching significant heights, making them invaluable assets on job sites.

The telehandler is a versatile and powerful machine that plays a critical role in many industries. We can use it more effectively and safely by understanding its components, types, and operational mechanisms.

If you would like to speak with one of our expert team members, they are looking forward to chatting with you!

Share the Post:

Related Posts