Aerial work platforms, scissor lifts, telehandlers and related pieces of equipment have evolved greatly in recent years. Responding to end users’ needs for greater flexibility, power and maneuverability, manufacturers have created products that offer managers and front-line technicians expanded features and functions targeting specific maintenance tasks.
Among the most important changes to new-generation lift equipment are those related to dimensions, capacity, power sources, controls, safety, ergonomics, and warranties. The challenge for maintenance managers is to take the new features and functions into consideration to specify the most appropriate lift equipment for use in their facilities.
When managers select aerial lifts, the place to start is a needs analysis of projected near- and long-term projects. What do workers need in terms of capacity, elevation, reach, maneuverability, footprint, handling, crew safety and ergonomics, and stability control? The good news is managers can find it all in the latest generation of equipment.
Diligence during specification can translate into large gains in productivity, safety and cost for personnel- and material-lifting jobs. The key is to survey the job sites technicians work in, as well as the job’s lifting requirements, then find a match between these factors and equipment capabilities.
Typical telescopic boom trucks generally have lifting capacities of 7,000-20,000 pounds with 360-degree continuous rotation, enclosed cab operation, improved load vision, out-and-down outriggers, and computerized load analysis. This last feature ensures the combination of load, rotation and reach are within the unit’s safe operating torque characteristics. It helps to prevent overturning when working at design limits or on rough terrain.
For example, if an operator rotates the load 90 degrees from the forward and backward centerline, raises it 30 feet, and reaches 20 feet away from the centerline, the load capacity is far less than when working directly above the centerline. The outriggers compensate for some of the added torque, but the unit incurs some capacity loss.
On the other hand, scissor lifts offer low-to-medium height capacity, large and undiminished weight capacity, and a larger work platform. They are stable because the load is always directly vertical. The units are not reaching out or articulated off-center of gravity, as with boom lifts and telehandlers. They offer several power-source options, such as dual fuel — gasoline and propane — diesel, and electric.
The choice of power source for an application revolves mostly around environmental issues versus life-cycle considerations. For work indoors or in areas where workers must closely monitor emissions, the best power choices are dual-fuel or electric, while life-cycle cost and longevity issues generally favor diesel-engine power.
A scissor lift is a popular choice for repetitive, high-bay work, such as cleaning, painting, lamp replacement, and maintaining electrical-distribution systems and sprinkler systems. For such tasks, access requires moving the lift through doorways and vertical movement only up to the work site’s height.
Telehandlers can move heavy materials, including structural steel, piping and building materials. Innovations in these units include four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, and zero retracted overhang, so even high-capacity units can maneuver well in limited space and on rough terrain. They also feature wet drum brakes, which operate in oil baths to keep them cool during rapid forward and backward cycling and on rough terrain — conditions that would overheat conventional systems.
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