Interviews with Aerial Manufacturers: Trends in the COVID Age

Sept. 21, 2020
Manufacturers of aerial equipment talk with RER about safety developments; the impact of COVID-19; continuing product development; coming trends; alternative fuels; telematics and more.


Ken McDougall, president, Skyjack;

Paul Jensen, marketing communications & customer analysis manager, Haulotte Americas

Terry Dolan, president and CEO, Hy-Brid Lifts;

Matthew Elvin, CEO, Snorkel;

Rebecca Yates, product manager for material handling and access, JCB;

Craig Paylor, president and CEO, LGMG North America; and Michael Paylor, inside sales and training manager

Simon Meester, chief operating officer, Terex (Genie)

RER: What are the latest safety developments from your company? 

McDougall: Skyjack was one of the first manufacturers to offer operator and supervisor training and continues to provide this foundation for best practice and the adoption of good habits. Skyjack’s scissor lifts and vertical mast lifts are designed with a range of safety features in accordance with a variety of global regulatory requirements.

Industry groups have recently suggested possible circumstances, conditions, and operations that might result in inadvertent contact with obstructions and consequently an entrapment hazard. As a result, a form of secondary guarding is now being requested on scissor lifts and vertical mast lifts by some equipment users. As a result, Skyjack recently launched its Secondary Guarding and Lift Enable (SGLE) system for use on scissors lifts.

With Skyjack’s SGLE, both joystick and tamper-proof secondary enables must be activated to allow the platform to lift – the release of either will stop the functions immediately. The ergonomics are such that the operator’s body is kept in an upright position and away from the railings, mitigating the risk of entrapment. The secondary enable button is not used for lowering the platform or for driving; those functions remain joystick-enable only. SGLE is suitable for all Skyjack scissor lift and vertical mast lift models and is available as an optional direct factory install or aftermarket accessory. 

Elvin: Safety remains at the heart of everything we do at Snorkel, and this is evidenced in the latest product developments which were previewed earlier this year. The new Snorkel 2100SJ, the world’s largest self-propelled telescopic boom lift, will include a number of brand-new features that will help to drive new standards of operator safety.

In the platform, a patent pending secondary control panel has been designed to enable the operator to face the work area while positioning the platform, for safer operation and increased precision. The new secondary control panel, which provides all machine functions other than drive, is located on the opposite side of the platform to the primary controls and can be ‘folded away’ into a stowed position when not in use to maximize the platform working area and to protect it from damage. Both the primary and secondary controls include Snorkel Guard secondary guarding systems.

Simplicity is key in the dual zone management system, which is based on jib boom extension, rather than on the platform load, delivering a simple, single envelope. This means that when the 30-foot jib boom is retracted, the operator has a platform capacity of 1,000 pounds, but the when the jib boom is extended, the platform capacity is reduced to 660 pounds.

While this system provides a much simpler experience for the operator, Snorkel has also added haptics to its upper controls. This provides the operator with a joystick vibration experience that becomes proportionally stronger to warn the operator as they near the boundaries of the envelope, to avoid sudden stops when working at height.

For safer loading and unloading, the Snorkel 2100SJ is equipped with a removable RF-controlled lower control panel designed to be operated remotely, either tethered or wireless. The remote-control panel has all machine functions, including drive, and the panel can be easily stowed inside the turntable where it can be used as conventional fixed lower controls.

Paylor: We have spent as much time within the company safely taking care of our employees as we have been working on the new ANSI regulations. As for our machines, because we are a Chinese company, we have been building for the Chinese market. We've spent the last five years adding several safety features to comply with the new ANSI standards. While some of these changes have delayed their introduction into the North American marketplace, we are pleased that the models introduced have been well accepted and have customers anxiously awaiting the rest of our growing product line. All of these machines will meet all of the newest standards.  

Meester: You can’t talk about safety and health in 2020 without mentioning COVID-19. We have a manufacturing facility and team members in China, and our China team was on the front lines of developing health and safety protocols to allow our teams to return to work safely. Our teams in other parts of the world were then able to leverage our China team’s experience to put health and safety protocols into place globally that are helping keep our team members safe during the pandemic so we can continue delivering our commitments to our customers.

In terms of products, we had the new ANSI and CSA standards that took effect earlier this year. Our team has been working for several years now to make sure our boom and scissor lifts were updated to meet the requirements of these standards. Our XC boom lifts, for example, were designed with these new standards in mind and they were introduced a few years ago. Our scissor lifts were also updated to meet the new standards requirements. In addition to platform load sense, they also have standard folding guardrails, standard swing gate and dual zone control, which allows them to be operated indoors or outdoors.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your business and what do you expect going forward? 

