By Peter Saunders
Vans and trucks equipped with aerial work platforms or ladders for outdoor sign installations range in length, height, capacity, reach and material handling options. As such, a sign shop’s choice of model—or reliance on non-vehicular installation systems, such as scissor lifts—will depend on its specific needs in the field.
The sign industry has seen rapid technological developments over the past few decades, from piezoelectric inkjet printing to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to digital billboards. While sign installation equipment may not appear to have changed as quickly, it has needed to adapt to outside forces. Like LEDs versus neon and fluorescent lighting, for example, it has become less energy-intensive.
“Everyone is looking for more efficient ways to install and service signs,” says Mike Bradley, vice-president (VP) of Radocy, which has supplied telescopic cranes to the sign industry for more than 50 years. “Our cranes operate off of 110-V alternating current (AC) power, so we aren’t using the truck’s diesel to power our lifts, which would cause unneeded war and tear on the engine and transmission. By running the cranes off of a generator, power inverter, shore power or any combination thereof, we prolong the life of the truck, save on maintenance and fuel costs and cause less pollution.”
Another way to save money is to lower the overhead costs involved in sign installation. Radocy has built cranes to fit on trucks that do not require any special licence to drive, but still offer sufficient carrying capacity. This way, sign companies can avoid needing a full trailer or two trucks for the same job.
“They are also looking for cranes with heavy lifting capacity at lower angles and that have shorter retracted boom lengths,” says Bradley. “One of the biggest changes in the industry has been lower signs. Since most signs today aren’t installed above 14 m (45 ft), there is usually very little need for 30.5-m (100-ft) cranes.”
Fortunately, a broad range of sizes have become available, in terms of both the vehicles and the installation equipment mounted to them.
“Aerial work platforms on compact vehicles with a short wheelbase have become popular because installers need a small footprint when they’re working near buildings and in parking lots with lots of cars around them,” says Mick Gerber, an account manager for Scott Powerline & Utility Equipment, which sells and rents out Elliott Equipment aerial platforms, boom trucks and cranes to the sign industry in Canada and the U.S. “There are both midsized and smaller-chassis trucks available. And in many cases, you can use a light-duty setup instead of
a heavy-duty one.”
Scott Powerline’s material handling systems typically have enough capacity to lift 227 kg (500 lb), but larger units are also available to support up to 454 kg (1,000 lb).
“Beyond that, you’ll need two trucks for the job,” says Gerber. “When installing signs, though, reach is usually the biggest factor. For anything above 19 m (63 ft), you’ll need a midsize to large chassis.