There are many different styles of liftgates, but all are meant to improve truck loading and unloading, especially when the shipping or receiving location does not have a loading dock and manual loading and unloading is necessary. Liftgates can increase delivery speed, particularly with heavy cargo. This can help minimize product damage since cargo delivered with the help of a liftgate is less subject to damage from dropping or mishandling. Additionally, liftgates enhance workplace safety related to personal back and lifting injuries.
For a liftgate to provide the lowest cost of operation, it has to be spec’d correctly. Having the appropriate type of liftgate for the intended application is essential to the lifgate’s performance and safe operation.
Then, the liftgate must be well-maintained. Regular maintenance is a necessity to keep a liftgate working properly and functioning to its maximum capacity. Keeping a liftgate in good operating condition also decreases the risk for malfunction, helping prevent worker injuries, loss of time and loss of products.
One of the foremost considerations in determining the appropriate liftgate is how much weight and square footage is transferred on a daily basis on the vehicle, says Neal Nieberding of Leyman Liftgates, a Cincinnati, OH-based designer and manufacturer of liftgates. This information is needed to determine the liftgate’s platform size - length by width - and hauling capacity.
“Overloading a liftgate serves as a potential safety hazard and could affect its performance over a long period of time,” he notes.
Other important spec’ing considerations are vehicle size, overall body width, type of doors - overhead (rollup) or swinging - and where the liftgate will be mounted, says Nieberding.
Not to be overlooked is whether a load retention system is needed for bulky, wheeled or hard-to-handle cargo; what material handling devices will be used while loading/unloading; and if there are any dock loading/unloading requirements.
It is also advisable to look at how often the liftgate is going to be used in a given day and how much power will be required by the liftgate’s batteries.
A “heavy” liftgate user typically uses a liftgate more than 50 times per day, he says. To supply enough power for a heavy user, more batteries may be required to fulfill a full day’s work without interruptions. Making sure the liftgate’s wire sizes from the motor to the batteries are adequate could help contribute to maintain optimal power supply.
As a liftgate is used, its overall appearance and ability to function will slowly deteriorate over a period of time due to normal wear and tear, says Nieberding. Operating in colder climate conditions can cause increased wear and tear on a liftgate, such as loss in battery power and decreased performance of the hydraulics.
To resolve these issues, additional batteries may be required, he says, and suggests using specialized hydraulic fluids designed especially for use where low temperatures or rapid changes in temperatures are expected.
Rust is also a major issue for liftgates, Nierberding says. Depending on operating conditions, consider additional corrosion and rust inhibitor exterior coatings.
When it comes to liftgate maintenance, because there are numerous styles of lifts, not to mention various brands, details will inevitably vary, says Lowell Boe, a lead engineer at Tommy Gate Company, a manufacturer of hydraulic liftgates based in Woodbine, IA. “It is important to familiarize oneself as completely as possible with the specific products that comprise any fleet. However, there are a few universal points that should be followed no matter which product a fleet is using.”