McDougall: There remains so much unknown. COVID has shown it is capable of throwing a few curve balls. What shape will the recovery be? Will there be a second wave? Looking to the next two years and assuming no substantive second wave, Skyjack sees the start of recovery in 2021. That overall recovery might manifest more than in the latter quarters of the year. Beyond that, we would expect levels to return to normal. Although, there would be lasting aspects of COVID measures that become part of a new “normal.” 

Jensen: Like the rest of the industry, we came home from ConExpo and stepped off the plane into a completely different world from the one we left on our way to Las Vegas. We had completed some recent IT and communication upgrades that made it simple to shift to a remote working model to keep in touch with our customers and support them remotely with technical advice and spare parts order fulfillment. We’ve been lucky to keep everyone safe and healthy and have been able to reopen our offices with a few safety modifications.  

While we do see some customers postponing Capex spending for now, we also see an increased interest in our trailer booms. The lightweight booms are being shipped as quickly as they can be produced at our Ohio production facility. The big challenge now that we share with most of the construction equipment industry during this recovery period is, working with suppliers to get parts to the production line as quickly as possible.

Dolan: COVID-19 has taken a toll across all businesses and has certainly impacted Hy-Brid Lifts. However, with a highly differentiated product, we feel we have fared better than any. We have put practices in place to ensure the safety of our team and have had zero cases of COVID in our facility. In addition, the unique times have pushed us to do business in different ways that will stay with us beyond COVID. We have instituted online training systems and videos to ensure that even when we cannot get out in person, our customers get the support and training that they need.

Elvin: We have experienced a similar magnitude of impact from COVID-19 as most other equipment manufacturers have reported. We are starting to see signs of people returning to their business operations in some regions. As you would expect, business, and demand, is returning more quickly in countries where COVID-19 has been minimized.

Paylor: The virus has had major impact on the buying patterns of all rental companies, both large and small. The change in buying patterns resulted in major problems for all the leading manufacturers in the MEWP business. Small to midsize rental companies who don't normally hear from the leading market share manufacturers are suddenly hearing from them because they need sales to reduce massive inventory levels. This push for business from companies other than non-traditional national rental companies has a second effect as it causes the prices of the equipment to reduce. Rental rates are down due to lack of jobs, and this causes even small rental companies to hesitate to spend money on new machines when there is no clear indication when this virus will be over or how it will affect the November election. Both could be major factors in determining the rebound in 2021 and beyond.  

Meester: The impact of COVID-19 on the aerials industry has been significant, starting with slowdowns we saw in several parts of the economy, like, for example, entertainment and travel. These slowdowns caused rental companies to adjust their Capex plans, which reduced demand and impacted equipment manufacturers. We do expect the market to come back over time.  

What have been the latest developments in your company’s product line in the past year

McDougall: Skyjack started the year with four major new product launches. Against the background of the impending ANSI A92.20 standard, the next generation of Skyjack equipment included:

·                A full range of new DC scissor lifts: complete with a new control box, single location emergency lowering switch, adjusted pothole protection, new SKYCODED diagnostic display, and a more rigid scissor stack. When the standards were initially announced a few years ago it was inevitable that the cost of business was going to increase for the access industry. Skyjack focused on ways to rebalance the ROI equation for rental companies and are providing them with an ANSI 92.20 compliant product that is designed to decrease their overall cost of ownership.

·                New full-size rough terrain scissor lifts: boasting increased working heights, increased capacities, and the market’s largest work platform across the range. Skyjack’s new full-size rough terrain range originally consisted of 33-, 43-, and 53-foot models, but Skyjack also expanded that range to include an all new SJ9263 RT. The new product, with a 63-foot platform height and 1,200-pounds platform capacity shares commonalities with the rest of the range including Skyjack’s axle-based four-wheel drive.

·                New increased capacity booms: Skyjack increased capacities in all 40-foot and 60-foot models along with dual capacities in most models. The nomenclature for these machines will feature a “+” to identify the increased machine capacity, differentiating the new machines from their previous models. Along with the increased capacities and personnel ratings, the new + models also feature control system changes which better align with ELEVATE, Skyjack’s telematics solution. 

ELEVATE Live provides operators access to critical machine information, including the machine’s current state of health, pre-use inspection guides, and familiarization materials through a simple QR code. Providing operators live data on machine health has always been a difficult task due to the complexity of providing login credentials to all the personnel on an often-changing job site. ELEVATE Live provides immediate access to that data for the operator right at the machine and without the burden of APP downloads or user accounts.

