Aerial lifts allow personnel to work in high places, such as ceilings, roofs, windows and elevated wire installations. Use of an aerial lift eliminates the need for ladders or scaffolding that may have additional setup times and expenses and may present safety concerns. Many different types of aerial lift are available to suit these different applications.

If you are purchasing a new aerial lift, or more likely renting one, how do you decide which lift best suits your needs?

Source: Genie, A Terex BrandSource: Genie, A Terex Brand

Operating Specifications

The first step is determining the specifications of the application. Some important factors to consider include:

Application - What is the operating height the lift will need to reach? Is the lift to be used indoors or outdoors?

Surface - What is the surface the lift will be operating on? Is the surface flat or on an incline? Some lifts are designed to be able to climb and operate on slopes.

Capacity - How many personnel will be required to lift at a time? Are there other tools or equipment that need to be lifted? The total weight should be calculated to specify a lift with sufficient capacity.

Fuel - When selecting the correct fuel several factors should be considered. The main types of fuel are:

  • Diesel
  • Gasoline
  • Liquid propane
  • Electric (battery-powered)
  • Dual fuel (gasoline or liquid propane)
  • Bi-energy (fuel or electric)

Electric and liquid propane fuels are better for indoor applications. Gas and diesel can be used indoors, but only if the area is properly ventilated due to carbon monoxide emissions. If the lift is required to operate for long periods of time or in remote locations, gas, diesel or liquid propane should be considered where refueling may be easier than charging an electric lift.

Lift Types

Once you’ve determined your operating specifications, the next decision is selecting the best lift type for the application.

Scissor lifts operate straight up and down using a series of X-shaped, linked braces. As the members are drawn together, usually with a screw mechanism, the lift extends upward. Scissor lifts usually have a lifting platform the same size as the base of the lift and can accommodate several persons as well as tools and equipment. Scissor lifts can be used indoors or outdoors. Scissor lifts can typically extend 10 to 40 feet, however, some lifts can reach heights of 60 feet.

Different types of scissor lifts include:

  • Electric scissor lifts - Battery-operated electric scissor lifts are good for indoor applications as they do not emit carbon dioxide. Electric scissor lifts are also available with smaller platforms, which is ideal for use in tight or narrow spaces. Depending on the size of the platform, electric scissor lifts can accommodate multiple personnel.
  • Rough terrain scissor lifts - Similar in construction to electric scissor lifts, rough terrain scissor lifts are built for uneven terrain and the harsh conditions found in outside jobs. Rough terrain scissor lifts may be constructed with outriggers to level and support the lift on slopes.

Boom lifts have a bucket located at the end of an articulated or telescopic boom. Boom lifts are versatile aerial lifts allowing the operator to reach maximum heights. The boom is mounted to a turntable that allows the lift to rotate and move the worker exactly where they need to be for the job. The boom lift bucket accommodates only one person and is ideal for applications such as power line work, cell phone towers, window glazing and other jobs that can be performed by a single worker.

Different types of boom lifts include:

  • Articulating boom lifts – If you have ever seen a power or telephone line employee working at the top of a telephone pole, chances are they were using an articulating boom lift. Also referred to as a knuckle lift, articulated boom lifts have a swiveling turntable with a bucket located at the end of an articulating arm.
  • Telescopic boom lifts – Telescopic boom lifts provide access to jobs requiring maximum height access. They feature a bucket located on the end of a telescopic arm that extends in a straight line. Like articulating boom lifts, telescopic boom lift arms sit atop a turntable.
  • Atrium lifts - Atrium lifts, also called crawlers, are a type of articulated boom lift. They feature a track, similar to those found on excavators, instead of wheels that allow driving over a variety of terrains. Folding outriggers anchor the lift in place while in use. Atrium lifts are compact and lightweight aerial lifts.

Some lifts, such as the telescopic and atrium lifts shown below, may incorporate small sections of both telescopic and articulated booms for maximum flexibility.

Selecting the proper lift for your application requires consideration of several factors, including fuel, number of personnel you need to lift at a time, working height, terrain and other environmental conditions. Towable aerial lifts offer easy transportation to remote job sites and feature a standard towing hitch. Consideration of all of these factors will help you decide which aerial lift you need on your job.