Reducing the weight burden that tail-lifts impose on LCVs is more important now than ever, says Richard Short, sales director at Penny Hydraulics. Regulatory concerns are prompting more and more operators to drop down from 7.5t to 3.5t. They want to make the most of the lower payload capacity a 3.5-tonner offers so every kilo that can be shaved off its unladen weight is of benefit; and that includes cutting the weight of any ancillary equipment fitted.
“We’re reducing the weight of the tail-lifts we produce by making greater use of high-tensile steel – high-tensile is stronger than ordinary steel which means less can be used – and paying closer attention to the way they are designed,” says Short.
Among other things, that involves avoiding using material in areas where it is not required. To achieve this goal the company is making extensive use of its computer-aided design and finite element analysis facilities, says Short.
“Paying close attention to this area has for, example, allowed us to cut the weight of the wheel-lifts we supply to ATS Euromaster from 99kg to 65kg,” he says. They are used by its mobile tyre fitters.
But it has not resulted in higher prices being paid for Penny products he states: “While the material we’re using is more expensive than what we used previously, we don’t need to use so much of it.”
Short stresses that putting its tail-lifts on a diet has not affected durability. That is always a risk, and one that makers need to guard against, says Tipmaster MD, Matthew Terry. As well as building tipper bodies, Tipmaster sells the Tommy Lift along with the Swift Lift crane.
“If we’re honest about it, the Tommy Lift is a bit heavier than some of its competitors but it can take a lot of punishment,” Terry says. “That’s vitally important because tail-lifts take a real hammering every day of their working lives.”
Tail-lift makers are also being asked to increase the capacity of equipment. That is especially the case where tail-lifts intended primarily for accessible minibuses are concerned, given the widespread use of heavy electric wheelchairs.
“We’ve gone from 250kg being the popular capacity choice, to 300kg, to 350kg, and now to 500kg,” says Giovanni Vullo, sales operations controller at Ratcliff Palfinger. “We’ve seen a move to bigger platforms too, with some customers specifying platforms that are 1,500mm deep and 900mm wide.”
Ratcliff Palfinger recently launched the RTP range of internally mounted tail-lifts. Capacities of either 400kg or 500kg are available with a choice of single-piece, vertically split or horizontally folding platforms.