More recently, Skyjack announced its SJ3219 ANSI model is now supplied with RAPIDFOLD as standard. The new system allows the top of the platform rails to quickly fold down and enable access through standard doors and other areas with restricted space. This means the Skyjack SJ3219 model is the lightest scissor lift on the market that’s wind rated to full height for one person, still maintains a two person no wind rating, and is capable of going through a standard door.

In addition, Skyjack announced ECOTRAY, a new leak containment system specifically designed for Skyjack’s range of new DC electric scissor lifts. Unlike other systems, Skyjack’s ECOTRAY has been designed with essential machine functionality in mind. Functions such as pothole protection, static strap use, access to the emergency stop, emergency lowering and the base controls. The system is protected from jobsite debris, damage from forklift handling and other influences that can hinder leak containment. Available as a factory install or field kit option, the system is available on Skyjack’s range of ECOTRAY ready DC scissors. The system uses a series of purposefully placed catchment trays that contain absorbent pads, which can be quickly and easily replaced.

Jensen: Haulotte made a bold statement in the industry promising to replace internal combustion engines with alternative energy sources in a step-by-step process with the introduction of the HA61 LE electric articulating boom. Expect to see those next steps coming soon as Haulotte gets ready to announce new, innovative MEWP power solutions.

Dolan: All of our lift models have undergone a complete redesign. That includes one of our most popular units — the PS-1430. As one of the first lightweight, maneuverable indoor lifts, our 14-foot unit really helped to define a class of lifts under 19 feet. It began as the HB-1430 and has progressed into the PS-1430. While the visual brand language and many of the features remain similar, this flagship product has undergone a complete redesign and continues to be one of our most-ordered lift models. We implemented our new LeakGuard fluid containment system, increased the lifting capacity and added active load sensing. We also upgraded our controls to provide the operator with more information and upgraded the non-marking tires for improved floor loading. These features, along with others on the PS-1430, make it an ideal lift for users in the market for an electric drive scissor lift.

Another addition to the Hy-Brid Lifts lineup is our Zero-Turn Series, which is making its way to the top of our most popular units. This line includes the ZT-1230 — with a platform height of 12 feet — and the ZT-1630 — with a platform height of 16 feet. These lifts are nimble, precise and intuitive to operate. We believe a dynamic shift is coming; customers will be operating in finished facilities and will need tighter turning radius machines. Our ZT series fits the bill with counter-rotating rear wheel drive and steering that make pivot turning a realization. These lifts feature point-and-go drive operation, as opposed to a traditional toggle method. The precision steering and proportional movement of our ZT-1230 and ZT-1630 make it easy to maneuver around finished walls and fixtures, eliminating the need for a cumbersome, oversized unit that could cause costly damage or rework on finished jobsites.

Elvin: We have a lot going on in terms of product development. Unsurprisingly, our largest latest development is the new Snorkel 2100SJ mega boom, the world’s largest self-propelled boom lift. Capable of reaching a maximum working height of 216 feet, the equivalent of 22 building stories, the new 2100SJ also provides an industry-leading outreach up to 100 feet, and an unrestricted platform capacity of 660 pounds.

Developed in-house, the 2100SJ features patent pending static axle transformation, which uses wheel motors to ‘drive’ the axles into their extended position, minimizing the risk of tire scrub, extending the tire life and providing a smoother experience for the operator. The Snorkel 2100SJ also boasts incredible maneuverability, with an 8 foot, 6 inch inside turning radius and five steering modes, including lateral steer, which enables the lift to drive side-to-side along a building with the wheels in a 90° position.

Compliant with all global standards, the Snorkel 2100SJ has transport dimensions of 8 feet, 2 inches wide and 49-foot length, and for safer loading, is equipped with a removable RF-controlled lower control panel designed to be operated remotely, either tethered or wireless.

Weighing 80,000 pounds, and rated for outdoor use up to 28 mph, it is equipped with an anemometer to measure wind speeds. The Snorkel 2100SJ has redundant, isolated, emergency power supplies to provide at least three alternative options to rescue an operator up to the maximum platform height.

Shown as a preview at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020, the Snorkel 2100SJ is scheduled to enter production in early 2021, and pre-orders are currently being accepted, with the first units already sold to customers in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.

Although somewhat overshadowed by the 2100SJ, Snorkel has also taken a larger step into the expansion of our scissor lift offering this year. At CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020, we unveiled the first models in two new families of rough terrain construction scissor lifts. Designed for heavy-duty applications, the two new families include three high capacity large deck models, and a family of four ultra-high capacity large deck models.

