If your work site is located above machinery and around overhead conduits, then the up-and-over capabilities of the articulating boom aerial lift is your best rental choice.
“These compact units can get into tighter areas than other types of lifts, plus they have a greater range of motion,” says Jason Bullock, operations manager, JPS Equipment/Volvo Rents, West Monroe, Louisiana. “They’re key in industrial plant work since they can get over obstacles and get you to your work area.”
“Articulating boom lifts present a distinct advantage over straight boom lifts because they allow you greater access to your work area without moving the base of the machine,” says Ron Piccolo, director of fleet reporting and analysis, NationsRent.
And most articulating booms have a jib, which adds even more versatility. “With a jib, you can go up and through,” says Glen Bowser, product manager, Genie Industries. “Sometimes there’s a lot of lines up on a ceiling and you have to get in between them. You can simply move the jib around without having to move the entire machine.”
Although they excel in industrial plant work, articulating boom lifts can also be seen on commercial projects, helping roofing, painting, electrical and mechanical contractors get to high work areas.
Since they are used indoors and outdoors, articulating boom lifts come in both electric and engine-driven models. Electric lifts tend to be smaller, in the 30 to 45 foot range, says Mark Mohn, boom lift product manager, JLG Industries. They also come in narrower widths for getting into tight spaces. Engine-driven models will start to be seen in 40-foot-platform-height-and-over units, although electric units can also come in high platform heights.
Diesel or gasoline engine-driven units usually are four-wheel-drive units offering oscillating axles and rough-terrain tires. “They have bigger platforms and you can get up to as much as 1,000 pounds platform capacity on some of our engine-drive units,” Mohn says.
Dual-fuel models, powered by either gasoline or liquid propane, give users inside-outside capability in one unit.
Check for maintenance
Most rental units should be four years old or less and well maintained. “Look for something fairly new because lift performance has gotten better,” Mohn says. “The newer units offer a lot of different accessories not available on older units.” As an example, he mentions JLG’s Sky Power package, which adds a 7,500-watt, three-phase generator to the platform and a 1/2-inch air line. Other optional accessories include a 250-amp on-board welder, air compressor and plasma cutter.
For clues on how well maintained a machine is, look at the condition of the tires and make sure all the controls are operating, says Bullock. “We carry JLG lifts and they have strict rules on annual inspections,” he says. “We have to certify we’ve had a trained mechanic go over the machine.”
“One of the clearest signs of a well-maintained unit is a complete maintenance history demonstrating the unit has received periodic preventive maintenance every two months or 200 hours, and repairs as needed,” Piccolo says. “We do detailed annual inspections, and we require our mechanics open up the boom to inspect various components for excess wear.”
Maintenance doesn’t end with the rental dealer. As a renter, you’ll be responsible for daily fuel, engine oil and hydraulic oil level checks. Also take time to check the tires. “You need to let us know if a tire’s gotten in bad condition,” Bullock says.
“Most contractors learn quickly which rental companies have a well-maintained fleet,” Mohn adds.
Articulating boom lifts give you access to your work area without moving the base of the machine.
Designed for safety
“Make sure the operator’s manual is on the machine and anyone operating the machine is qualified on it,” Bowser says. “Always do a visual inspection of the machine before you operate it. Check to see there’s no damage or cracks. Do a function test of both the ground control panel and the platform control panel to see they operate properly.”
Although most of his customers are repeat clients who know the drill, Bullock makes sure anyone he’s renting to for the first time gets a complete rundown on machine operations. Every lift is different, adds Piccolo, so “our drivers review machine functions upon delivery.”
A critical aspect of articulating boom lift safety is a simple awareness of what’s going on around you. “Exercise extreme caution when working in an area where there are overhead power lines,” Piccolo says. Since booms aren’t insulated on these machines, you need to keep your distance from electricity. In addition, when moving the lift take into account the slope/grade of the terrain to ensure the machine’s stability.
Know the weather and wind conditions, adds Bowser. Know the ground conditions in the area where the machine will be working, and what personnel will be operating around the lift.
And since articulating boom lifts have the capability to get into a lot of nooks and crannies, you want to make sure you’re aware of where you are at all times, Mohn notes.
Make sure all your lift operators wear safety harnesses. And while it’s not necessary for aerial work platform operators to show a card detailing their training, “if I owned a company, I think it would be good to have something to show my employees have gone through training,” Bowser says.
“Since every job is unique in terms of height, distance, terrain and other factors, it’s important we know this information up front before offering solutions,” Piccolo says. Here are some questions your rental dealer should be asking when you rent an articulated boom lift:
How high do you need to go? Most rented articulated boom lifts are in the 40-foot, 60-foot and 80-foot platform height range. One mistake, Bullock says, is ordering a lift that won’t get you to your work area. Have as much information as you can about the areas you’re trying to reach, Mohn adds. “Have a good understanding of the obstacles you have to get up and over.”
What type of surface will you be working on? Will it be paved or rough terrain? “Even if the machine is in a rough-terrain situation, you want to give it a firm and stable foundation,” Bowser says. “Also know if there will be any grades to go up, such as an access ramp.”
What materials do you need to take up with you? Keep an eye on the machine’s capacity when you load materials and personnel, warns Bowser. “And only use manufacturer-approved attachments and accessories,” he comments.
Will you be working inside or outside? Electric lifts excel indoors. Another indoor choice is using the propane option on a dual-fuel gasoline/liquid propane unit.
If working inside, what doorway or aisle widths do you have to maneuver in? “Most electric units are designed for tight indoor situations,” Bowser says.
Is the operator certified or trained to operate the unit? “We want to make sure you are properly prepared to use the unit,” says Piccolo.
And always ask a few questions yourself. For instance, find out what’s new on the rental dealer’s lot. The features on a new machine may offer you the solution you’ve been seeking.