Vehicle lift manufacturers have researched features transit agencies are looking for in terms of reliability, functionality, environmental awareness and ease of use. They have taken this information and integrated it into already existing products in order to make the safest and simplest lifts possible.
Fleet customers have made a variety of requests of lift manufacturers including making the lifts easier to use, which would help with retaining technicians; how to be more efficient with service; and how to be more cost effective without sacrificing quality. The results have been less complicated in-ground, above-ground and portable lift designs with more functionality, and all-around more technologically advanced lifts to get vehicles out on the road sooner and for a longer amount of time.
Allister Collings, president of Sefac Inc., says the company relied on customer feedback to provide the best possible product.
What transit operations were asking for more than anything, Collings explains, is the need for reliable electronics and responsive backup service within the lift interface.
“We all benefit in our daily lives from the user-friendly features provided by electronics, but get frustrated when they fail,” he says.
The company, which has operated as a U.S. distributor for more than 30 years and now manufactures in the U.S., has responded to end-user suggestions by actually removing some features which, it felt, added no real value in an effort to improve reliability.
According to Collings, the previous model, designed for school, transit and articulated transit buses, had three lift speeds dependent on the weight of the vehicle being lifted.
What Sefac Inc. learned is that customers prefer a single, slow-lifting speed as it is more precise when positioning the vehicle at the right height for the operator, and when it stops, it has no jerking or jolting movement, ensuring operator safety.
Over the years, Collings says, the company has seen capacities of lifts increase by 50% as well as the successful introduction of synchronization technology, which ensures that all lifts maintain the same lift height. The company has retained its self-locking drive system, which does not depend on backup safety to hold it in the event of a failure because it does not wear under static load.
Additionally, Sefac Inc. has developed an active market for factory rebuilt lifts for the smaller operator who has historically been unable to get into the new lift market. Also available is the entry level lift designated the 12 Type, a low-cost, lower-capacity lift, which offers a 12,000-lbs. entry level lift.
Kirk Dawson, VP, heavy duty, for Rotary Lift, says that the company used customer feedback to improve its current MOD Series in-ground lift to provide best-in-class lifting capacity, clear bay space, pendant controls and lower installation costs.
According to Dawson, transit bus operators have relied on in-ground lifts for decades because they are the most versatile and longest-lasting lift style for servicing buses.
However, traditional heavy in-ground lifts used an enormous amount of oil volume to operate and were cause for environmental and safety concerns. Accordingly, he says, the company has seen a shift in agency use to mobile columns with in-ground lifts because they can move anywhere in the facility, can be put away when not in use and are more cost-effective up front.
However, mobile columns are limited in application. They pick up vehicles by their wheels rather than by the axle, which means technicians need to support vehicles with jack stands and then remove the columns to perform work that requires the wheels to be free. This adds steps and time to the job.
In an effort to provide a more cost-effective, environmentally-friendly solution for companies looking for more functional in-ground lifts, Rotary Lift introduced the MOD35 in-ground lift last year as an updated version of the company’s first modular lift.
A MOD lift uses half the oil of a traditional in-ground lift, and the entire system is contained in a six-foot deep enclosure that’s coated with Rotary Lift’s EnviroGuard, a polyurethane sealant that protects against electrolysis and contaminants for the 20-year life of the lift.
The MOD Series also introduced new safety features, such as shutter plate trench covers that automatically move to keep the pit covered at all times, equalized lifting, and a universal saddle adapter that makes it easy to properly lift a wide range of buses and other fleet vehicles without having to move heavy adapters.
“The customers who are using in-ground lifts are concerned with safety and are also environmentally conscious,” Dawson explains.
Additionally, the lift offers hand-held pendant controls, which puts the power of the lift in the technician’s hands, making it easy to operate the lift from anywhere in the bay, for more efficient spotting and lifting. By moving all of the MOD35’s control and communications functions to the pendant, Rotary Lift was able to shrink the standard electrical console into a singular device that can be wall mounted up to 100 feet away from the lift, freeing up valuable bay floor space.