The largest scissor lift in the new ultra-high capacity range is the Snorkel S9070RT-HC, which is setting new industry standards for construction-grade scissor lifts from a full-line manufacturer, with class-leading lift height and lift capacity. With a maximum working height of 76 feet and a lifting capacity of 2,000 pounds, the S9070RT-HC comes equipped with dual-powered extension decks and four hydraulic stabilizers with automatic levelling as standard.

Dubbed a ‘mega’ scissor, the S9070RT-HC delivers a maximum platform size of 27 feet x 7 feet, 6 inches when fully extended, designed to provide a vast working area and help to reduce the number of times the operator needs to lower and elevate the lift. With material loading in mind, this scissor lift family was designed with an integrated double material loading gate on the platform to allow a full-size pallet to be placed directly onto the deck. This makes the loading of materials onto the lift both safer and more efficient, as the correct material handling equipment can be used. Both of these scissor lift families are on schedule to enter full production in 2021.

We have also been expanding our Snorkel telehandler line, with two new models that are currently available to order. The diesel-powered SR1331 has a maximum lift capacity of up to 13,000 pounds, and a maximum lift height of up to 31 feet, 2 inches, and is the largest capacity telehandler in the Snorkel line-up currently. This year, we also introduced the new SR5719E, the world’s first electric telehandler, powered by lithium-ion batteries. Completely zero emissions, this compact rough terrain telehandler delivers equivalent performance to the diesel version, yet with significantly less noise, making it ideal for both indoor and outdoor material lifting applications.

Lithium-ion batteries are providing a real alternative to diesel in certain product categories, and we have continued to roll out this technology. In late 2019, we introduced two lithium-ion battery powered versions of our popular Speed Level sigma lifts, and this is being followed by three compact rough terrain scissor lift models that will enter production later this year. We have plans to continue expanding our lithium electric product offering, with our two narrow compact rough terrain scissor lift models next year, as well as mid-size booms.

Finally, in the diesel mid-size telescopic boom lift category, we introduced a tracked version of our 600S and 660SJ booms earlier this year. Delivering enhanced traction, the ‘All Terrain’ models feature a full-time active oscillating axle and four independent rubber tracks which can traverse uneven terrain without sinking into loose sediment, soft soil, sand, snow or mud. 

Yates: Uptime is critical for a productive job site, so JCB has updated the lower digital display readout specifically for service notifications on the scissor lifts. The display now provides a short description of a potential fault rather than showing only a code to diagnose issues faster and save time for service. 

Paylor: Because we are only 18 to 24 months old in the North American market, we had several basic product model introductions. We introduced our full line of electric drive industrial scissors, which have been very well received by distribution. We introduced our first 65-foot boom to accompany the new LGMG 52-foot platform height model that we feel will provide a niche size between the 45- and 65-foot heights. We also started delivering our electric-powered and diesel-powered RT scissors, that ranges from 32- to 53-foot platform height and 69 to 90 inches wide. These models are specifically designed to reduce acquisition costs yet still provide plenty of rough terrain gradeability and capacity. Finally, our design team has launched into the next level of boom lifts that'll extend from 80 feet to 150 feet. These can be expected in our markets starting in early January 2021. In short, we are playing catchup to the industry leaders, but we are doing so with a full and very competitive product line.

Meester: As mentioned, we launched our XC boom lineup in late 2017, well in advance of the ANSI standards change. As a result, we now have more than 12,000 ANSI-compliant booms already in the field, fully proven and making money for our customers every day.

To give customers the flexibility of performance and cost of ownership, we launched the J-series, which started with the S-60 J boom and will follow shortly with our S-80 J. We also launched a brand-new hybrid drive, the Z-45 FE, which gives our customers a fuel-efficient option coupled with the advantages of electric drive. Together, these three product lines — XC, J and FE — allow our customers to match the right boom to the right job and manage their ROIC more granularly.

In the second half of 2020, we will be launching the aforementioned full range of ANSI-compliant scissors with a few exciting surprises that I don’t want to reveal just yet!

What have been the most important recent trends in aerial product development and what trends look most important in the near future? 

McDougall: In truth, the run up to the new ANSI and the associated product changes have taken a large proportion of development times for many, if not all, manufacturers. That has been even more frustrating with the associated delays.

