How do shop lifts differ?

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column lifts
Mobile column lifts can brought to the truck and will work anywhere you have solid level ground. Internal batteries provide the power when 110-volt service isn’t available.

TORONTO, Ont. — Fleets considering equipping a shop with lifting devices have several options. The application and the installation will generally determine what type of lift will best suit your needs. Here are some of the most common lifts, as well as the applications to which they are best suited, and some of their installation requirements.

Inground piston lifts

Inground lifts normally pick up the load through some contact point with the chassis or undercarriage, leaving the wheels and wheel ends accessible for service. Considering that tires, wheels, steering and brakes account for about 70% or the work done on heavy vehicles, leaving the wheels and wheel ends free is a big consideration. The wheels are free as soon as they leave the floor.

Inground lifts usually have two, three or four telescopic hydraulic pistons that sit in a concrete vault or steel containment unit to prevent leaking fluid from contaminating surrounding soil. Because these types of lifts require the floor of the facility to be opened up and a pit dug up to 10 feet deep, they might not be the best choice for fleets renting or leasing their terminal facilities. Available capacities range from 64,000 to 105,000 lb., depending on the number of pistons.

In-ground scissor lift

Scissor lifts offer wheels-free lifting but use much shorter pistons, and as a result, require pits less than three feet deep. While inground scissor lifts still requires some modified infrastructure, installation is less invasive, and the entire assembly can be relocated if the fleet decides to move. They are also relatively easy to retrofit into existing shops.

These are available in two-, three- or four-scissor configurations, with lifting capacity ranging from 60,000 to 120,000 lb. at 30,000 lb. per scissor. The chassis contact points allow for unobstructed access to the underside of the vehicle. Inground scissor lifts are usually flush-mounted, so they offer clear floor space when the lift is not in use.

Platform lifts

Platform lifts offer drive-on, drive-off operation and are well suited for high-throughput applications like quick oil changes or vehicle undercarriage inspections. These can be flush or surface mounted. The surface-mount is minimally invasive whereas the flush mount would require some modified infrastructure.

Lifting capacities range from 60,000 to 78,000 lb., and single platforms can be as long as 48 feet. Using two platform lifts (up to 100 feet long and 156,000 lb.), entire tractor-trailer combinations can be lifted, giving technicians full access to the undercarriage. Platform lifts can have a scissor lifting mechanism or a parallelogram lift. Instead of going straight up like a four-post or scissor lift, parallelogram lifts move fore and aft as they rise — requiring a little more space. The typical lifting capacity for parallelogram lifts is up to 130,000 lb.

Column lifts

Mobile column lifts give you the option of not being tied to a bay. They can be set up wherever you have space. All you need is a solid flat floor and appropriate overhead clearance. A single technician can set up four to six lifts (one per wheel position) in a matter of minutes. Lifting capacities range from 14,000 to 40,000 pounds per column.

When not in use, column lifts can be stored out of the way, opening up space on the shop floor. They have wheel jacks similar to pallet jacks and can be re-positioned with ease. The lifts can be powered by 110-volt AV or onboard batteries, and can operate with cabled or wireless synchronized lifting controls, depending on the model. Most column lifts use tire cradles so wheel-end work is not possible, but some offer attachments that can lift just the front or rear of the truck.

Two- or four-post lifts

These are fixed installation lifts that offer drive-on ramps or front and rear three-stage arms for chassis lifting. Two-post lifts are ideal for lighter-duty vehicles, with capacities of up to 12,000 lb. per post, while heavy-duty four-post lifts can accommodate up to 132,000 lb. in some cases.






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Jim Park was a CDL driver and owner-operator from 1978 until 1998, when he began his second career as a trucking journalist. During that career transition, he hosted an overnight radio show on a Hamilton, Ontario radio station and later went on to anchor the trucking news in SiriusXM's Road Dog Trucking channel. Jim is a regular contributor to Today's Trucking and, and produces Focus On and On the Spot test drive videos.

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