Compact or tracked lifts have been in use for at least 15 years in the U.S., longer in Europe, and the technology continues to evolve. For this article, we asked key contacts with the manufacturers and distributors of these lifts two questions: 1) What is one thing that is new this year, or in development, regarding your lifts’ functionality or safety features, and 2) If there is one practice you would like to see operators adopt to improve lift functionality or safety, what would it be?
You will see that the answers to the first question vary greatly, while many of those to the second have a common theme – a need for inspections and maintenance.
“New this year, our Platform Basket 22.10 46kV machines have been upgraded to greaseless roller booms,” says Tom Schneider, general manager of Tracked Lifts LLC., a 15-year TCIA corporate member
company based New Oxford, Pennsylvania. “This upgrade increases the longevity of the machine by helping to support the excess weight of the insulated boom components. We have seen success
with this on our Ommelift insulated machine, so we implemented this change on our Platform Basket insulated model.
“The most common incident we see with compact lifts are tip-overs due to operators not taking proper safety measures when driving on sloped terrain,” says Schneider. “We always recommend that customers open all outriggers and drive the lift in wide mode whenever possible to avoid tip-overs. In situations
where having the outriggers deployed is not possible, make sure to have your tracks in the widest setting, as this wider footprint creates more stability for the machine. Even on flat terrain, when you may not suspect a tip-over to be possible, we still recommend having the outriggers out to practice the highest level of caution.
“Additionally, make sure to use outrigger pads when deployed to ensure the lift has the most even ground pressure possible to provide stability to the lift. Always remember – when in doubt, outriggers
“One other thing we would like to see our insulated-lift customers do to improve functionality and safety is to ensure they are completing annual dielectric inspections and steam cleaning the exterior and inside of the booms,” adds Schneider. “We also would recommend waxing the fiberglass components.
“Keeping up with the maintenance and cleanliness of the insulated booms and all other components is vital to preserving the safety elements the lift was designed with,” Schneider concludes. “These three things are best practices to maintain the dielectric characteristics and the longevity of the machine.
All required maintenance services and repairs can be provided by Tracked Lifts’ service team.”
“For 2023, CMC is rolling out two new, next-generation Arbor Pro versions – the CMC 90 HD+ Arbor Pro and the CMC 100 HD+ Arbor Pro,” says Lenny Polonski, in sales with All Access Equipment, a 12-year TCIA corporate member company based in Wilmington, Massachusetts. “Both models are capable of up to 50-foot, 6-inch lateral reach with 176 pounds and 40-foot, 7-inch lateral reach with 507 pounds. The new lifts have vertical reach of 89 feet, 6 inches for the CMC 90 HD+ Arbor Pro and 99 feet, 5 inches for the CMC 100 HD+ Arbor Pro.
“These new models allow operators to work with a variety of outrigger positions. The lift can now rotate with restricted outreach over short-jacked outriggers, considerably increasing versatility in confined work areas.
“A new, pressurized hydraulic system with an additional filtering system keeps hydraulic fluid cleaner, providing longer hydraulic-component life by reducing system contamination in high-dust environments,” notes Polonski. “A new quick-connect, hydraulic-hose fitting system allows hose swaps in seconds.”
Other new features, according to Polonski, include a re-engineered boom-lift system that has been relocated for better protection underneath the booms, longer-articulation hydraulic pistons and a newly designed upper-boom articulation system that allows for more vertical reach. Features also include additional protective covers and an advanced boom technology designed to further minimize boom play for a better operator ride and greater comfort at height.
“Before any operator gets in an aerial lift, every operator, regardless of lift type – bucket truck or compact lift – should be formally familiarized (with the lift) and needs to obtain lift-operator certification,” says Polonski. “Training should be obtained from an accredited, aerial-lift-operator training center. This is no different than obtaining a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle.”
“Our TDA58 compact lift has proven to be a reliable unit, so the only updates were to the manual storage boxes, to make those easier to maintain in good order and in a better location to store the remote control,” says Andy Price, market manager for tree care for Altec Industries, a 36-year TCIA corporate member company based in Birmingham, Alabama.