Outside of ANSI, one major trend has been the adoption of telematics. As we note in question 7, the COVID-19 crisis witnessed more questions to Skyjack about telematics and system capabilities. Happily, the answers enabled people to see the benefits beyond a point on a map. Productivity and profitability drive the need for data and good rental-focused telematics systems, such as Elevate, allowing actionable insights that lead to process changes.  

Skyjack saw that in rapidly rising adoption rates. New products such as Elevate LIVE have shown how that utility can expand beyond telematics per se. Without wanting to be too dramatic, there is a sense that rather like mobile phone apps there is almost no limit to system spin-offs. The major difference being that it will be rental companies and manufacturers, like Skyjack, working together that will that define form and functionality. That was the case with ELEVATE Live and ELEVATE BMS (Battery Management System) and it will be the case for more Skyjack offerings in the future.

Jensen: Stepping away from combustion engines has been a big trend in MEWP and many other equipment sectors as well. As electric power becomes more popular, equipment owners suddenly have to become expert caretakers of their newest big investment, batteries. Haulotte’s new Activ’Energy Management system takes the pressure off equipment owners and technicians by keeping a close eye on battery health and user charging habits. The new system recommends best practices, sends alerts when maintenance is needed, and can even automatically fill the electrolyte in each cell when needed. Equipment owners can feel confident that their battery investment is safe even if rental customers don’t have the best battery care habits. 

Dolan: One ongoing trend in the aerial industry is overall efficiency. Doing more work in less time. One of the ways that Hy-Brid Lifts can help to promote efficiency is with the development of our non-folding rails on the PS-1930. The new ANSI A92.20 design standard, which took effect June 1, requires manufacturers to have higher rails on MEWP platforms than the old ANSI A92 standard called for. Because of the new higher rails, many scissor lifts now have rails that users must fold down for the lift to fit through doorways. Hy-Brid Lifts designed the PS-1930 so it can fit through standard doors and into elevators without an operator folding down the rails. This feature saves operators a few minutes each time, which adds up to time better spent getting work done.

Elvin: A long-term trend in the equipment sector, including aerials, is the move towards alternative power sources to diesel. This continues to be a growing area within product development, and we expect to see it continue throughout the next decade. While some solutions have been relatively quick to bring to market, such as our own introduction of lithium-ion battery powered compact scissor lifts and compact telehandlers, the continued introduction of electric power solutions will be dependent on having the necessary technology to deliver diesel-equivalent performance that is both affordable and practical.  This will become more difficult to achieve on larger and heavier units.

A recent, and continuing trend, in North America is to find solutions that help mitigate some of the challenges experienced by operators through the new ANSI A92.20 design standards. This can be related to dimensional challenges, such as guardrail height, where we have developed innovative solutions, such as the Snorkel S3019E with its stowed scissor stack delivering a low stowed height to pass through doorways without requiring folding guardrails. It can also relate to the new indoor/outdoor ratings, where we have developed our new variable angle system, which provides an outdoor rated machine that requires no selection of intervention from the operator.

The variable angle system, fitted to all new Snorkel electric slab scissor lifts, complies with the new standard for outdoor rating and full capacity at all lift heights of the scissor lift, by reducing the permitted side-slope angle as the stack is elevated. This actually allows increased flexibility of the machine at “less than full height” work.

Other trends that we are seeing include the continued demand for greater lift capacity, which we are addressing through the introduction of our two new families of large deck construction scissor lifts, and we are also working on higher capacity options for our mid-size telescopic boom lifts, with the introduction of a new jib boom. 

Yates: Beyond the changes required by the ANSI standard update, customers are asking for options of electric drive motors and leak containment. An electric drive motor can provide higher torque for better climbing, specifically up ramps and other gradations around a job site. Leak protection collects hydraulic oil if there is a leak to help keep active work areas clean and reduce clean up time.

Paylor: If you read all the latest news from all the established players in the MEWP business, it sounds a lot like the machines are getting more and more technical. There are new special safety features intended to continuously keep operators safer and safer have added some complexity to the machine operation, which is a good thing, adding more "new age" features such as advanced telematics, GPS positioning, wireless and remote machine diagnostics, and many other advanced features. The cost would also increase, not to mention the level of skill for mechanics required to complete the repairs of such systems. We all know all companies require mechanics in the service position to be successful.

If rental fleets of multiple types and brands of equipment all continue to add technology to their machines, both the mechanic will be harder to find and much more expensive to afford. Following these additions to the machines, either the price has to go up for the rental company or the cost has to come out of somewhere else. In our case, we are trying to simplify the machines while only adding the items that customers want or they can get their money out of. Not that the other highly specialized options are not nice, but are they affordable? LGMG is focused on keeping everything from pricing, to standard features of the machines we build, to even our pricing methodology, as simple as possible. Afterall the one trend that is always the most important is who has the best return for the money.

