1. BigRentz
  2. Think Big Blog
  3. What Is a Telehandler? Definition and Uses

What Is a Telehandler? Definition and Uses

What Is a Telehandler? Definition and Uses

A telescopic handler, or telehandler, is a hydraulic lifting machine used to carry and place heavy materials. Sometimes called boom lifts, they move loads with a crane-like tool called a boom. Operators fix attachments to the end of their boom to hold different materials. An attachment’s design suits the kind of load it’s built to carry, such as forks for pallets or buckets for soil.

Some operators call telehandlers a combination of forklifts and cranes. Not only do they transport goods across a work site, but telehandlers’ booms let them move with greater precision and flexibility. No other device can haul thousands of pounds with the same degree of maneuverability. Investing in one machine that does the work of several helps teams stay within a project’s budget.

Explore All Telehandlers

What Is a Telehandler Used For?

3/4 view of telehandler

Operators rely on a telehandler’s flexibility to carry different types of loads. By using different attachments, booms will haul various materials across the same workspace. And thanks to their precise movements, operators can lift materials above and around obstacles in a cramped space. They even remain level on uneven ground and when off-road.

Because of their advantages, telehandlers are a cost-effective tool in construction and agriculture. Telehandler operators keep each industry’s needs in mind when selecting attachments. Forks lift pallets and raw materials across uneven terrain on construction projects, and buckets reach into hoppers and high-sided trailers in the agriculture sector.

Difference Between Forklifts and Telehandlers

Forklifts offer less flexibility and a much narrower range of motion. Forklifts can only lift materials a few feet off the ground and drive them across a flat surface. Conversely, telehandlers stay level on rough terrain, but they can lift cargo without moving their base. Telehandlers can also move at diagonal angles and place loads at a higher elevation.

What Are the Benefits of a Telehandler?

Telehandlers provide benefits no other device can match. While they perform some of the same functions as forklifts and cranes, their design features greater versatility. Most industrial machinery is at its most useful under specific conditions. However, telehandlers play a valuable role in a wide variety of situations.

Different Attachments

Depending on their industry, operators may have to carry different materials in a single day. Whether it’s pallets or soil, they need a different tool to carry each load. This is where telehandlers thrive. Because operators can change attachments between loads, one machine can do the work of several devices.

Great in Any Environment

Carrying materials through the smooth, even terrain of an interior space is simple. But for outdoor projects, workers may need to carry materials across uneven footing. Here, a telehandler is crucial. Because telehandlers leverage weight on all surfaces, operators can use them on any terrain without adding extra safety protocols.

Full Range of Motion

Many lifting tools suffer from a limited range of movement. For example, forklifts can only transport materials at one elevation. Because of a telehandler’s boom, operators can lift materials to another floor or transport them diagonally. This precision also allows for movement in confined spaces and around obstacles.

How Does a Telehandler Work?

Telehandlers function by exchanging signals between an internal computer and weight sensors throughout the device. By monitoring the distribution of weight, a telehandler’s computer determines which movements are safe. This constant risk assessment lets the operator use features that safely transfer materials. Some examples include:

  • Steering options: Operators choose how to steer their cab based on the load they’re carrying. Telehandlers provide front-wheel steering, four-wheel steering and crab steering options.
  • Boom flexibility: A telehandler’s boom offers the same flexibility as a crane. Booms don’t only move up and down or left and right — they can extend and retract to move around any obstacles.
  • Adjustable forks: Like a forklift, telehandlers lift materials directly off the ground. Operators can also tilt their cargo forward or backward for greater balance.
  • Load stabilizers: If a load seems too heavy for a telehandler, they’re built with a solution in mind. Stabilizers prevent wheel movement to increase maximum carrying capacity.
  • Frame leveling: Telehandlers maintain even footing on unstable surfaces. Their axles keep devices level on the most uneven terrain.

Key Components of a Telehandler

Telehandlers are compact and easy to transport despite the number of features they offer. Their security and efficiency are thanks to top-of-the-line parts. With only a few main components, telehandlers perform the work of several devices. Operators refer to the three main parts as:

The Cab

The cab is the most straightforward component of the telehandler. Here, the user sits and operates the machine. The cab allows them to drive around a work site and carry heavy loads without sacrificing safety. Depending on the model, larger tires may lift the cab to give the operator a wider vantage.

Extendable Boom

The extendable boom is what sets telehandlers apart from devices like forklifts. Also known as a telescopic cylinder, the boom extends above and in front of the cab. This allows the operator to avoid obstacles as they move a load. The boom also lets telehandlers lift materials to a higher elevation.


Telehandlers hold attachments at the end of their extendable boom. Most telehandler brands offer different attachments to carry a variety of materials, which allows for versatility. No other device can move loose materials, personnel or pallets with the same safety and efficiency.

Choosing Attachments

Telehandlers’ selection of attachments is one of their most defining advantages. Depending on the industry and scale of a project, several attachments could be useful. With this in mind, operators need a sense of their options before committing to their choices. Examples of attachments include:

  • Pallet forks: These tines perform the same function as forks on a forklift. They carry loads such as pallets, raw materials or piping and are sometimes referred to as forklift carriages.
  • Crane jibs: This type of hook lets telehandlers operate more like a crane. In cases where forklifts lack a wide enough range of motion, crane jibs let operators carry materials over and around obstacles.
  • Buckets: These containers scoop up loose materials like soil or sand. These buckets are one of the most common attachments in the agriculture sector.
  • Work cages: This kind of platform lets telehandlers lift workers to higher elevations. Sometimes they are only referred to as platforms.

Renting vs. Buying

Because of a telehandler’s many uses, purchasing one may sound like a smart investment. But depending on the operator’s industry and budget, renting has distinct advantages, including the ability to swap out models between projects and more flexible pricing. Here are the main factors to consider:

Who Should Buy a Telehandler

Companies should buy when telehandlers play a part in daily operations and they can afford its upkeep. Teams may also have to purchase attachments and upkeep materials separately. And because a telehandler’s size correlates to the weight the telehandler can carry, buyers need to ensure their choice fits the scale of all projects. Small devices carry loads of up to 4,440 pounds, while large units carry 16,000 pounds.

Who Should Rent a Telehandler

Operators should rent in all other cases. This allows them to rent a unit that matches the needs of each project. If a telehandler malfunctions on the job, renters can get assistance from their lender. In the long run, renting a telehandler is the more cost-efficient option.

Telehandlers carry materials with unequaled efficiency. Thanks to their selection of attachments, few devices can match their versatility and precision. When it comes to moving heavy materials, telehandlers are always a safe, reliable option.

In agriculture, construction and other industries, renting a telehandler is a worthwhile investment. Try renting a telehandler for your project today, and get the support you need from the team of experts at BigRentz.

Explore All Telehandlers

Get the latest from the Think Big Blog delivered to your inbox.

Equipment Rental Guides

Download any of our free rental guides and learn how to pick the right equipment to fit your project needs.