Which option is the appropriate choice for your business? There are several factors to consider when up fitting a lawn care truck with equipment to aid in the loading/unloading of equipment.
The manually operated loading ramp may be a good choice for your lawn care truck if there is enough room at the jobsite to extend the ramp and not create a tripping or traffic safety hazard. The power assisted lift gate with platform occupies less space for tight areas of equipment unloading/loading at the jobsite and may be a good choice if operating in very congested urban areas.
The hydraulic power assisted lift gate operates with great force applied to hydraulic cylinder(s) to operate and function; this should be considered when developing a safety program for workers in the field. A lift gate may also be designed to use gears and chains to operate lifting/lowering functions. The lift gate manufacturer recommendations should be adhered to during operation. The manually operated ramp will typically employ the use of helper springs to assist in the deployment or closing up of the ramp. Proper physical lifting techniques should be used anytime a ramp is being lifted or lowered manually. Detachable ramps are available for certain applications; and if their use is selected it is important to make sure they are securely attached without the possibility of separating from the vehicle when in use.
While both methods of loading/unloading lawn equipment will accomplish the task, there are differences. The manually operated ramp is quickly deployed and can be a good choice for quickly getting equipment in/out of a truck. The powered lift gate is limited to the amount of equipment that can safely be placed on the platform and lowered/lifted by the size/capacity of the platform installed; and it should be considered how long it takes for the powered lift gate to cycle safely through its full operation. Both methods need to be appropriately rated to handle the weight capacity of equipment being loaded/unloaded.
Properly maintained equipment is vital for the lawn care business owner. Ramps and lift gates should be included in any maintenance plan to ensure reliable operation over the long term. The manually operated loading ramp should have fasteners and helper springs checked periodically; hinges should be lubricated and checked for any broken or weak areas by visual inspection and properly repaired upon discovery. The power assisted lift gate should have regular visual inspections as well looking for any broken parts. A thorough inspection of the powered lift gate should be performed on a pre-determined timetable by an appropriate mechanic familiar with the operation of a hydraulic pump, gear drive, chains, sliders, hoses, connections, electrical controls, and safety provisions to ensure everything is operating as designed.
Careful planning should be taken when purchasing a loading ramp or lift gate. A business owner should consider the various available designs in order to find which would accomplish their needs. Some designs tuck up close to the truck making unwanted entry difficult, while some designs will not restrict access to the rear of the truck locking mechanisms. Depending on the design, the powered lift gates may only be operated by first powering up the dedicated system by a switch located in the cab of the truck, therefore unauthorized operation and entry is minimized during storage. The manually operated ramp, if also added to provide restricted access should have provisions to “lock” any mechanisms that would allow unauthorized access to the equipment.
The cost of ramps/lifts for your lawn care truck can vary significantly based on design features/options and quality of materials used. The power assisted lift gate uses many components for proper function. Care must be taken to ensure these items are repaired or replaced as wear occurs. A powered lift gate is a more complex method of loading/unloading apparatus able to provide a mostly hands-free operation of equipment loading/unloading. A basic manually operated loading ramp uses only manpower and helper springs (some designs) to open/close the ramp. Costs associated with up fitting your lawn care truck with a new ramp or lift gate can easily cost thousands of dollars. This purchase should be thought out in advance so your business can make a fiscally responsible choice.