When is a crane not a crane

A crane is defined as ‘a tall metal structure with a long moveable part, to which is fixed a long wire that can be used for lifting and moving heavy objects’. This does not describe a telescopic handler.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is again considering changing the taxation class of telescopic handlers to that of mobile crane.

This move – which could have serious implications for members of the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) – started in August 1998 when the DVLA expressed its intention to reclassify telescopic handlers for use in agriculture.

Negotiations between the DVLA and trade associations resulted in handlers used in agriculture being included in the extant Special Concessionary Class of ‘Agricultural Machine’.

However, the DVLA is now considering the use of handlers in areas other other than agriculture, horticulture and forestry.

BITA members have serious reservations about this proposal. Our concerns are twofold: first, the issue of appropriate classification; and second, – and more importantly – the likely effects of reclassification upon the industries that rely on handlers.

If they were to be classified as mobile cranes, this would have several implications within UK industry, including:

Drivers of telescopic handler vehicles weighing more than 7,500kg would need HGV licences.

Telescopic handlers that are used exclusively on-site could be required to use on-highway diesel fuel.

These problems, which directly affect employers and machine drivers, could in turn affect the UK housebuilding industry. With the imposition of additional cost burdens associated with reclassification, UK companies could become less competitive than their foreign rivals, which in turn will affect construction industry jobs.

Further, BITA understands that members of the Contractors’ Plant Association who use these machines are concerned that, should this change in classification take place, they would be forced to drastically reduce their workforces, and in some cases close.

Are telescopic handlers cranes?

Manufacturers of telescopic handlers must comply with European legislation and standards before they can place a product on the UK market. This stipulates that a telescopic handler must be defined as a counterbalanced lift truck.

A crane is defined as ‘a tall metal structure with a long moveable part, to which is fixed a long wire that can be used for lifting and moving heavy objects’. This does not describe a telescopic handler.

Should telescopic handlers be reclassified as mobile cranes for taxation purposes?According to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act, a telescopic handler is not constructed as a mobile crane, and therefore does not meet the definition of a mobile crane. Following this argument, BITA feels that telescopic handlers produced in accordance with European standards do not meet the definition of a crane and cannot be classified as such.

Should we accept that telescopic handlers are subject to a change of classification?Many handlers are registered as digging machines because this is, in fact, their closest relation. They share many design characteristics with wheeled-loaders and can be used in similar applications.

If reclassification is deemed necessary, BITA wants it done properly, based on correct technical knowledge – and with a full understanding of the likely effects on industry.

Chas Day is technical manager of the British Industrial Truck Association