“One practice for operators would be a daily, pre-operational check as prescribed in the manual to make sure all features of the machine are working properly,” says Price. “Also, always wear a harness and make sure you are clipped in before flying the unit!”
“While all Skylift units meet ANSI standards, Skylift (engineers) do not stop thinking about how to enhance workers’ safety while using their equipment,” says Bob Dray, vice president, sales & marketing, with Custom Truck One Source, a 25-year TCIA corporate member company based in Lynchburg, Virginia, and a Skylift distributor. “In 2022, they began installing a new audio/visual tilt alarm system. Strobe lights are visible to any user at every angle.
“In 2023, they are adding an additional feature to the outrigger safety sensors. Outriggers will not only have to be in the proper deployed position, but also must have the appropriate amount of pressure in the cylinder, bolstering the unit,” says Dray.
“We have introduced the tallest compact crawler boom in the world, with an incredible 190-foot height, the TTZ J 190!” says Ben Lee Taft, president of Spimerica Access Solutions, a third-year TCIA corporate member company based in Davie, Florida.
“From a development perspective on functionality or safety, we have several new innovations, such as PAL (for Palazzani, the lift brand) connect, which means we can connect and diagnose the machine anywhere in the world. We’ve also introduced a new control configuration inside the basket that will highlight machine setup and overview of machine perimeters.
“We strive to keep customers safe, whether in our Palazzani machines or any other type of equipment,” says Taft. “We promote companies and operators to perform our daily inspections to identify damage, service-related items and overall normal operations of the piece of equipment. We also provide and emphasize the use of all PPE while in the basket, especially the harness and lanyard.”
“Goman Lift is not new in the access industry. With entities in Canada and China, Goman started designing and manufacturing track lifts in 2005, and has a wide range of products for use in tree care, both articulated and telescopic models,” says Thomas Xia, director with Goman Lift, a second-year TCIA corporate member company based in Saint-Laurent, Quebec, Canada.
“For compact lifts, Goman added a new override feature with the remote control to be used in urgent cases to avoid being stuck in the air. For example, if there is some sensor fault that disables operation, the system allows an operator to push and hold a button that then allows the operator to use the joysticks to retract and lower the boom to the ground.
“In tree care, arborists often store the lifts in wet environments. To avoid possible corrosion in the long term, Goman started to make all the boom sections of its 60-foot and 69-foot lifts hot-dip galvanized,” says Xia. “Goman also uses redundant output in load cells to monitor the weight of the basket to achieve optimal safety.”
“Also, in North America, household AC outlets can only provide 110V 60Hz power, which is too low to drive a compact lift. Goman has the option of adding a secondary AC motor to meet the client’s needs when they wish to use AC to drive the lift quietly in residential areas. Finally, all Goman lifts have the option of installing a secondary battery apart from main power and AC power.”
“The Bluelift line of compact lifts already comes with the most comprehensive package of safety features in its class,” says Ebbe Christensen, president & CEO of Ruthmann ReachMaster North America L.P., a 19-year TCIA corporate member company based in Porter, Texas. “This includes automatic outriggers, stability sensors, elevation-change sensors, speed sensors, auto start/stop functions, auto centering of turret rotation, outrigger protection, on-unit outrigger pads, optional anti-crush bar and movement sensors that prevent the operator from damaging the unit unintentionally. Improved LED instructions on the operator screen also add to operator safety.
“The Almac line of compact lifts will this year feature a new optional anti-crush – also called anti-entrapment – bar that prevents the operator being unintentionally pinched between a tree branch and the lift. Another new development is the Billinnium model, a 59-foot-working-height unit that offers operation both with and without outriggers, depending on work height and outreach,” continues Christensen. “Basically, it will allow operation without outriggers at lower height, making movement of the unit faster when, for example, doing hedge work. If higher reach is needed, you deploy the outriggers.
“However, perhaps the most important development is the continued improvement of diagnostic telematics, making it possible to diagnose common operational and technical issues. As the manufacturer and distributor, we can establish contact with the unit and read various parameters and error messages, troubleshooting issues without being next to the unit.
