3 Steering Modes To Master On A Telehandler

Mastering the art of operating a telehandler goes far beyond the skill of  other pieces of plant equipment. Therefore, when using machinery like this, it is recommended that you use all its built-in features to maximise your performance. Having the capacity to manoeuvre machinery in different ways to aid the efficiency of your task is imperative. That’s why in this resource we’re going to have a closer look at the 3 steering modes on a telehandler, what their benefits are, and how you can master using them all together.

But before we take a closer dive into the steering modes, let’s have a quick look at telehandlers.

What are telehandlers

9m telehandler
9m telehandler JCB

Telehandlers, also known as telescopic handlers, are a hybrid mix between a crane and forklift truck, mounted on all-terrain tyres. This highly versatile machine benefits from having an extendable boom that can reach heights of over 14m (machine-dependent). The end of the boom is fitted with an interchangeable attachment of your choice, which can be specifically selected for whatever task you are undertaking.

For more information about the history and benefits of using a telehandler for your project, feel free to check out our other resources to start with. Click here >> Benefits of a telehandler

Telehandlers are used across a wide range of different sectors. Their adaptability has seen them being used throughout construction, landscaping, agriculture, events, equestrian, warehousing and throughout distribution for many decades.

Along with their versatility, telehandlers offer high load capacities, on and off-road driving, as well as a range of different reach sizes to suit. It is fair to say that telehandlers are a true essential to any large-scale project. Some of the tasks you might use a telehandler for are as follows:

  • Lifting
  • Material handling
  • Snow removal
  • Agricultural tasks
  • Clearing and setting up sites
  • Repairing tall structures

All these tasks undertaken are not possible without their manoeuvrability capabilities. Let’s have a look at the 3 steering modes on a telehandler that have been installed to make life so much easier.

The 3 steering modes on a telehandler

Understanding the different steering modes on a telehandler can help you decide when are where is best to change between them. Steering settings can be changed quickly without you having to leave the operator’s seat. You should refer to your operator’s manual to find out how to do so. However, most manufacturers require the machine to be stationary and in neutral to engage a different steering mode.

So what are your steering mode options on a telehandler?

Front wheeled drive

This method allows the front two wheels to turn when going forward and backwards. The same as a standard car would work. No matter which direction you are moving, the same two wheels will always do the turning. This setting provides ample amounts of manoeuvrability, however, is best used for road driving or long tracking across sites. The turning circle is quite wide (machine size dependent) as there are only two wheels aiding in the manoeuvre.

All-wheel drive

This steering mode takes the telehandler to a whole new level. We mentioned that front-wheeled drives’ turning circle is in fact quite wide. Well, when facing a tight situation the all-wheel drive setting is to go-to option. It is often the favoured choice of the lot. Simply put… all the wheels work together to allow to machine to turn in a very tight circle. Even on larger telehandlers. Whether you are moving forward or backward, they all work together. This driving mode is best for navigating small spaces, detailed positioning, and off-road driving.  

Crab Drive

The last of the most common steering modes to find on a telehandler is crab drive. Like the all-wheel drive setting, all the wheels work together. However, in this mode, both front and back wheels will point in the exactly same direction as each other. This provides users with a straight-line lateral movement, both forward and back. It is important to note that this driving mode will not turn the telehandler in a circle. It is designed to assist the machine in moving safely away from obstacles. For example, if you were working parallel against a wall, you could use the crab steer to move the machine closer or further away, depending on your positioning requirements.  

Those are the three most common steering modes you will find on any telehandler. The next step is understanding how you can master them all. Let’s take a close look at some tips to master the safe operation of a telehandler.

Watch A Quick Demonstration:

Tips for mastering safe operation

Mastering safe operation is important for your own well-being, others, and your environment. You do not need a licence to own or hire one of these machines, however, if you intend to use them commercially you may be asked to prove your competency prior to using the equipment on site. Here are some key tips for operating this machine.

Understand the machine’s capabilities

There are a lot of telehandler brands, designs, and sizes on the market. Choosing the right telehandler for the job is essential. Understanding what the capabilities of the machine are is important to ensure safe operation. It is common to choose a telehandler by how high they need to have something lifted. However, this is far from the truth. All telehandler operation requires a balance of your lifting weight and reach requirements. Without knowing this basic information, you are likely going to be putting yourself and others at risk.

Machine positioning

When operating a telehandler, one of the most important factors is the positioning of the machine. Especially in tight spaces or rough terrains. Using all steering modes on a telehandler can help you traverse any positioning requirement. You should accustom yourself to all the steering modes prior to lifting any materials with a telehandler.

Lifting charts

One of the biggest tips to master is using the machine’s lifting chart. If for whatever reason your machine doesn’t have one, you must get one. These charts will give you a readout of how high you can lift a particular weight. You can find these charts in the operator’s cabin or on the window of the telehandler. Refer to this chart before lifting any type of material.

Choosing the right attachment

There is an endless number of attachments for telehandlers. It’s not all buckets and forks. However, choosing the best-fit attachment for a telehandler will impact the efficiency and completion time of your task. Do not be afraid to choose multiple attachments if needed. Changing an attachment on a telehandler is quick and easy, so you won’t be wasting any time.

Get telehandler training from an accredited centre

1 in 5 fatalities in the construction sector are caused by a forklift-type machine. This includes telehandlers. Telehandler training is something we would highly advise to keep yourself and others safe. It can be sourced all over the UK taking between 1-5 days depending on experience. It is highly likely that you will have to produce either a CPCS or NPORS card to operate a telehandler on a commercial site of any kind.

Manufacturers that offer 3 steering modes on a telehandler

There are many manufacturers in the world that produce telehandlers, however none more popular than JCB.


“JCB has been pioneering the telehandler concept since 1977. “Today, the JCB Loadall range is one of the most extensive in the world, offering the very highest levels of performance and productivity with world-beating build quality, unrivalled comfort and high residual values.”

“JCB has sold more than 220,000 Loadalls to date, generating more than £7 billion in sales – £4.5 billion of which has been from exports. There are 34 base models and over 1,000 individual configurations. ·Welding during Loadall manufacture consumes more than 14.5 million metres of wire per year. ·Each Loadall takes around 35 stages to produce and 8 hours to assemble. ·Loadall manufacture consumes more than 35,000 tonnes of steel a year.”(2017)

JCB Loadall

Where to hire a telehandler with 3 steering modes?

If you are looking for a telehandler to hire which offers all 3 different steering modes found in this resource, then WHC Hire may be a great fit for your needs. For over 25 years, WHC Hire Services has been providing lifting equipment to businesses of all sizes. With our large fleet of JCB telehandlers, Avant multiple-purpose material handlers and more, we can help you find the right machine to help you get the job done. For more information, check out our website, or call our team on 01684377977.

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