Meester: The ANSI/CSA Standards, telematics and electrification. In terms of telematics, we are only just starting to scratch the surface on the use of data to more effectively and efficiently manage, maintain and utilize capital equipment. In terms of electrification, there is obviously a lot of potential for electric power. With the right design, the right cost, and for the right applications, electric power can deliver improved ROIC for our customers. 

Now that new ANSI standards have become a reality, how would you assess the impact they are having so far?  How are customers adapting to newer machines with load-sensing technology, terrain-sensing, indoor/outdoor restrictions and so on?

McDougall: The rationale for a revised ANSI standard was safety and few can reasonably argue that a pre-ANSI machine is safer than a post-ANSI machine. Who would not want safer machines and a safer rental industry? In fact, it follows that a safer industry is a growing industry as further barriers to adoption of MEWPs leads to increased usage, rental sales and rental company health.

However, as fleet managers look at purchase decisions for 2021 there are two areas worth exploring. First, construction contractors represent a major customer group for rental companies and as such, they have a major influence on machine acceptance onsite. In turn, a major influence on contractors and their health and safety executives is jobsite health and safety. At every level, from government down, the reduction of construction accidents is a prime concern. Contractors take the subject seriously. Their health and safety personnel rightly have a great say in the matter. They have and they will continue to ban machines they see as not safe for use. The New ANSI 92.20 has its roots in a drive to improve health and safety on the jobsite.

When these two imperatives combine, it follows that those with responsibility for health and safety will at least in part reinforce the need for a significant portion of the fleet to be ANSI92.20 compliant. This in turn means that rental companies will need to consider this in their 2021 fleet planning needs. In a recent RER/Baird survey one respondent was quoted: “Smaller contractors/homeowners are doing many smaller projects that are keeping us busy, but we miss the ‘send it out for six months’ base of business.” The contractors we have just discussed are that base!

Second, one of the significant differences between A92.5/A92.6 and A92.20 standards is the manner in which the effects of wind ratings are applied. Wind loads were not explicitly considered in the A92.5 and A92.6 standards, and wind ratings were applied based on other machines being dual-certified to Canadian Standard Association (CSA) standards (CSA B354.4 and B354.2 standards), which took wind loading into account for the machine design. Wind load considerations in the A92.20 standard are generally more stringent than the previous requirements from CSA B354.4 or B354.2.

Within the industry, we have often talked in terms of indoor and outdoor ratings. While the A92.20 standards make use of the terms ‘indoor use’ and ‘outdoor use’, the definitions do not refer to a physical location, but whether the MEWP is used in an area or environment that is exposed to wind.

The core issue is that wind can cause problems in partially completed and enclosed buildings, just as it can in the open air. Due to all of the stages of construction maintenance where wind can create issues through apertures in structures, referencing ‘indoor use’ can be misleading. The situation may worsen due to effects caused by wind tunneling, vortices and other similar phenomena.

Options exist for manufacturers to supply lighter, indoor-use-only machines. Fleet managers will be challenged to consider the wind rating of their future purchases to ensure compatibility with the applications of their customer base. What is particularly relevant, is what outdoor personnel rating a machine has, and to what height. Additionally, some indoor machines are now reduced to a one-person rating, which ultimately has an impact on utilization in some applications.

While the most common method of establishing a wind rating for smaller MEWPs has been to remove multiple occupancy, an additional or alternative approach is to reduce the maximum elevation permitted. In some cases, that has approached a 50-percent de-rating.

Rental management may need to consider the flexibility and options of their fleet Do the rental companies run two distinct types of machines? How do they ensure their customer uses the right machine for the job? How do they manage customer expectations, which are based on the older A92.5/A92.6 standards? How do they approach complaints as customers may assume they have been given a machine that is not up to the job?

Skyjack takes the view that fleet managers have enough to deal with without the idea of running two types of machine. That’s why we choose to offer wind rating on our machines. The SJ3219 for example the lightest scissor lift on the market that’s wind rated to full height for one person, still maintains a two-person, no-wind rating, and is capable of going through a standard door. 

Jensen: We have seen a real positive acceptance of the new standards. I think the industry understands that the new changes to the equipment are all focused on making sure everybody goes home safely at the end of the day of work. It also helps that our machines were compliant with many of those requirements well in advance of the implementation date, creating a smoother transition. 

