Cranes and lifting equipment can be invaluable tools but operators must come to the market fully prepared, advises Steve Banner.
Being able to swing a bag full of sand or gravel off the back of a 3.5t dropside, over a fence and drop it in a customer’s garden brings all sorts of advantages: it’s quick, eliminates the physical effort that would otherwise be required, and means a driver can make the delivery solo without the need for a mate.
That reduces the wages bill, and the speed with which deliveries can be accomplished means more can be made in a day.
Those are among the benefits that having an onboard loader crane fitted can bring, says Penny Hydraulics. Its PH loader cranes, suitable for 3.5t dropsides and tippers, can hoist over 2,000kg depending on the version selected. Bear in mind that the further away from the vehicle you want to place a load, the less you will be able to lift. Even so, the weight you will be able to deposit is likely to be quite substantial.
Opt for the PH180.2, for example, and specify the appropriate manual extension and you can lift a 280kg load and drop it down 5m away. Penny Hydraulics also offers a range of SwingLift cranes that can be mounted just inside the side and rear doors of vans, with lifting capacities of up to 500kg.
Loader cranes have one or two drawbacks. The PH180.2 weighs up to 200kg depending on specifications and that eats into your vehicle’s payload capacity – a critical consideration given how tight 3.5-tonners are on payload to begin with. It draws power too, so you will need to have a protection device installed to ensure you do not end up with a flat battery.
Remember too that extendible stabilisers will probably have to be fitted and deployed before a crane like this is used, to stop your vehicle toppling over. Both they and the loader crane must be properly stowed before you drive away, and a warning system should be installed to alert the driver if they have not been stowed correctly.
Nobody should be let loose with a crane of any description without having been properly trained first. PUWER (the Provision and User of Work Equipment Regulations 1998) obliges employers to ensure that staff using work equipment receive adequate instruction. Your supplier should be able to advise you about suitable training courses. It may also be worth contacting the Association of Lorry Loader Manufacturers and Importers (ALLMI – head to www.allmi.com). There is a list of training providers on its website. PUWER also obliges businesses to ensure that their cranes are in good repair.
Using suitable mechanical handling aids minimises the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. No responsible business wants a valued employee off sick for weeks because of a back injury or a severely wrenched shoulder.
“Thirty-five per cent of all work-related illnesses are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs),” points out Penny Hydraulics sales director Richard Short, who is also an ALLMI board member. “That equates to over 469,000 workers suffering from work-related MSDs in 2017/18 and over 6.6 million working days lost according to the government’s Labour Force Survey.”
Penny Hydraulics is not the only company that supplies cranes suitable for light commercials. Though better-known for its big-capacity models, Hiab offers smaller variants too, including the T-009. It can lift 870kg close-in and 240kg at a full outreach of almost 4m.
“Who needs an assistant to handle back-breaking loads?” Hiab wonders.