“The technician population is getting older, and transit fleets are having a tough time finding new technicians,” Dawson says. “Features that make the MOD35 more user-friendly enable older mechanics to stay on the job longer. These modern features also help fleets attract new techs.”
To minimize downtime for lift installation and to reduce the cost of in-ground lifts, Rotary Lift provides a new installation method for the MOD35 that requires a shallower pit and 25% less concrete.
“We’ve taken a lot of costs out of how you install the lift. These are things we’ve learned over 1,200 installations in the last 13 years,” Dawson says. “When you take as much as 25% off the installation costs that helps tilt the balance and decision process back to modular in-ground lifts instead of cheaper, less versatile options.”
Richard Baxendale, VP, North American sales development, for SEFAC discusses that the company offers a range of lifts from 12,000 lbs. to 18,000 lbs. per column for trucks, buses and motorcoaches and almost unlimited load capacities for its bespoke rail product. SEFAC’s focus with its S1/S2 and S3 products remains cost-effectiveness, while still maintaining ultimate operator safety.
He says that all transit authorities are focused on lifetime running costs, and flexibility of, a single product because they aren’t necessarily always in a position to purchase multiple products at once. With this in mind, Baxendale explains that SEFAC’s above-ground, portable, plug-and-play lifts save confusion in setup, and ultimately, time, because the columns can be used in any order. Plus, these columns are also self-locking at every level, without the need for the additional locking mechanism that hydraulic products require. “This creates an intrinsically safe lift,” he says.
And, to keep lifts simple to use for technicians, SEFAC offers a multi-speed hand-held pendant, which increases under-vehicle visibility.
The design of these lifts is electro-mechanical, meaning it allows the operator to accurately lift vehicles to within millimeters.
Additionally, the lifts are some of the lightest on the market and require the most minimal maintenance, making them some of the easiest portable lifts to use, according to the company. Of course, the lifts remain competitively priced because the company has designed out any wasted or needless material, which creates an existing product that offers flexible height, positioning and speed. Compared to the in-ground lift products available, these portable lifts are just as functional to technicians, while providing a cheaper alternative to agencies.
Because the lifting mechanism is under suspension that results in less wear-and-tear and fewer materials needed, it creates a very economical solution to the end-user, which is particularly beneficial in the competing repair and maintenance arena these lifts are used in.
And finally, after extensive research, SEFAC decided that a shift toward products that are less environmentally harmful was a necessary one. What resulted was a product with a lower steel content and an eco-conscious manufacturing process.
According to Dr. Jean DellAmore, president of Stertil-Koni, in the demanding world of heavy-duty vehicle lifting, notably transit buses and motorcoaches, two key trends are rapidly emerging — the leveraging of new Human Machine Interface (HMI) technologies to provide enhanced technician control and monitoring systems and the utilization of new materials and approaches to deliver increasingly greener lifting systems. Naturally all of this must take place while trying to remain safe during service.
For technicians, safety is the most important factor. That is why, according to DellAmore, Stertil-Koni has focused much of its energy deploying wireless lift options for customers.
Additionally, the company employs a safe hydraulic technology with a built-in mechanical locking system. In that way, when a vehicle is raised in the air for servicing, and then “parked” on the locks, the technician is assured that he or she is working with the safest possible system.
To address the customer requests for more technologically advanced products, Stertil-Koni has created an HMI for the control consoles of its mobile column lifts. The system is called the ebright Smart Control System, which closely resembles tablet computers.
And finally, Stertil-Koni has heard customer demand for greener products. Not only has the company focused on a hydraulic mobile lift made with 98% recyclable materials, using biodegradable oil and incorporating recyclable batteries, but it also has engineered eco-friendly in-ground lifts as well.
The EcoLift, with a 90,000-pound lifting capacity in a three-scissor configuration, is an ultra-shallow, full-rise in-ground axle-engaging lift. It combines high-pressure, low-volume hydraulics and only requires 3.5 gallons of fluid per scissor — and the hydraulics and electrical components are contained in a free-standing console above ground for easy access.
According to Peter Bowers, technical sales manager, for Stertil-Koni, “This lift ensures sizeable cost savings on construction and installation and can be utilized in existing workshop pits and even at locations with high water tables.”