The Advantages of Rough Terrain Forklifts
If there’s one thing conventional forklifts cannot do, it’s operate on unstable surfaces in difficult outdoor environments. This inability is due to a number of deficits such as inadequate traction or the ground clearance necessary to handle uneven, rocky and/or muddy terrain without compromising the stability of the unit, and more importantly, the safety of the vehicle, its load and operator. But, where does this leave businesses that need to lift and transport loads under these conditions?
Enter the Rough Terrain Forklift:
Rough terrain forklifts are ideal solutions for all-terrain applications, such as those found in forestry, construction and agriculture, because they combine the all-terrain utility of a tractor with the lifting functions of a conventional forklift. As such, these off-road workhorses easily climb embankments and operate on rough surfaces while carrying a load without getting stuck or posing unnecessary safety issues. This all-terrain utility is accomplished through a number of features that differentiate rough terrain forklifts from their conventional counterparts – differences that we’ll take a closer look at below:
A key requirement for any all-terrain vehicle is ground clearance, which measures the distance between the lowest point of the undercarriage and the ground while on a flat surface. A higher ground clearance allows a vehicle to clear obstacles and terrain without getting high centered. On the other hand, a vehicle that lacks sufficient ground clearance is likely to get stuck when it travels over changes in ground elevation. As conventional forklifts are designed to operate on paved surfaces and relatively smooth roads, they generally have ground clearances around 4” while rough terrain forklifts are built with large tires and an elevated chassis to provide 12” or more of ground clearance.
Maintaining an adequate amount of traction is another necessary component when travelling over soft, muddy and/or uneven terrain. A high level of tire traction allows a forklift to climb crests and travel over slippery or loose surfaces without getting stuck, over-taxing the engine or fruitlessly spinning the tires. For all-terrain forklifts, this traction is accomplished through the use of a 4-wheel drive system, large off-road tires and articulating axles. When compared to a conventional forklift, the tires on an all-terrain forklift are roughly twice as large and feature deep groves that increase the tire’s area of contact with the ground. At the same time, the articulating axles allow up to a 7° lateral change in elevation between the tires (see image above), which helps to keep all tires on the ground while travelling over uneven ground to maximize traction while maintaining the stability of the forklift.
Optimized Power and Output
When operating on uneven or difficult terrain, it’s essential that power is provided to the wheels where and when it is needed most. This is more difficult for a conventional forklift as power is only provided to the front drive tires through a 2WD transmission. When operating in challenging outdoor conditions, this can result in a loss of power and immobilization if one of the tires loses contact with the ground, encounters a large rock or experiences a loss in traction. All-terrain forklifts avoid such issues by utilizing a 4WD transmission and adaptive limited-slip differentials. Not only does this setup provide power to each tire – through the 4WD transmission – but the adaptive limited-slip differentials help to prevent power loss during tire slippage by providing torque to the tires independently.
As you can see, rough terrain forklifts include a number of unique design elements that make them perfectly suited to their operating environment. With improved ground clearance, traction and an optimized output, units like our EcoMaxx FD30-35RT4 rough terrain forklifts are a perfect fit for applications in forestry, agriculture and construction.