As building materials have evolved over the years and home builders' construction practices and needs have changed, delivery systems have had to adjust as well. Expensive components that are more fragile than standard lumber have led to the development of delivery systems that help reduce the chance of damage. Also, builders are expecting their suppliers to deliver materials when and precisely where they're needed.
Truck-mounted forklifts offer a compact and efficient way to transport the new breed of building materials and larger loads around jobsites without having to haul a trailer carrying a heavier forklift or tele-handler. The units—which can be lighter and are generally more compact than traditional yard forklifts—attach to either a medium- to heavy-duty commercial truck or larger-capacity trailer by means of a mounting system welded to the truck's chassis structure. The forklift hooks into the mounting system and lifts itself up off the road for transport.
“It's a labor-saving device. Instead of waiting for the customer's workers to offload materials, the delivery person can offload the materials and move on,” says Paul Gibson, sales manager for Noble Construction Equipment, maker of the TrailerMate truck-mounted forklift.
Also, instead of dumping materials street-side, which then requires manpower and time to carry them onto the jobsite, dealers can provide a service to their customers by delivering loads exactly where they will be used. “The dealer who can deliver a load precisely where the contractor wants or needs it has a leg up on the provider that cannot,” points out Ed Ugolini, director of sales and marketing for Manitou North America, manufacturer of the TMT series Manitransit forklifts.
Some of the factors to consider when selecting a truck-mounted forklift, according to manufacturers, include required capacity (many manufacturers offer truck-mounted forklifts in capacities ranging from 3,000 to 5,500 pounds),required lift height, and the terrain the vehicle will be used on. Gibson also recommends evaluating the stability of the vehicle, how it handles, and its operator friendliness, safety features, and durability. Finally, dealers will need to determine whether their current delivery trucks can carry the weight of the forklift mounted to the back, or whether they will need to purchase a new truck or trailer that can, according to Ugolini.
In addition to improving the operation and reliability of truck-mounted forklifts, manufacturers are also improving operator comfort with features like roomier cabs, better visibility, and weather protection. “Truck-mounted forklifts are starting to take on a look, finish, and drivability that reflects the maturing of the industry,” says Bill Pohl, general manager for Princeton Delivery Systems, manufacturer of Piggy Back truck-mounted forklifts.
Most manufacturers, including LiftKing, Princeton, Moffett, Manitou, and Noble, offer side-shifting masts that adjust fork loads laterally to make maneuvering through tight construction sites easier. Some models also feature a longer reach to allow an entire truck bed to be unloaded from one side. Princeton's PB50 Double-Reach model, Moffett's Extender system, Noble's pantograph-reach system, and Manitou's long boom option all allow one-sided unloading.