Once the domain of “light duty” lifts for cars, light trucks and SUVs, dealer fixed ops departments have been expanding their capabilities to include service for medium-duty trucks (generally up to Class 6). And they’re adding the “heavy-duty” lifts that make that possible.
In the traditional truck country of North Dakota, truck service business is booming in lockstep with the oil business. “We have 4,000 oil wells producing, 200 oil rigs working around the clock, and the forecast is for this activity to quadruple,” says Steve Schwan of Schwan Buick GMC Cadillac in Mandan, N.D.
So, if you’re thinking about getting in on the action, but the equipment and shop space considerations to lift trucks is unfamiliar territory, keep reading. You won’t be up in the air for long.
Match Your Heavy Lifting Equipment to Your Customer Needs
If you want to expand your business, the first consideration shouldn’t be what kind of heavy-duty lift you need just to service the trucks you sell. Instead, your first deliberation should be your potential new customers and the types of vehicles they would need serviced.
Dealers are prospecting truck fleets in their area, such as hospital ambulances, municipalities, transit authorities, and utility and construction companies. A maintenance and service contract for fleets can be very lucrative business. It may take time to land these customers, but it makes sense to be prepared, lift-wise.
This is the first time many dealers will ever consider heavy-duty lifts. Manufacturers generally define heavy-duty lifts as those with 15,000 lbs. or more of capacity. For auto dealerships, the most popular truck lift choices include:
- Two-post lifts (15,000 to 18,000 lbs. capacity)
- Four-post lifts (18,000 to 40,000 lbs. capacity)
- Mobile column lifts (13,000 to 18,000 lbs. capacity per column; 52,000 to 72,000 lbs. capacity for sets of four)
Mobile Column Lifts
The easiest and most cost-effective heavy-duty lift to add to a service department is the style that’s least known by car dealers. It’s the extremely versatile mobile column lift. Typically sold in sets of four individual, battery-operated columns, these compact and portable lifts are easy for technicians to use. With no power cord to connect, and nothing attached to the floor, the lifts can be set up quickly in an available flat bay, or even in an appropriate area outside, for use as needed. The newest models are available with wireless communication — eliminating cords (AKA trip hazards) completely.
For dealers who anticipate only occasional truck service, mobile columns are easily moved and stored so they don’t take up valuable bay space when not in use. Adding to their flexibility is the fact that mobile column lifts, often in combination with a set of jack stands, will accommodate the widest range of vehicles. Mobile columns are the only heavy-duty lifts that can be used to service passenger cars on up to trucks, buses and RVs. It’s no wonder that mobile column lifts are the fastest growing segment of heavy-duty lifts.
Heavy-Duty Four-Post Lifts
Heavy-duty four-post lifts are especially appropriate for vehicles with a long wheelbase. Their drive-on capability gets the vehicle safely onboard and up in the air quickly and efficiently, making four-post lifts well suited for quick service operations such as inspections, oil changes and lube jobs. Because of space requirements, four-post lifts make the most sense if you have a dedicated bay available, or if you are expanding your existing facility or building a new one. Heavy-duty four-post lifts have a footprint of roughly 13’ in width and up to 32’ in length. Extra space may also be required to maneuver bigger trucks on and off the lift.
Heavy-Duty Two-Post Lifts
Automotive dealers already familiar with light-duty two-post lifts will find that the heavy-duty versions look and operate much the same, but are about a foot and a half wider to accommodate larger vehicles. Recent innovations in technology have made some heavy-duty two post lifts faster to load and lift/lower to help technicians be more efficient and productive. If service area height is limited, low ceiling models are available. Two-post lifts are an asset if you are doing a lot of heavy repair or time-intensive service work because they provide techs with excellent under-vehicle access.
Some Final Considerations
While some manufacturers make both heavy- and light-duty lifts, most don’t. If you’re satisfied with the quality and service of your light-duty lift supplier – manufacturer and installer – check with them first when researching new heavy-duty lifts. It makes sense to work with people you already know and trust – and who understand your service business objectives, if they can also meet your heavy-duty lift needs.
Before investing in new equipment, especially in response to OEM vehicle changes or launches, make sure it has been approved by the vehicle manufacturer. Many OEMs recommend or even mandate which heavy-duty lifts dealers should install. In some cases, the OEM has worked with a lift manufacturer during the vehicle design process to determine how to best pick up the vehicle, especially in situations where the lifting points are difficult to reach.
Finally, make sure your heavy-duty lift has been tested and certified to meet ANSI/ALI ALCTV-2006 safety and performance standards. For proof of compliance, look for the gold “ALI Certified/Validated by ETL” label.