With more vehicle lifts meeting certification from the Automotive Lift Institute (ALI), new lift LEDs lighting up work areas under buses, and self-locking and wireless features, vehicle lift suppliers are working to make the school bus shop even safer.
Still, there are many steps that vehicle lift buyers and operators should follow to ensure safety. Verifying that the lift is certified by ALI, making sure the shop can physically support the lift, reading the manuals from ALI and the lift supplier, getting annual lift inspections and making sure all technicians are properly trained in how to operate the lift will go a long way toward protecting the safety of the employees and the facility.
Here, lift safety experts discuss purchasing and operating tips, and suppliers share lift features that remove some safety concerns from the shop environment.
1. Buy ALI certified
First, end users should verify that the lift they plan to purchase is ALI certified by checking at www.autolift.org and viewing the directory of certified lifts, says Dale Soos, senior project engineer at the ALI.
Certified lifts meet stringent safety standards; every component is scrutinized and physically tested, says Sam Fielden, vice president, Maxima, MIT Automobile. ALI is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and its lift certification program aims to make it easy for buyers to choose a lift that has been third-party tested to meet the safety and performance requirements listed in the safety standard ANSI/ALI ALCTV (current edition) “Safety Requirements for the Construction, Testing and Validation of Automotive Lifts.” Testing includes verification of the structural integrity of all the lift’s systems and components, proper function of its controls and load-holding devices, proper lowering speeds, and overload protection.
Four new Maxima heavy-duty mobile column lifts recently met the requirements for ALI’s Lift Certification Program. The models are the ML-4030BC (66,000-pound capacity), ML-4034BC (74,000-pound capacity), ML-6045BC (99,000-pound capacity) and ML-6051BC (111,000-pound capacity).
2. Review installation concerns
End users should verify with the lift manufacturer’s representative that their shop can physically support the lift because of foundation requirements or any other obstructions that may be present at floor level or overhead, Soos adds. For example, if an end user wants to purchase an in-ground lift, they should confirm with the representative that they have proper foundation and soil conditions for installation.
Also, make sure the lift installer uses the specific anchors recommended by the lift manufacturer. “The anchoring devices provided were given significant engineering consideration before they were specified for that lift,” Soos says.
3. Read and follow ALI, vendor instructions
Be sure to read and understand all the material from ALI and the lift supplier, including the operator’s manual, Fielden says.
“The operator’s manual explains how to operate the lift safely and do routine, preventive maintenance,” he explains. “Those are really important items to read before operating a lift. The better educated an end user is, the safer he or she is going to be.”
4. Get annual inspections
In addition to getting your lift inspected once a year, have the inspection performed by an ALI-certified lift inspector and request that the inspection lead to placement of an ALI Annual Lift Inspection label as an assurance of compliance, Soos says.
“Going the extra step to require the ALI inspection label will give fleet managers peace of mind that the person reviewing each lift has passed rigorous examinations and is backed by a comprehensive quality assurance system and documented evidence of meeting a Nationally Accredited Certification Program.”
To find an ALI-certified lift inspector near you, visit www.autolift.org/find-a-certified-auto-lift-inspector.
Allister Collings, president of SLEC, agrees, and says his company encourages its customers to get annual lift safety inspections. SLEC safety technicians are also authorized to conduct those inspections.
Steve Perlstein, government sales manager of Mohawk Lifts, also recommends annual lift inspections, and that all shop technicians be qualified and trained to operate the lifts. OSHA writes tickets to shops for noncompliance, he warns.
5. Perform daily lift checks
Lift operators should perform a simple 10-point check of their lift on a daily basis, as described in the American National Standard for Automotive Lifts – Safety Requirements for Operation, Inspection and Maintenance ANSI/ALI ALOIM:(Current Edition), according to Soos.
6. Keep thorough maintenance records
Thoroughly documenting all maintenance performed on a lift is critical to keep it operating as the manufacturer intended for many years to come. Follow the lift manufacturer’s periodic planned maintenance procedure to ensure reliability and allow continued safe operation of the lift.
“Just as your school bus engine builder recommends replacement of components at scheduled intervals or when they break, the same applies to components subject to wear, corrosion, stretch or chemical breakdown,” Soos says.