“To single out one practice among four extremely important practices is hard, as each of them can save an operator’s life and/or prevent serious injuries,” says Christensen. “So, the ‘one overall practice’ we would like to see operators adapt and improve should be called MSR, minimum safety requirements, which is made up of four individual practices.
- Always wear an approved safety harness that is safely and securely attached to the lift – not the tree or any other structure – with a lanyard that is not date expired.
- Always keep a safe distance from power lines, a minimum of 10 feet when operating a non-insulated aerial lift – most compact lifts are not insulated, even if they have a fiberglass basket.
- Always obey the manufacturer’s instructions as far as maximum slope for safe use, including driving and setup.
- Always use outrigger pads of proper size and material – the bigger the lift, the bigger the outrigger pads – and only set up on solid ground.”
“The new feature we will use in our machines will be basket scales to ensure proper use/no overloading of the structure during operations,” says Martin Borutta, CEO of Teupen USA, Inc., a 14-year TCIA corporate member company based in Pineville, North Carolina. “The machines will be on the market next year.
“The practice we cannot stress enough is the pre-use inspection, including a visual inspection, of all major parts, as well as a functional test of the whole machine,” says Borutta.
UPequip, a 10-year TCIA corporate member company based in Vercheres, Quebec, Canada, is introducing two new lifts to its line of Easy Lift compact, tracked lifts this year. The Easy Lift 77-40AJ, which was on display at TCI EXPO ’22 in Charlotte, North Carolina, in mid-November, is designed to bring together the simplicity of smaller units with the performance of the larger units, according to Martin Leblanc, aerial specialist at UPequip.
“This new unit offers 77 feet of working height and 40 feet of unrestricted horizontal reach with 500 pounds in basket. The overall height when folded is 79 inches, and it fits through a 35-inch opening. With a total length of 19.5 feet and a light weight of 7,165 pounds, it fills the gap between the existing Easy Lift 70-36AJ and the 87-48AJ.
“The second unit, the Easy Lift 172-66AJ, is the largest articulated, compact tracked lift in the world,” says Leblanc. “This new unit offers 172 feet of working height and 66 feet of horizontal reach with 500 pounds in basket. Diesel or Li-on battery options, and a hybrid version combining both, are available. An optional 2,200-pound hydraulic winch could transform this unit into a light-duty crane for rigging purposes.
“Using the same design as the popular 87-48AJ and the 101-48AJ, the articulated boom, combined with multiple telescopic sections, will raise the knuckle, or articulation hinge, up to 105 feet,” says Leblanc. The first of these units was scheduled to be available in North America before the end of 2022.
Speaking on the show floor at TCI EXPO ’22 in mid-November, Leblanc said the biggest, and an ongoing, operator issue involves both functionality and safety – a lack of maintenance. He was frustrated to the point of being angry at how hard it is to get lift users to perform routine safety inspections and basic maintenance that very well could save their lives.
“Dinolift has developed a battery/electric Dino RXT version to complement the already widely successful diesel-powered version,” says Rick Girard, president of RBG, Inc., a 16-year TCIA corporate member company based in Raymond, New Hampshire. RBG is the exclusive distributor in the United States for Dinolift Oy, the Finland-based lift manufacturer, and a 15-year TCIA member company. “It will be available here in the States by next summer. We will be offering it as a full lithium-battery setup that will operate at the same speeds as the diesel-powered unit, whether driving or operating multiple boom functions.
“I wish more operators would read the owners’ manuals and really learn how to operate the machines,” says Girard. “When we deliver a new unit, we work with all the operators and owners to make sure everyone is comfortable with all the functions. Sometimes we find there is so much info, and some operators have the ‘I run all kinds of machinery so I’m fine’ attitude. We will receive calls a few days after (delivery) asking questions.
“Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they are calling in rather than trying to wing it. But if they would spend the extra time just reading the operator’s manual, they probably would not need to call.”
The features and capabilities of compact, tracked lifts continue to evolve. Manufacturers, distributors and lift owners need to keep up, and maybe need to collaborate better, to make sure lifts are being properly used and maintained.