Photo by Tudor Van Hampton/ENR
Caterpillar plans to make a pulse-radar rear proximity sensor (at right) standard on its new 10,000-pound telehandler, which ships later this year.

The familiar BEEP-BEEP-BEEP noise of heavy machinery backing up is slowly starting to accompany another alarm that warns operators when they are about to hit an object.

“We invented these for the mining industry,” said Teresa Prisbrey, director of marketing for Boise-based Preview Radar Systems on Feb. 3 at this year’s World of Concrete show. “We knew if the system survived in that extreme environment we would be able to save lives in every other industry."

Similar to the ultrasonic backup sensors seen on today’s cars but ruggedized for heavy-duty environments, Preview’s pulse-radar proximity alarm is slowly becoming available on new construction equipment. Currently, it is offered on select Caterpillar, Deere and JLG machines, with other manufacturers soon to add it to their options lists.

At the concrete show in Las Vegas, Caterpillar showed the device on a pre-production version of its new 10,000-pound-capacity TL1055D telehandler, on which the radar system will be optional equipment when the rough-terrain forklift begins shipping to dealers in mid-May. A rear camera will be offered as optional, as well.

The device senses moving and non-moving objects, and when such objects are detected in the machine’s path, an audible alarm in the cab gives the operator intermittent beeps of increasing frequency as the machine gets closer; it then builds up to a solid tone when a crash is imminent. Preview Radar designs and builds a variety of blind-spot sensors that can be mounted in various spots around a machine, and a wireless version is also available.

Telehandlers, which generally suffer from poor visibility toward the rear end of the machine due to the telescoping boom’s pivot point and large counterweight, are among the most utilized pieces of equipment in today’s rental fleets, according to Rouse Analytics, an appraiser in Beverly Hills, Calif. As such, contractors increasingly see the need for technology to keep workers on the ground safe and limit property damage.

For example, Balfour Beatty now requires telehandlers on its jobsites to be equipped with a rear proximity alarm. Sunbelt Rentals, one of Preview’s larger clients, supplies the sensor-equipped machines, according to Prisbrey. Preview Radar, a unit of Preco Electronics, has offered the device for 15 years.

Costs were not disclosed, but “it is less than the cost to replace most bumpers,” Prisbrey said.