Rent Smart: Renting aerial lifts

Renting an aerial lift can be simple, if you ask the right questions and do your homework. Aerial work platforms are among the most widely rented lifts and these can be divided into two major categories: boom lifts, which are used in places that have obstacles such as branches or power lines; and scissor lifts, which are primarily used for direct overhead work. There are also several specialty categories, and each type of lift comes with various platform heights, weight capacities, terrain handling capacity and power sources.

The basics of renting
Before you rent, most rental companies will ask about your jobsite issues, such as accepted productivity levels, safety issues, work environment, what the unit will be used for and height requirements. Providing this information helps the rental company understand what machine is best for you, and keeps you from wasting your time and money on a lift that doesn’t fit your requirements. If the job is inside, for example, not knowing the width of doorways at the site means you may end up renting a machine that can’t enter the work space.

“Taking the time to convey all the details to the rental company will prevent the delivery of a piece of equipment not capable of helping you get your job done,” says Mike Disser of NES Rentals.

You should also understand the rental company’s capabilities, including how quickly the machine can be serviced in case of mechanical difficulties. You should note whether the company provides operator training if anyone on your crew has never used the machine before. In order to get the best price, know ahead of time how long you want to rent the aerial lift. The average rental is slightly longer than two weeks.

Safety first
As with any piece of equipment, safety should be the primary concern. It is important to remember every lift brand is different, and that difference may be enough for some nasty surprises.

“Safety is paramount when operating an aerial platform,” says Disser. “Each operator should familiarize themselves with that particular machine. If someone is not familiar, they should always refer to the operating manual provided.”

Before each use, visually inspect the equipment. This inspection should include making sure parts are in proper working order, checking fluid levels, tire condition, proper tire inflation and the legibility of safety decals. It is equally important to survey the work area and adjacent space to gauge ground conditions and any overhead hazards such as power lines and hanging objects. Operators should also wear a safety harness while they are operating the machine. Each person who will operate the lift must understand the proper operation of the machine, its intended use and maintenance requirements.

“The first thing is proper operator training,” says Mark Mohn, product manager for JLG. “That is something that falls on the rental company. It is their responsibility to train every operator of that machine to make sure they know proper operation and safety.”

Also understand any applicable aerial lift regulations. Tammi Anderson, marketing communications manager for Genie Industries, says contractors should “understand their responsibility as an end user per the OSHA and ANSI rules and regulations.”

Adds Anderson “Contractors should never consider the price of the rental as more important than the safety features available or how well the aerial lift is maintained.”

You can find OSHA guidelines at this site. Information on ANSI rules is at this site.


Asking the right questions
Having a good understanding of your needs and being able to communicate them to the rental company is the best way to find an aerial lift that fits your job. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your rental dealer before renting.

What is the jobsite like?
What are the dimensions of the work space? What are the measurements of doorways? Is the work site indoors or outdoors? It is especially important to know if there are power lines and overhead obstructions.

What are the ground conditions?
A thorough survey of the work area is necessary when considering which aerial lift to rent. Are there any large potholes in the area? What is the grade of the work area? Ground conditions will be a major factor in whether an aerial lift is right for you. “These machines are meant to work on primarily flat surfaces,” says Jamie Gray, operating manager for Illini Hi-Reach. “There shouldn’t be more than 5 degrees of tilt in any way.

What power sources will be available?
Aerial lifts can be powered by battery or by an engine. Consider any special fuel or power supply restrictions at the work site.


Which type is right for you?
The three most commonly rented aerial lifts are the articulating boom lift, the telescopic boom lift and the scissor lift. Here is a description of each.

Articulating boom lifts:
Also known as knuckle booms, these lifts are used for reaching up and over obstacles. The lift can rotate 360 degrees in either direction and can raise or lower from vertical to below horizontal. The drawback is that the machine cannot be used in places where space is limited.

Telescopic boom lifts:
The telescopic boom lift is similar to the articulating lift, but does not have the knuckle in the boom. The lack of an articulated joint means the operator has to take a direct approach to the application and obstacles cannot be avoided.

Scissor lifts:
The scissor lift is used where more work space and lift capacity are required as opposed to reach and height. Although most are used indoors, some companies manufacture rough-terrain versions for outdoor use.