Much to Consider with Aerial Lifts

Aerial Lifts Come in Variety of Styles

Those days when discussions of aerial lifts were limited to bucket trucks are gone. In researching current aerial lift devices, you will find a huge array of packages, capabilities, options and even power sources. While truck-mounted lifts are still available and an excellent choice for many tree care companies, the variety of aerial devices available, along with the wide variety of prices, has made some type of aerial lift a much more feasible and affordable option for almost every interested tree care company. Traditional bucket truck-type lifts require that companies consider how they want the truck configured – just to transport the lift, or with some form of chip storage ability added. Tow-behind or self-propelled stand-alone lifts lead to their own transportation concerns. Along with these choices come decisions regarding boom length and height, as well as power options. Instead of being overwhelmed by all these choices, the tree industry should rejoice that there are finally options that fit all work sites and budgets.

Regardless of which aerial lift option or package a company elects to purchase, it will be a substantial investment. The common thought process that any new tree crew member can run an aerial lift is a good way to substantially increase that investment through repairs, maintenance or, sadly, medical costs. Fortunately, a few basic principles and concepts can provide a framework of useful rules for these useful tools.

Regular Maintenance Required

There is not one type of lift, regardless of power source, package or transport, that will not require daily, weekly and monthly maintenance. These requirements will be clearly stated in the owner’s manual. These manuals are full of useful, important and possibly life-saving information.

If nothing else, a simple safety and function check should always take place prior to aerial lift operation. This check will vary depending on the type and capabilities of the lift, but should include an inspection for loose pieces/parts, cracked or leaking hoses, and wear on metal/fiberglass components. The device should also be put through its “paces” with no one in the bucket or on the platform to ensure that it’s functioning correctly.

Multiple Skills Needed to Operate Lift

Aerial lift operation is certainly not as physically demanding as climbing, yet it requires a fine touch on the controls and an ability to think within the space of the tree’s canopy, the platform/bucket and the boom. A tree care professional should avoid the tendency to make cuts simply to gain access for the bucket or boom when operating a lift, as these “convenience cuts” certainly don’t fall under the heading of tree care. Aerial lifts are not going to be the best option for every tree or job, but neither is climbing; and many jobs may require a combination of both. Rather than settling into an antagonistic stance toward one skill or the other – and both are definitely skills – tree care professionals would be best served by remembering that a true profession requires multiple skills, and being adept at multiple skills is the sign of a true professional.

Important to Choose Where, How to Set Up Lift

The choices made on where and how to set up the aerial lift, regardless of type, are important for its safe and efficient operation. Climbers don’t often have to worry about soft ground beneath the tree they’re working in, or an old septic tank or newly filled trench, but an aerial lift operator can’t ignore such variables. Aerial lifts often allow the operator to put himself in a safe, stable position to make chain saw cuts aloft. The extra time spent setting up the lift properly will be much cheaper than the alternative of a lift turned “turtle.” Any tires that are part of an aerial lift should be chocked as required. A rolling or shifting lift with a rider aloft is much more serious and dangerous than a nightmare carnival ride.