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7 Quick Tips for Using Your Telehandler


A telehandler, also referred to as a telescopic forklift, is one of the most versatile pieces of heavy equipment used on jobsites. Telehandlers use steel prongs attached to an extendable boom to maneuver items vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. This machine is one of the most popular types of lifting equipment, so it’s important to be familiar with its capabilities and safe operating procedures. Equipment Trader has seven tips for using your telehandler.

1. Inspect the Telehandler Before Use

Before loading the telehandler, perform an inspection of the unit by checking the following:

  • Broken or missing parts
  • Welds, cracks, or misalignment
  • Cuts on tires and improper tire pressure
  • Parking brakes
  • Lifting and reach mechanisms
  • Clean engine and radiator
  • Engine oil and cooling system levels
  • Hydraulic system levels and hoses
  • Back-up alarm
  • Lights, mirrors, and windows
  • Seat belt

If you notice anything wrong with the telehandler, place a warning or safety tag on the unit and remove it from service until it can be fixed by a technician.

2. Assess the Worksite

Just as you check the telehandler before using it, survey your worksite before getting started. Look for potential workplace hazards prior to operating a telehandler. Keep an eye out for drop offs and holes, slippery or unstable surfaces, overhead obstacles, and more that could put the operator and others on the jobsite at risk. If some hazards are unavoidable, devise a plan on how to safely work around them.

3. Read the Load Capacity Chart

Load capacity charts come with every unit and are critical in safely and successfully operating a telehandler. The chart displays a grid or table that tells the maximum weight the unit is able to lift at various mast stages for different load centers. To effectively use the load capacity chart, the operator should identify the weight of the load, the height they need to reach, and the specific capabilities of the telehandler. Understanding the load capacity gives the operator the guidance they need to be safe and productive while using the telehandler.

4. Perform an In-Cab Safety Check

When you’re ready to use the telehandler, perform a quick in-cab safety check to make sure the equipment is secure before you operate it. Buckle your seat belt and adjust the seat and steering wheel to ensure you can reach all of the machine’s controls. Maneuver the side and cab mirrors so you have maximum visibility as you’re operating.

5. Pay Attention While Driving

It may seem like a no-brainer, but focus is key while operating a telehandler or any piece of heavy equipment. Make sure you can clearly see ahead of you and to the sides of you. If you notice any hazards during the worksite assessment, along with fellow workers or pedestrians as you’re operating, steer clear of them or initiate the safety protocols put in place. Telehandlers can operate on industrial, construction, manufacturing, and agricultural sites, each with varying surfaces. Adjust your driving for the terrain of the jobsite. 

6. Be Aware of the Stability Triangle

The stability triangle refers to the two front wheels and rear axle pivot point that form a telehandler’s triangular base. As long as the unit’s center of gravity remains oriented inside this stability triangle, the telehandler will remain upright when in use. Adding to and moving the load will change the machine’s center of gravity and, if the center of gravity moves outside the stability triangle, the telehandler can tip. If the telehandler does tip over, the operator should remain in the cab with the seatbelt fastened and brace for impact by clutching the steering wheel and leaning away from the point of impact.

7. Perform a Proper Shut Down

Once you’re finished using the telehandler, shut down the unit for the end of your shift. Return the telehandler to its designated area. Put the directional lever in neutral, set the parking brake, lower the forks, put the mast in a full vertical position, shut the engine off, and return the key to its proper location. Perform one last inspection of the unit, similar to the pre-operation inspection.

Conclusion: A telehandler’s multi-purpose capabilities make it an essential piece of equipment at any worksite. These tips can help establish safe and efficient operating procedures that are essential when using the machine. Remember, only operators who have taken a safety training course in telehandler operation, and are certified to drive it, should use the equipment. Be sure to follow all manufacturer guidelines when using a telehandler.

When it’s time for your next telehandler, browse the for-sale and for-rent units available nationwide at or our sister site


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Arielle Patterson
Arielle Patterson

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