A telehandler, short for "telescopic handler", is also commonly referred to as a reach forklift or a "zoom-boom". Telehandlers are lifting vehicles meant to handle pallets and other materials where extended reach and lift power is required, by the use of an adjustable pallet fork is attached to a hydraulic, telescoping boom arm. This assembly is usually attached atop a mobile base that allow the telehandler to be repositioned easily. Telehandlers simultaneously offer the benefits of a pallet forklift's lift capacity and the extended reach of a telescoping crane.
Telehandlers can lift various types of loads and handle diverse work situations by simply changing the boom arm attachment from the typical pallet fork to a crane hitch or winch, lift hook, bucket or even work platform attachments. As such they not only allow heavy loads to be lifted and moved but can also allow work to be performed in positions where suitably stable footing at an elevated position might be otherwise impossible to obtain and additional lift capacity and vertical reach might be required compared to something like a scissor lift. They are also generally easier to operate than something like a boom lift.
Telehandlers are very versatile, high utility machines that can be deployed wherever a combination of heavy lift and hoist capacity and extended vertical reach are required. They offer the combined benefits of a forklift, a crane and an aerial work platform. They are used for loading and unloading trucks that are transporting pallets. They can also be used for general debris removal and clearing heavy road obstructions. With the correct attachments they can also be used to clear snow. They are also commonly used to lift work platforms to provide access for work to be done at some otherwise inaccessible elevated position and can thus be used in a broad variety of applications like painting, tree trimming, servicing signs and billboards, establishing scaffolding for further work, accessing utility and repairing construction lines.
There are different types of telehandlers that offer a variety of features of configurations.
Telehandlers can offer either a fixed or rotating boom arm. Fixed arm assemblies are simpler and more compact; the cab is fixed and usually oriented parallel to the vehicle base. These can generally perform the basic lift and hoist functions but in order to readjust the arm's horizontal position, the operator must reposition the vehicle itself. By contrast rotating telehandlers offer a full additional degree of freedom, allowing for much easier and more flexible positioning by allowing the cab to be rotated independently of the orientation of the base vehicle.
Telehandlers can use air filled, foam filled or solid rubber core tires depending on the terrain they will be operating one. Air filled tires are the most all-round useful for general purpose work applications and are relatively economical. Foam filled tires are immune to being disabled by punctures to the contact surface as they are contain a polymer foam that provides support rather than pressurized air and can be somewhat more expensive. Solid rubber tires are also essentially immune to puncture and have superior durability but come at a far greater price than either of the other two types.
Telehandler arms can vary in minimum and maximum extension as well as maximum load capacity. Smaller, lighter duty telehandlers are cheaper to operate and maintain but might struggle with handling more demanding tasks outside of more general purpose work applications. For larger loads and greater elevations, a heavy lift and long reach telehandler will be required and depending on your average use case, it can make more sense to opt for a machine with a higher peak capacity so that you can avoid being caught unprepared by demanding edge cases.