Most commercial vehicle operators will be aware of the importance of safe loading and load restraints – health and safety has seen to that. But are operators always using the right method to load their vehicles?
Need to Load Quickly?
In the UK, loading box and panel vans means using a fork lift and a pallet truck inside the vehicle – if there’s room. This is a relatively slow process and can be sped up, especially if the cargo carried are of a fixed and specific type.
When loading panel vans, the problem is exacerbated through lack of space. This means that the brute force of the forklift is used to push loads along, often resulting in damage to the van.
Joloda International is a company that has been making loading systems for decades – it leads the way in air cargo systems. These systems are ideal for loading box vans – from 40ft trailers to 3.5 tonne panel vans.
The company markets a straightforward ‘skate and track’ system that is permanently fixed into the floor of the vehicle to speed up the process of positioning the load on the vehicle.
These systems aren’t new, but it surprising how many transport operators who carry the same loads day in, day out, persevere with basic systems when a little investment in loading systems could save them some time.
Loading Systems for Trucks
The ‘Skate & Track’ system consists of manual operated rolling skates that run in a special sunken track and are elevated to lift the load and roll in or out of the truck or van.
Best suited for pallets, slipsheets, drums, newsprint rolls, heavy and large machinery, the manufacturers claim that it is 33% faster than conventional manual loading. Worldwide they have sold 250,000 systems operating in over 30 countries.
Van Loading Made Easier
In a more recent development, Joloda now market a removable version of their loading systems for panel vans. Called Vanloda, it is a portable solution that can be moved from van to van, and is fitted in twenty minutes.
It is now being used across many industries with operators transporting wine, sweets, cosmetics, batteries, aero-engine parts and refrigeration boxes.
The company claims a loading time reduction of over 50% as the pallets are rolled to the front of the van in a few seconds.
With payloads tight on large panel vans, operators may not have the luxury of being able to fit the Vanloda system, in which case the more straightforward, lighter version of the ‘Skate and Track’ system can be fitted permanently into the van.
Become an Agent
Joloda are looking for companies who are able to market their systems. Perfect for dealers retailing new vans, these systems come ready boxed and can represent additional margins from existing customers.
Joloda expect an investment of a demo system, costing £1,500 to £2,000, depending upon the size. This investment would cover training in the selling and installation of the system, and the company would expect to see dealers selling at least ten units per year.
There will be many occasions when the vehicle is nowhere near a forklift or loading bay. This means the operator has to look at a tail lift, crane or ramp to load the vehicle.
The choice of system will depend on the type and variety of loads lifted, from the occasional need to lift a gas bottle where a small crane might be fitted to a ramp, to a steam cleaner that is in and out of the van ten times a day. General delivery operations will inevitably opt for a tail lift.
Aside from the fact that having a tail-lift or loader crane installed can increase efficiency and cut costs by enabling drivers to make more deliveries unaided, another key reason for fitting a mechanical handling aid is cited by Jessica Penny, General Manager – Sales, at Penny Hydraulics. “Around 1% of all workplace fatalities, serious injuries and injuries that result in a worker being off sick for more than three days are related to manual handling,” she observes.
A properly-conducted risk assessment may mean that a vehicle owner has no choice but to fit handling equipment if heavy or awkward-to-handle items are being delivered to premises without off-loading facilities; unless he fancies ending up in legal hot water.
Often overlooked as a method for loading flatbeds and tippers is the use of a crane for loading panel vans. Lightweight and easy to stow away, a crane is ideal for occasional use – especially for heavy tools, plant or gas bottles. With a weight from around 50kgs, Penny Hydraulics’ range of cranes for panel vans can lift up to 500kg and can reach up to two metres.
Specifying and installing a truck crane is not to be underestimated. Whole vehicle type approval ensures that the job is carried out correctly, but operators also need to be sure that the original specification is right for the job.
Central Hydraulic Loaders Managing Director, Tracie Sharratt, tells us, “We combine the latest IT technology with our vast practical knowledge. This ensures that our bespoke sub-frames and commercial vehicle bodies are perfectly engineered, optimizing your cranes performance without reducing the vehicle’s payload more than necessary.”
Central Hydraulic Loaders has recently installed five of their best- selling PM65026 cranes for Commercial Vehicle dealer and contract rental company MV Commercials, who specialises in crane-mounted trucks for rental and sale.
Sharratt continues, “For the MV job, we have designed a very low sub frame to allow for an acceptable 5th wheel position without compromising the strength of the build. The Crane has an impressive reach of 15.30 metres and lifts 3270 kg, as well as low self- weight, continuous slewing and Radio Remote Control.
Tail Lifts Too
Palfinger is perhaps best-known in the UK for its Palfinger Ratcliff tail-lift operation, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Well-known for column-type tail-lifts in particular, Palfinger Ratcliff ranks catering industry supplier Brakes Group among a long list of clients.
A drawback of fitting handling equipment is that the weight it adds to the vehicle’s chassis cuts the payload capacity.
This can be a particular problem with a typical 3.5-tonner. Fit a 500kg-capacity column tail-lift weighing up to 140kg – possibly significantly more – and you reduce its ability to carry heavy cargo considerably.
Fit the same lift to, say, one of the lightweight 7.5-tonners produced by Isuzu or Fuso, then it is less of an issue because you still have plenty of payload capacity to spare.
Not surprisingly therefore, tail-lift makers such as DEL Equipment – another Cargotec subsidiary – have been working with composites with an eye to lightening their products by as much as 40%. Around 60% of the tail-lifts DEL supplies are mounted on 3.5-tonners.
Its weight-saving properties mean that aluminium has been used by manufacturers for some time for platforms in particular – it has the added advantage that it does not rust or need painting – while some have been employing high-tensile rather than mild steel in a bid to cut kilos. It allows section sizes to be reduced without loss of strength.
In the case of Penny Hydraulics, going the high-tensile route has enabled the weight of the specialist lifts it supplies to ATS Euromaster to help technicians handle heavy tyre and wheel assemblies to be cut from 110kg to 60kg.
Follow the Rules
Operators must make sure their lifting equipment is safe and ensure they are adhering to current legislation; Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
LOLER states that you must have lifting equipment thoroughly examined at least once in every 12-month period by a “competent person”.
Thorough Examinations are not the same as routine maintenance. Routine maintenance typically involves checking and replacing worn or damaged parts, lubrication, replacing time-expired components, topping up fluid levels and making routine adjustments.
Are Ramps an Option?
The default ‘go-to’ solution for loading is usually to fit a tail lift –even for panel vans this is increasing. This is because companies understand that they have to provide the tools to make the driver’s job safer and avoid problems associated with lifting.
Depending on the use there are alternatives to the tail lift, which can get in the way and eats into valuable payload – a scarce commodity on today’s large panel vans running at 3.5 tonnes GVW.
UK manufacturer WM System markets a broad range of folding ramps specifically designed for panel vans. These are ideal for loading wheeled items into vans such as motorbikes and cleaning machines.
The ramps can be installed in the rear or side doors, which means that the van can be loaded by forklift at the factory and unloaded using the lightweight ramp at the destination.
Llry Williams, Managing Director at WM System, tells us, “All of our ramp models can be fitted onto any van. The only restriction is the size of aluminium ramp that can be fitted, and this is usually dependent on the width and height of the vehicle door opening. We can offer you any size ramp you require under the maximum size for your vehicle. Which surface, capacity and how it is fixed, will be down to your application and what is being loaded.”