Let the crane take the strain
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Steve Banner takes a closer look at the type of products being made available in the tail-lift and cranes sector, from bespoke designs to specialist applications
Not all light commercial tail-lifts have large flat platforms that will accommodate pretty much anything. Some are designed for niche applications, and bespoke approaches to tail-lift design are becoming increasingly popular, contends Richard Short, sales director at Penny Hydraulics.
“Take tyre specialist ATS Euromaster,” he says. “We’re responsible for maintaining around 750 pieces of lifting equipment mounted on its vehicles and many of them are single-wheel tail-lifts specifically developed by us to handle the sort of wheels and tyres that are fitted to trucks.”
Nor are they simply intended to help tyre fitters get these heavy items in and out of the back of a van. “They’ve got rollers plus a lock on them to enable the fitter to hold the wheel upright and spin it while he is re-grooving the tyre’s tread,” Short says. Expensive premium truck tyres are usually re-grooved, re-treaded and re-grooved again to get the maximum life out of them before disposal of the casing in what will hopefully be an environmentally friendly manner.
ATS Euromaster’s lifts typically have a capacity of 125kg says Short, and Penny Hydraulics offers a version that will handle items weighing up to 250kg.
“Recently, however, we’ve introduced the Single Wheel Lift 500 that will cope with wheels and tyres weighing up to half a tonne,” says Short. It can be mounted just inside a van’s rear or side doors and is designed to ease the handling of big tyres for agricultural machinery.
Penny Hydraulics has also been developing its light cranes. It has just introduced the SwingLift FV995 to meet demand from customers for a fully hydraulic crane with a maximum working capacity of almost a tonne, but who do not need the added cost and complexity mandated by the new EN12999 regulations. These stipulate that any crane able to lift 1000kg or more must have extra sensors and interlocks. The SwingLift FV995 will only hoist items weighing up to 995kg so does not have to be equipped with these additional devices.
DEL Equipment addresses niche sectors of the tail-lift market as well as marketing more mainstream products. With a lifting capacity of 250kg and an aluminium platform 970mm wide by 650mm deep, its Load Mate can be either side- or rear-mounted and used to raise and lower kerb stones as well as the equipment needed to carry out a variety of different pavement and highway repairs. Such work can result in accidental damage to lift platforms. As a consequence, Load Mate’s is made from clip-together sections that can be replaced individually without the need to change the whole platform.
Using aluminium means Load Mate only weighs 95kg, and the lift comes with a hinged ramp that should stop any wheeled items rolling away.
Turning to a different specialist application, the rising level of obesity in the UK means ambulance crews have to deal with heavier and heavier patients. To cater for their needs, Ratcliff Palfinger has come up with the half-tonne-capacity internally mounted RTP50 lift for what are known as bariatric applications. Customers can specify either a single-piece platform or one that splits vertically so that the driver can see through the rear doors when it is stowed.
Much of Ratcliff Palfinger’s output centres around mainstream goods lifts however, such as those encompassed by the Flexi-Lift range. The 500kg-capacity RQ527 the company has recently been promoting comes with a galvanised steel frame and an aluminium platform 975mm deep.
Ratcliff Palfinger is seeing the highest demand for tail-lifts since 2003, reports sales manager, Beverley Jackson.
“Some of it may be driven by operators equipping their vehicles to service extra business that may be created by the Olympics,” she suggests. “Some of it may be the consequence of people kitting out vehicles to comply with the requirements of the London Low Emissions Zone.”
As well as producing tipper bodies and supplying the 300kg-capacity Swift Lift crane, Tipmaster offers the Tommy Lift range of tail-lifts. It includes models designed to be mounted on tippers, pick-ups and dropsides, such as the LD, which comes with a top-hinged platform that can swing away when a body is tipped, allowing the cargo to be discharged freely.
Tipmaster is enjoying a mini boom in tail-lift sales too, reports managing director, Matthew Terry. “We’ve been fitting quite a few for waste management companies that need to lift bales of paper and cardboard or old fridges and cookers destined to be recycled,” he says.
“We’ve also been involved in removing the existing tail-lifts from a fleet of 50 vans and installing them in the vehicles that are replacing them,” he adds. “Very few of the lifts concerned had to have parts replaced.”
While Terry would understandably prefer to sell the customer new lifts, he’s not going to turn down this type of work, while the fleet’s desire to get the most out of the equipment concerned is understandable given that a standard lift for a van typically costs around £2200, supplied and fitted.
Tipmaster is busy says Terry, but he remains wary about the prospects for the economy or any likelihood of a rise in consumer spending. This cautious approach has ensured Tipmaster has survived over the decades while many other body builders have fallen by the wayside.