Aftermarket Features & Interviews Van

Feature: Lifting the lid on the platform market

06 August 2015 #Aftermarket #Features & Interviews #Van

Transport News Brief speaks to access platform specialist IAPS Group about the challenges that legislation brings for the boom lift market.

Fewer car drivers these days have an automatic entitlement to drive anything heavier than a 3.5-tonner thanks to licence changes that came into force in 1997. That has had a dramatic impact on the van-mounted boom lift sector – lifts that elevate workers who can then fix street lights and other overhead installations.

“Go back eight years and 80% of sales were on vans grossing at 5.0 tonnes or over,” says IAPS Group Managing Director, Steve Couling. “These days 80% of sales are on 3.5-tonners.”

That has posed boom lift makers with a major challenge, he adds; making their products light enough so they can be installed in a 3.5-tonner without overloading it while leaving enough capacity for any tools and parts the crew may need to take with them.

The challenge is particularly demanding because all the extra features fitted plus the equipment required by tougher emissions legislation means that van un-laden weights have risen steadily in recent years. Payload capacity has therefore fallen.

IAPS Group member APS has just become the UK distributor for a new range of van-mounted boom lifts made by Hull-based Aldercote and will formally launch the line-up in October.

“It’s good to support a British brand and one that of course understands the UK market,” Couling comments.

Demonstrators will be available and a stock of the most popular van/platform combinations will be ready for immediate delivery.

Designed to be fitted quickly, the lifts can raise a basket with two workers in plus a box of tools and other bits and pieces – a total burden of around 200kg – up to 14.5m in the air.

“Aldercote has managed to keep the weight of its products down by using an intelligent approach to design and through the use of high-strength special steels,” Couling explains. “They allow you to reduce the thickness of the metal but retain the strength.”

It means that users have enough spare capacity for a driver, a driver’s mate, a full tank of fuel and 300kg of equipment. “Customers want to be able to carry as much kit as possible over and above the weight of the crane,” he remarks.

Nor has this resulted in a big price increase, Couling stresses. “The lifts are competitively priced in line with the market,” he contends.

Aldercote launches its new range in OctoberEmergency descents can be actioned by someone sitting inside the vehicle and much of the routine maintenance can be safely carried out by a technician within the van’s load area. Boom lifts are subject to the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), which means they must be subjected to a thorough examination by a competent person every six months to ensure safety.

APS already distributes Italian-made Isoli chassis-mounted boom lifts. Demand for van-mounted boom lifts is, well, booming at the moment, Couling reports. “That’s why APS wanted to get involved in it,” he observes.

Traditionally they were used to maintain street lighting among other aspects of highway maintenance but changes in society mean they have now branched out into additional applications. They include enabling engineers to gain access to city centre CCTV cameras.

“As a consequence a total of around 550 to 600 van-mounted lifts are sold annually in Britain these days plus another 80 to 100 chassis-mounted models,” he reports.

APS is offering two distinct ranges of Aldercote boom lifts, says Couling.

“We’ve got the Contractor series which has a fixed reverse articulated boom,” he explains. “It will go up to 12.5m on a 3.5-tonner rising to 14.5m on a 5.0 tonner.

“Around 20% to 25% more expensive is the Utility series, which goes up to 13m and 14.5m respectively. It has a fully-telescopic boom which makes it easier to, say, go up and down the side of the building while keeping the platform horizontal and in a fixed position. If you are a window cleaner it allows you to go up and down between one floor and another in a vertical line.”

In preparation for the October launch, APS is investing in new workshop facilities at the group’s headquarters in Telford, Shropshire, where the Aldercote boom kits will be fitted, and recruiting more staff. Its six field sales people will be fanning out across the UK in a bid to develop Aldercote as a serious alternative to the current market leaders while IAPS Group’s 24 mobile service vans will deliver aftersales support.

Those market leaders include Versalift. Formerly Versalift’s managing director, Couling joined IAPS last September.

APS offers a wide variety of additional access solutions and is the UK distributor for Hinowa tracked boom lifts and compact plant.

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