Elvin: In all honesty, COVID-19 has delayed the real impact of the new ANSI standards. Many rental companies across the U.S. have reduced their purchasing of new equipment and/or delayed accepting new equipment deliveries due to a reduction in demand from their customer base. As such, there is a minimal quantity of the new ANSI-compliant lifts in the field, meaning that customer feedback at this stage has been somewhat limited. We won’t see the full impact until more of the market returns to more ‘normal’ operations.

Yates: As with any new safety standard introduction, customers are finding that some of the ANSI changes do require a reevaluation of the job site or load efficiencies and it will take a little while to fully adapt to the changes. However, everyone can agree, the benefits of increased safety standards outweigh the learning curves by heightening safety for team members while on the job site. 

Paylor: In large part it is much too early to tell. Many customers have not bought enough of the new machines to tell how they feel. The load-sensing technology will become what I think will cause the most problems. A few pounds here or there on the platform, with the machine moving or running over something that causes a "bump" in the platform could shut a machine down in the middle of a critical job at a time very inconvenient for the operator or the company involved. It is easy to say these sensing features will make the machine safer, but the difference between a strict safety mandate and a machine that operates safely but conveniently within a suitable margin or error will eventually settle the issue. As for indoor and outdoor guidelines, there are multiple ways to accomplish this with every manufacturer having their unique way of addressing the issue, it will become a larger issue as operators do not always use the same brand of equipment so everyone will be forced to adjust what they feel comfortable with. Frankly, any system that gives the operator the ability to turn an indoor machine into an outdoor machine by selecting a button and counting on the operator to do the right thing is overlooking the nature of operators in general.

Meester: The industry has gone through standards changes many times before and is very responsive when they happen. We introduced our XC booms in 2017 so, for booms, we have several years of experience and I would say our customers and their customers have responded well. We have helped them with training, and the changes have made their way into standard, day-to-day processes and operations. With scissor lifts, as the industry continues to learn and adapt to the changes, we are still at the beginning of the process, talking and working with our customers daily, providing training and replicating what worked for them when we did boom lifts. 

What level of demands are you seeing for electric MEWPs, hybrids, alternative fuels? 

McDougall: What is often forgotten in the power source debate is that the vast majority of MEWPs (slab scissors) have been electrically powered for a long time now. if Li-on technology gets its house in order (and it will!) things will not change over-night. This was part of rationale for Skyjack’s Elevate BMS (Battery Management System). The lead acid battery has some life in her yet! While rental companies manage those existing fleets, conventional battery care will continue to be an issue.

Elevate BMS (Battery Management System) targets the largest cost of ownership on electric scissors through use of an algorithm derived from the study of 2 years of aggregated telematics data. That study found that 75 percent of battery charges are less than 2.75 hours, and that batteries only receive one full charge a month.

Elevate BMS provides the operator with key battery health indicators and action advice. Elevate BMS provides rental companies with the ability to manage by measurement, and target the cost of battery replacement using accurate and immediate insight into how their batteries are treat in the field.

Coming back to the idea of electric or hybrid-powered booms and rough terrain scissors, their time will come. Europe seems to be taking the lead, although certain states and cities in North America are not too far behind. As technology evolves and pricing improves, adoption will gather pace and because of that it is a subject that is very much on our radar.

Jensen: We have been surprised at how well the new Pulseo Generation articulating boom has been received within the worldwide market. Interest and sales have exceeded our forecasts and we look forward to continuing to grow the Pulseo range of equipment. 

Dolan: There are many features of hybrid and electric-drive access platforms that make them attractive to users, and we have watched the industry take note of these benefits since day one. The industry is growing in their acceptance of this style of lifts, and Hy-Brid Lifts has always been manufacturing them from the start. Users continue to notice benefits, as well — like less risk of fluid leaks, proportional drive, less maintenance, quieter operation, and more power to climb inclines. From the very beginning, Hy-Brid Lifts has always employed electric drives, believing them to be the best drive for the market. It’s great to see operators requesting electric drive lifts with the features that will make their jobs easier.

The maintenance that accompanies a fully hydraulic machine is much more substantial and limits the operational hours of a lift. Customers take notice when a Hy-Brid Lifts model requires less service and maintenance. On top of that, our LeakGuard system is proving to be a favorite for users who want to eliminate the need for diapers or cumbersome fluid containment systems. LeakGuard provides a safe way to handle hydraulic fluid and prevents leaks from dripping on ground surfaces and internal components. It also helps prevent jobsite rework costs that may be caused by hydraulic leaks. Rental center customers, especially, ask for this easy-to-use system by name. LeakGuard is currently available on all Hy-Brid Lifts Pro Series units. 

