How to become a telehandler driver

Telescopic handlers or telehandlers are widely used in the construction, logistics and agriculture industries, primarily because of just how versatile they are. Their booms can be fitted with attachments such as buckets, winches and pallet forks, lifting heavy loads onto elevated platforms.

To become a telehandler driver, you must demonstrate your level of skills. You can do this by taking an accredited telehandler training course, improving your career prospects.

Here we’ll explore telehandler training options, how long it takes and the costs of becoming qualified, helping you to make informed decisions about your future plans.

What is telehandler training?

Understanding the equipment

As commonplace as telehandlers are in the construction industry and other industries, they are nonetheless potentially dangerous machines. Any kind of large machinery like this can be dangerous, particularly in untrained hands. 

Learning how to operate one takes time, careful instruction and practice. At first, you will cover the fundamental controls and what the capabilities of telehandlers are, as well as when they shouldn’t be used.

If you’re qualified to use a forklift, you will still need additional training, practice and a licence to operate a telehandler.

Learning to operate the equipment

Just as with any new equipment or vehicle, there will inevitably be a learning curve when you first use a telehandler. You’ll need time to get used to the machine’s capabilities, dimensions and controls before you can operate it with skill and confidence.

Before you even start the telehandler up, you must know what checks to undertake before and after driving one. It’s also important to understand which inspections and servicing schedules apply to the vehicle, to keep it in good working order.

Once you’re behind the wheel, it’s obviously vital that you can handle the vehicle safely and control its speed smoothly. With a telehandler, there’s the added complication of the boom and knowing how to securely fit different attachments to it.

Popular telehandler training courses 

The CPCS training course

As the most widely recognised construction plant operator qualification in the UK, the CPCS route is chosen by countless construction professionals each year. It has both a theoretical and a practical element.

The theoretical side of the course will prepare you to answer 72 questions, which you’ll be asked during a one-on-one verbal theory test. As well as health and safety questions, you’ll have to answer questions about operating a telehandler.

You’ll spend two days preparing for your practical exam, which will last two hours. In that time, you’ll have to show you can drive a telehandler up and down slopes and through chicanes, lift loads and retrieve them, stack and destack loads, change attachments and shut the vehicle down properly.

You can incur a maximum of eight penalties without failing the practical test. If, however, you commit a major fault (called a mandatory), you will fail the test immediately. These faults include not securing loads properly, not putting the parking brake on and damaging pallets.

The NPORS training course

This can be a much quicker route to certification than the CPCS qualification, with 1-day experienced worker assessments available for those with practical experience of operating telehandlers. There are just 25 questions on the NPORS theory test, of which 20 are multiple choice.

A NPORS tester will determine whether you can take the 1-day course, based on your work experience. If you’re ineligible for it, a 5-day course for novices is the alternative, unless you opt for a 4-day course that gives you a less complete qualification (missing high lifts or lorry loading, for example).

Unlike CPCS tests, NPORS tests aren’t scheduled. Instead they’re set up on demand and can even be held on your construction site, should you prefer that location.

A potential downside of the NPORS route is that not every construction site will accept it for telehandler work, particularly if you’re based in London or the south-east.

Topics included in telehandler training 

Full telehandler training courses will give you a comprehensive understanding of the vehicles, including how they work, how to operate one and how to identify and mitigate safety risks while using one. These are the main topics covered by the courses:

  • An introduction to telehandler parts and components
  • How to operate a telehandler, including how to maintain balance and stability
  • Safety regulations and standards
  • How to identify risks and hazards associated with telehandlers
  • Equipment maintenance and procedures
  • Start-up and shut-down procedures
  • Driving a telehandler on slopes
  • Operating a telehandler in tight spaces or with a tall industrial rack/scaffolding
  • Safe loading and unloading practices, including loading lorries, stacking materials and retrieving materials from trailer beds
  • Reading load charts
  • Pre-operational inspections prior to shifts, and post-operational assessments to check the condition of the equipment 

How long does a telehandler training course take?

Depending upon the route you choose, you can complete your telehandler licence requirements in as little as a day. That shortest possible route can be achieved with a NPORS test, but only if you’re already an experienced telehandler driver who just needs a theoretical qualification to rubber stamp your experience. Without sufficient prior experience, you’ll have to take the 5-day or 4-day novice course from NPORS or a 4-day course from CPCS.

That 4-day CPCS course includes one theory day in a classroom, two days of practical lessons and both a theoretical and a practical test.

Whichever route you choose though, it doesn’t take long to gain an immensely useful skill and qualification. Telehandler drivers are in constant demand across industries, up and down the country.

How much does telehandler training cost?

The cost of courses depends upon a variety of factors. First of all, there’s the duration of the course to consider. Clearly, a 1-day course will not cost as much as a 4-day or 5-day course. 

Then there are the various course providers – of both CPCS and NPORS courses – to think about. While the prices they charge vary, NPORS courses are generally more expensive, costing around £600 per day, while CPCS courses cost approximately £1,000 for the whole course.

NPORS courses can, however, save a company money because several employees can take a course at once, on site, if that’s the preference.

For anybody wanting to become a telehandler driver, the appropriate courses are a must. These are heavy machines with complex controls, used to load and unload heavy materials.

Used by properly trained and certified drivers, telehandlers can be incredibly versatile and useful tools. Take a look at our range of telehandlers for hire to find the right one for your job.


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