7. Get proper training
Along with up to date records for lift maintenance and inspections, training will effectively reduce exposure to personnel-related safety challenges, Soos adds.
ALI offers training tools, including the “Lifting It Right” online lift safety training course, which teaches proper vehicle lift use. A narrator discusses lift types, the vehicle lifting and lowering process, and lift maintenance. Real-world scenarios are presented in an interactive format. Participants have up to 90 days after registration to take the course and pass an online test. At the end of the program, a certificate of completion is generated and stored online, to be printed and displayed. Each participant also receives a copy of ALI’s Automotive Lift Safety Tips card and the “Lifting It Right” safety manual, a $10 value, by mail after successfully completing the course. ALI lowered the course price this year, so it’s now just $24 per person, Soos notes.
8. Balance weight appropriately
Balancing weight properly on vehicle lifts is crucial, and yet is commonly overlooked, Mohawk’s Perlstein says. Do not exceed the lift’s rated capacity, not only of the lift, but of each column.
To help customers buy the right lift for their needs, Mohawk representatives ask about weight distribution at the back end of the vehicle, which could be heavier, especially for those equipped with wheelchair lifts. For example, a bus that weighs 11,000 pounds is not necessarily suitable to use on a 12,000-pound lift if the back end weighs about 7,500 pounds. You would need at least a 14,000-pound lift to support that vehicle, Perlstein says.
Maxima lifts have built-in self-diagnostic ability, preventing them from operating if they are not working properly. The feature can help prevent the operator from overloading the lift.
9. Go wireless
Wireless mobile columns are synchronized and able to identify weight differences and automatically compensate. The columns communicate with each other and keep the lift level, which is particularly important when the weight of the school bus is not the same in the front as it is in the back.
Additionally, wireless technology removes a tripping hazard from the floor, says Peter Bowers, technical sales support manager for Stertil-Koni.
For years, mobile columns had communication cables running across the floor, connecting them to each other. They carried high voltage and if they became damaged or were exposed to water, that could produce a safety hazard, Bowers says. The lack of cables removes that hazard.
Some Maha Lifts, including the MCLN 16-4 wireless, are equipped with proximity sensors that can detect if the carriage runs into an obstruction on the way down, and will stop the lift, says Steve Davis, product and marketing manager.
10. Enhance visibility
A new lighting product and a remote control feature create greater visibility under the lift for optimally safe conditions.
Rotary Lift’s new Line Light 4 kit consists of four LED light wands that can be unobtrusively attached to a lift, providing plenty of light under the vehicle and freeing up the technician’s hands. Since the light wands use LEDs, they stay cool to the touch even after hours of use, says Doug Spiller, Rotary Lift heavy-duty product manager.
The wands can be connected and controlled by a single switch, and can be positioned and held in place by magnetic clips.
The kit can be used with any runway-style lift, and is ideally suited to Rotary’s HDC Series, parallelogram, SM30 and AR18 heavy-duty lifts.
SEFAC USA’s two main lifts — the S1-48,000-pound, and the S3-72,000-pound lift — are available in sets of four and six columns, and come complete with remote pendant control, says Nicolas Drapier, marketing director at SEFAC USA. SEFAC recommends that all lift operators use the remote pendant system that provides a thorough view of the vehicle while lifting and lowering. This ensures complete visibility of possible obstructions, Drapier says.
11. Consider a self-locking feature
SLEC lifts feature an ALI-certified self-locking threaded screw for added safety, says SLEC’s Collings.
All Stertil-Koni heavy-duty vehicle lifts include independent mechanical locking systems that can be heard locking in place, Bowers says. The company boasts a narrow locking interval, at 1.375 inches, he says, allowing the lift to be lowered into the locks at a convenient height for the technician.
SEFAC also provides self-locking on its lifts and recommends the secondary use of its manufactured jack stands to offer additional support and extra lifting capacity for busy shops. “All SEFAC USA’s lifts are super lightweight, which enable one-man functionality and use our specialist cold rolled acme thread, that allows for self-locking across the whole lifting height,” Drapier adds.