Elvin: Demand for alternative fuel options to diesel is increasing, but the speed of adoption is regional and is based on market dynamics, such as the availability of financial incentives and/or environmental regulations on noise and emissions, either implemented by the local authorities or the jobsites themselves.  At Snorkel, we believe that this is a long-term growth area, and we are continuing to develop our line of lithium-ion battery-powered lifts that provide a real alternative to diesel-powered lifts.

Yates: Demand for alternative fuels and green solutions go beyond the MEWP machines and into other areas of the construction industry as well. JCB led the market with the electric 19C-1 mini excavator which has already enjoyed a high level of success in the rental industry. JCB has also recently added an electric teletruk to the offering, model TLT66-40E, industrial forklifts.

Paylor: Without question, electric power is the way of the future especially with all the advancements in lithium batteries. Hybrids and other alternative fuels will also develop quickly over the next few years but need significant advancements in infrastructure to support them. Much the same way electric cars needed some infrastructure advancements 10 years ago. This will continue to advance as the batteries continue to evolve in power generation, duty cycle, weight, cost, and serviceability. 

Meester: We see a lot of potential for electric drive, especially for specific jobs that have the available battery charging infrastructure. We are at a point where the technology can cost effectively deliver on the performance requirement for a sizeable part of the jobs out there. But there will continue to be jobs where a hybrid solution makes more sense (hence our FE line) and jobs where it will take a few more years before full electrification will be the best choice.

How do you see adoption of telematics systems changing the rental industry?

McDougall: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its grip on our lives and on economies, our day-to-day business lives are changing. Remote working, dealing with travel restrictions and the need for social distancing have required that we take advantage of technology. As we continue to deal with the crisis, these technologies will continue to contribute as we emerge into some kind of normality.

Within our industry, one of the most recent trends has been the adoption of telematics. Telematics for construction rental provides the function of remote diagnostic and remote management of machines. That functionality has previously provided the value of added efficiency and profitability, but in the current situation has transformed into a necessity. In a world where in-person access to machines is limited, or impossible, remote access becomes critical. 

Skyjack have seen a marked increase in rental company questions on telematics. The overriding flavor of those calls has been: “How do I…? Is it possible to…?” We are seeing the motivation for using telematics to interact, track and manage assets and their usage. This means that more roles and personnel from rental companies are looking for assistance to understand how to best use and maximize the technology.

Jensen: From the OEM perspective, telematics data is going to make much better machines that are optimized to exactly how customers use them. Manufacturers do a lot of research into how machines are used and interview customers about their habits and features that they want to see in the machines, but nothing will beat the data that will be shown by how the machines are actually used, every day.  

It could be discovered that heavier weight capacities are more required in certain parts of the work envelope than others, or we may learn that new construction trends mean that an entirely new machine design will better meet operator needs. Having hard data will be able to guide design decisions from the beginning of the engineering process. 

Elvin: I’m not sure that telematics will change the rental industry necessarily, but rather be embraced as another tool that can assist in the optimization of rental operations, such as equipment maintenance, pick-ups and deliveries, and much more. 

Yates: Telematics are becoming a standard necessity to any business, both rental and small business. JCB telematics are offered as an option for scissor lifts as JCB LiveLink Lite, providing information including key on/off, engine run duration, service alerts, and security notices. Having detailed information allows owner to keep costs lower and maintain their investment. 

Paylor: Like so many other items discussed here, telematics will eventually be a wonderful cost-reducing addition to the rental industry by supplying critical information to sales, service, and transportation departments within an organization. The question is when will the time be right based on the costs of such units, the degree of difficulty keeping them operating correctly, how many different styles there are, and how much service attention they require. Like the original GPS systems from 15 to 20 years ago, there were many types, but they all operated off a different platform and nothing conformed with one another. Like SmartEquip is for distribution to manufacturing operations where everyone works within one common system, the right telematics system would be one where regardless of the number of providers for telematics they would each operate the same so the users did not have to jump from one system to the other.  

Meester: Telematics is a critical tool that enables our customers to more effectively and efficiently manage their assets. It helps them save time, save money and increase their asset utilization. The opportunities go way beyond just location and operating hours. I personally believe we are still only at the beginning of realizing what digitization can bring to our industry. That’s why we have brought a solution to the market that gives the maximum range of data/sensor options so our customers can leverage this opportunity not only now, but for years to come as they continue to explore and evolve its application.