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Before operating a telehandler, you will need to have received telescopic handler training in how to operate one safely.

Telescopic handlers, or telehandlers for short, are versatile pieces of equipment used in a variety of industries to lift and move heavy loads easily.

Getting to grips with how to operate a telescopic handler is not too difficult but making a mistake when using one can be dangerous.

Therefore, all JCB telehandler operators must receive suitable training in how to use the machinery safely, and understand the relevant health and safety regulations, before they start on-site work. Along with JCB, there are many more manufacturers of telehandlers, such as Terex, Genie, JLG, Merlo, Manitou, and Wiedemann.

In this article, we explain a little more about what a JCB telescopic handler is and how one is operated.

What is a JCB telehandler?

A JCB telehandler is a type of telescopic handler manufactured by the brand JCB.

JCB telehandlers have a reputation for offering a high level of performance and productivity. They are designed to be simple to manoeuvre and offer an impressive lift capacity and reach, making them versatile and efficient machines capable of taking on a variety of different tasks.

JCB offer a range of different models, all of which are available with a wide variety of attachments.

Their selection of telescopic handlers is divided into two categories, those best suited to the construction industry, and a more specialised agricultural series.

Do I need a license or training to drive a JCB telehandler?

It is a legal requirement that anyone operating a telescopic handler has received professional training before doing so to ensure they are operating the machinery according to the relevant regulations.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that ‘drivers should be trained, competent and authorised to operate the specific telehandler used. Training certificates from recognised schemes help demonstrate competence and certificates should be checked for validity.’

SB Skills Solutions offers both CPCS Telescopic Handler Training and NPORS Telescopic Handler Training, both of which are led by our team of experienced and fully qualified instructors.

Other recognised providers of telescopic handler training accreditation include:

  • Road Transport Industry Training Board (RTITB)
  • Independent Training Standards Scheme and Register (ITSSAR)
  • Lantra National Training Organisation Ltd (LANTRA)

If the operator is going to be driving the telescopic handler on public roads, they must first check that the machine is road legal by ensuring that it has a valid number plate displayed and the appropriate lighting. The operator must hold a driving licence of the appropriate category, while the telehandler should be taxed and insured.

A beginner’s guide to operating a JCB telehandler

The controls on each model of JCB telescopic handler will be slightly different, but the basics for operating a telescopic handler usually remain the same from one model to the next.

Driving controls

The driving controls for a telehandler aren’t too dissimilar to those in any other vehicle. Telehandlers have gears, a handbrake, an accelerator pedal, and a brake pedal. They also have an inching brake which may be controlled using either a third pedal or a joystick. The inching function helps the machine to brake or slow down while also disengaging the transmission. Inching means that you do not need to shift the gear lever into neutral.

Telehandlers have hazard lights and lights on the cab, the boom, and the beacon. The controls for the lights are usually found on the left of the steering wheel.

Steering controls

Most models of telescopic handler have three different steering modes. The steering mode can be changed whilst the machine is stationary.

  • Two-wheel – In two-wheel mode, only the front two wheels steer. Two-wheel mode is usually used when driving a telehandler for a long distance.
  • Four-wheel – When working on-site, four-wheel steering mode is usually activated. In this mode, all four wheels move, making the machine much easier to manoeuvre in tight spaces.
  • Crab steer – In crab steer mode, all the wheels point in the same direction, allowing the telehandler to move sideways in a straight line.

Hydraulic system controls

Telescopic handlers use hydraulic systems to lift and lower their load.

Inside the telehandler, there are usually two levers. The boom lever moves the boom in and out, while the other lever moves it up and down and tilts the forks and attachments as required.

Some telehandlers also feature a lever for the stabilisers and another hydraulic lever for additional attachments if they are connected for use. These levers are usually positioned to the right of the steering wheel.

Safety features

Important safety features of a telescopic handler include:

  • Capacity plate – Somewhere near the controls, you should find the telehandler’s capacity plate. The capacity plate displays important safety information about the maximum weight that the machine can lift at different heights. You should take care to ensure that you never exceed the machine’s maximum capacity.
  • Level gauge – If a telehandler has a level gauge, it can usually be found directly above the windscreen. A level gauge is the same as a spirit level, it can be useful for ensuring the stability of the machine and the ground you are working on.
  • Overload warning device – All telehandlers are fitted with an overload warning device which gives both a visual and audible warning if the machine has been overloaded and is unsafe to use.

Check out our guide to Telescopic Handler Training

Tips for safely operating a telescopic handler

Here are our top tips for safely operating a JCB telescopic handler.

  • Always read the telescopic handler’s operations manual

Make sure that you have read the operations manual for the telehandler before use, as each model of telehandler has its limits, guidelines, and best practices for safe operation.

  • Inspect the telehandler before every use

Before using a telehandler, you should always inspect the condition of the equipment to ensure that it is not damaged and does not require any maintenance. If any part of the equipment looks like it has deteriorated in condition or become broken, then this should immediately be reported to the relevant person and the telehandler should not be used.

Make sure your telehandler training is up-to-date

Before operating a telescopic handler you must have passed an accredited and professional training course and have received certification that proves your competence as a telehandler operator.

The HSE recommends that telescopic handler training be refreshed about once every three years.

Here at SB Skills Solutions, our team have over 30 years of experience delivering training for the construction industry. All our instructors are experienced and fully accredited. We provide both CPCS Telescopic Handler and NPORS Telescopic Handler accredited training courses.

For more information about our telehandler training courses, give our team a call on 01695 558 420, or email

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