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Called the world's fastest-growing type of wheeled construction equipment by one manufacturer, tag-alongs are turning producers of concrete block and clay brick into true delivery specialists.

Here's why:

  • Customer service. Tag-alongs create a win-win situation, improving productivity for producer and contractor. Producers can use tag-alongs to place product almost anywhere masons want it. The machines also allow drivers to load their own trucks.
  • Truck utilization. A single can quickly unload eight or nine truckloads. Boom trucks are still the equipment of choice for congested or particularly rough sites where the producer can do no more than place product over obstructions. However, tag-along forklifts' interchangeability increases truck utilization.
  • Reduced fleet-wide maintenance. Reduced maintenance increases truck utilization. By allowing trailers to stay on the road, tag-alongs can reduce truck maintenance in the long run.

Almost always, tag-along forklifts use a straight mast and three wheels for maneuverability. They sacrifice lifting capacity and lift height for light weight during transport. Another trade-off with the three-wheel design is that counterbalancing an extended load becomes more of a concern with tag-alongs. A machine that extends loads outward with a less-common telescoping boom or scissors-like pantograph mechanism can unload the entire truck bed from one side. However, stability is a concern unless the operator keeps an extended load as low as possible.

Capacity also decreases as lift height increases. Manufacturers provide load charts that show rated capacity at various mast extensions.

Some manufacturers offer a standard 6-foot, one-section mast, which creates a higher profile during transport than multisection masts that extend to common heights of up to 12 feet. The cylinder on multistage masts lifts and collapses multiple carriages, and the profile is lower in the down position during transport.

Mast tilt not only keeps loads level on rough terrain but also creates a lower profile during transport. Side shift, a time-saving feature that allows operators to move loads a few inches to either side without moving the entire machine, also is usually standard. Several manufacturers also offer clear-view, or see-through, masts.

Other features include, but are not limited to, two- or all-wheel drive to suit varying terrain, hydrostatic operation for smooth movement, wheel stabilizers and counterweights for tipover prevention, rack-and-pinion steering for increased maneuverability, and an ergonomically designed cab.

Increasingly, manufacturers are conforming their tag-alongs to sections B56.1 and B56.6 of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' American National Standard for low lift and high lift trucks and for rough terrain forklift trucks, respectively. The standards require manufacturers to meet criteria in rated capacity, stability, brake-system performance, overhead guards, and wheel guards, among others.

To keep the weight off the mast, manufacturers recently have devised different mounting configurations. One manufacturer offers a "deadhead mount" consisting of bars affixed transversely to the truck bed into which forks fit. Although this costs some truck-bed space, drivers like this configuration and rear mounting.

The article includes a comparison guide of 11 different tag-along forklifts.