Latest innovations in forklift family

Forklift trucks have long been the trusty workhorse of the garden centre and nursery. Here's a look at the latest adaptations of this versatile machine.

A straw poll of half-a-dozen nurseries and garden centres reveals that many  are running old forklift trucks — some of which can best be described as ancient. Yet when it comes to handling and moving produce and materials, you can’t beat the lifting power, nifty manoeuvrability and stacking capabilities of the forklift.
Nursery consultant John Adlam of Diss-based Dove Associates considers forklifts to be like photocopiers. “People often buy one for a specific purpose but then realise they can do a whole lot more with it. Forklifts soon become of universal use and are employed in all sorts of different areas of the nursery,” he says.
Many nurseries and garden centres prefer to lease rather than buy forklifts. “General nurseries tend to have a four-wheel drive, all-terrain type of truck. Often they purchase a big forklift truck and lease smaller ones. They may end up keeping the large one for a long time before replacing it,” says Adlam.
With so many palletised products these days, garden centres tend to use a range of forklifts for unloading and moving stock. Fruit and vegetable growers make considerable use of them, and may have specific needs, such as the ability to operate in the chilly conditions inside cold stores. Landscapers find a need for handling equipment from time to time but tend to hire kit, ranging from small pedestrian forklifts to telehandlers, as and when the need arises.
Forklift-truck technology continues to develop, with new equipment coming to market each year. Among the latest is the Atlet Alto PS pedestrian pallet-transporter/stacker. This compact unit is designed to work in tight spaces in warehouses and factories but has
features that make it suitable for use in glasshouses, packing sheds and garden centres, where pallets need loading/unloading and stacking. What makes this model even more attractive is its low operating cost — the price of this truck is said to represent just 10 per cent of its life-cycle cost over a six-year period.
With a 1,250kg capacity, the Alto PS is based on Atlet’s P-Type chassis and will stack loads up to 3.5m. But being only 800mm wide and 1,898mm long, it can squeeze into small spaces and has a tight turning-circle that could prove beneficial in glasshouse corridors.
The Alto PS has also been designed with safety in mind, as Atlet managing director Paul Forster explains. “Four wheels give excellent all-round stability, aided by our Friction Force system that ensures the drive wheel exerts optimum ground-pressure under all conditions. Lifting speed is reduced above 1.5m to give safe and accurate stacking, and the position of the tiller arm enables the truck to be operated while walking alongside it, with no danger of trapping the operator’s feet. The low chassis and clear view mast ensures that the operator always has a good view of the whole truck, including the forks.”
In common with the rest of Atlet’s new P-Type trucks, the Alto PS has a tiller arm housing fingertip controls designed to fit naturally into the hand. Steering is progressive, with a tiller-arm angle of 70?, giving a 90? lock. “These features are specially designed to minimise arm movement when driving the truck, thus reducing the risk of strain on the operator’s arms and wrists, and making manoeuvring easier,” explains Forster.
The tiller arm also incorporates a back-lit LCD panel displaying battery status, hours worked, time and date, and fault warnings. A keypad provides PIN access so that use can be restricted to authorised operators.
Power for rapid acceleration, speedy lift and lower cycles comes from a 1kW AC motor with a high-capacity 230Ah battery. The motor is fitted with the Atlet Truck Computer (ATC), which features built-in diagnostic capabilities to enable minimum-delay fault finding and reduce servicing and maintenance downtime.
In addition, the ATC enables Alto’s driving characteristics to be programmed to suit the preferences of individual operators. The appropriate settings are automatically activated when the operator’s PIN is entered in the tiller-arm keypad.
A forklift with a difference is the Visser Space-O-Mat, supplied by Brinkman UK. While the company also supplies a range of lift and pallet trucks, the Space-O-Mat pot-handling unit remains popular. Making its first appearance at nurseries some 15 years ago, this multi-forked lifting and spacing truck has been a mainstay mover for many pot-plant growers. But following development, the latest versions are increasingly finding work in tree nurseries, where production is in containers.
The Space-O-Mat system is suited to concrete floors but reportedly works just as well on the root barrier/gravel floors used in container-stock areas, indoors or outside. The modular setup of the machine means it can be extended to provide the capacity needed for carrying and placing heavier stock, while the pot-spacing system is flexible enough to handle pots of various sizes. The truck can be electric or diesel powered.
Another machine that could be described as a mature product is the JCB rough-terrain forklift. But the company, perhaps better known for manufacturing diggers, also provides the Teletruk. With a three-tonne capacity and four-wheel drive it is, according to JCB, finding increasing favour with nurseries and garden centres. The concept is aimed at end users with unfinished yard surfaces and gradients. A JCB representative says: “Forwards reach is now commonplace in materials-handling applications. With the right user applications the benefits go beyond the restrictions of traditional straight-mast counterbalance forklifts.”

Ample capacity
The key attribute of JCB teletruks for growers is ample capacity at 2m forwards reach for lorry loading. The range flagship 35D 4x4 offers 2,000kg. Maximum lift to full height of 4.35m is 2,750kg. A selection of attachments is available, as well as a hydraulic quick-disconnect system for switching between shovels, grabs and forks.
Where lift and reach are required, the Bobcat T35100 could be the answer. This series of machines gives around 10m of lift and fills the gap between the Bobcat T3571 and T35120 telehandler models, with maximum lifting heights of 7.1m and 12m respectively.
Powered by a 74.5kW Perkins 1104C-44T turbo-diesel engine, the T35100 is available in different versions. The top-of-the-range T35100SL model incorporates both stabilisers and the frame-levelling system, the T35100L has just the frame-levelling system and the T35100 model is the most basic with neither frame-levelling nor stabilisers.
With stabilisers deployed, the maximum lift height of the T35100SL is 11.08m. At this height, the machine has a generous lift capacity of 3,200kg.
This compares to a capacity of 2,500kg at the maximum lift height of 10.09m for the T35100L — or 10.7m if working on tyres. When it comes to reach, the TS35100SL, loaded with 1,200kg, has a maximum stretch of 7.3m when stabilisers are deployed. The lift capacity at a maximum reach of 6.91m for both the T35100 and T35100L is 600kg.
Like the larger 12m, 14m and 17m Bobcat telehandlers, the T35100 series incorporates a boom made from high-tensile steel, with a high degree of flexibility to allow the use of thinner plates, reducing the overall weight of the machine and lowering its centre of gravity, while increasing its stability. The boom has a counter-bow design to maintain near perfect straightness when loaded at full reach.
The new series also incorporates improvements made to other Bobcat telehandlers in the past 12 months, including new Dana axles and integrated front-axle levelling system. In addition, the cab and engine compartment have been redesigned for improved visibility from the cab, better engine accessibility, more efficient exhaust and piping systems, and reduced noise.
The new T35100 has all function indicator buttons on the right-hand side of the cab. A proportional joystick is provided for smooth, jerk-free extension and retraction of the boom, and allows the operator to execute several functions simultaneously.
The electronically regulated hydrostatic transmission, a standard feature on all Bobcat telescopic handlers, enables the operator to choose between two driving modes: direct drive — where priority is given to travel speed; or soft drive — where hydraulic power and torque are prioritised. In its low speed mode, the T35100 has a forward/reverse range of 0-7km/h. In high-speed mode the speed range is 0-30km/h for inter-work travel.

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