From a hammer to a TIG welder, you need the right tool for the job. You wouldn’t hammer a nail with a screwdriver. Conversely, you wouldn’t bring a ladder to do the job of a boom lift. When your worksite is up off the ground, you need the right aerial lift to get the task done right and to keep your team safe.
Boom lifts are designed to carry one or more workers with their tools and materials up, over, and into their working environment. They are split into two major classes: telescopic and articulating:
You have multiple choices for power sources: diesel, gas, electric, and hybrid power. Choose tires, treads, two-wheel or four-wheel drive depending on your terrain. Boom lifts vary in size from nimble folding 30-footers that can squeeze through a doorway to 180-foot monsters that can reach up to the 19th story.
The development of the boom lift is marked by creative minds seeking to increase efficiency and safety for workers. The boom lift has come a long way since its creation, but modern ones look strikingly similar to their ancestors. The design never needed a complete overhaul.
We are working with powerful machines and dangerous heights. Like any construction job, you need to work the right way to stay safe. Proper training is necessary to prevent property damage, injuries, and death.
Boom lifts aren’t only for building and repairing. They have uses in many other industries. So what job do you need to be done? How will the right boom lift help you, and how do you choose the proper machine?
Haulotte HA80 JRT
The Haulotte Group is the third largest maker of aerial work platforms in the world. They manufacture a full line of articulating and telescoping boom lifts, from the 35 foot 3522A atrium lift to the heavy duty HT132 RTJ Pro. The group was formed in 1995 by the merger of Pinguely and Haulotte. Pinguely was born in Lyon, France, in 1881 as a manufacturer of steam locomotives. It expanded into steam shovels, cranes, and earthmoving equipment. Haulotte began in 1924 building derricks and mobile cranes in L’Horme, France. Together they are a strong force in the world aerial platform market.
John L. Grove’s company JLG continues to be one of the leaders in boom lift innovation. Since building and selling its first boom lift in 1970, it has expanded into scissor lifts, telehandlers, and drop-deck trailers. It provides equipment for airports, chemical plants, shipyards, construction, convention centers, and the military. They offer towable, compact crawler, and powered wheeled boom lifts. Their product range stretches from the 20-foot T350 to the massive 1850SJ. The company’s headquarters are in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania. It operates offices, manufacturing, and service centers in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, Asia, Europe, Russia, and across the United States.
Genie began building compressed air powered boom lifts in 1966. The company’s name was born from the hissing sound and the vertical motion of their first material lift, like a genie from a bottle. The company grew to build personal lifts, scissor lifts, light towers, and telehandlers. In 2002, Genie was acquired by Terex. It now manufactures in China, Italy, and the United Kingdom in addition to two facilities in Washington.
Terex, known then as Euclid, began building heavy trucks in 1933. Twenty years later it was acquired by General Motors. It reformed as Terex in 1970. The name is a combination of “terra” (earth) and “rex” (king). It added crawlers, scrapers, and front-end loaders to its lineup. In 1973 it built the 33-19 Titan dump truck. Powered by a 169.49-liter V-16 diesel and standing over 22 feet high, it was the largest truck ever built for 25 years. Terex bought several companies around the turn of the millennium, including Genie in 2002.
Skyjack was founded in 1985 and quickly gained a 30 percent share of the world’s boom lift market. The Linamar Corporation of Guelph, Ontario, purchased the company in 2002 and then added Carelift’s ZoomBoom brand in 2007. Skyjack purchased Volvo’s material handling division in 2008, making it a powerful and diversified player in the aerial lift world. It produces articulating boom lifts, telescoping boom lifts, and a wide range of lift accessories.
In 2010 MEC introduced the Titan Boom 40-S, which won Product of the Year in the self-powered category at the 2011 International Awards for Powered Access Summit. It can carry a massive 3,000 pounds of gear and 1,000 pounds of personnel and equipment to a 46-foot working height. MEC has been making various aerial lifts in Mayville, Wisconsin, since the ‘70s, including some of the industry’s largest rough terrain scissors.
Snorkel began in 1958 specifically to supply boom lifts to firefighting companies. It moved into the construction field in the 70s. Currently, Snorkel manufactures a full line of self-propelled and towable articulating and telescoping boom lifts. It is now owned by the Tanfield Group, working together with UpRight and Aerial Access to supply lifts to Australia, New Zealand, North America, and South America.
Platform Basket is a British company specializing in lightweight self-powered spider-type atrium lifts. Their smallest is the Spider 13.80 E. It has a working height of over 43 feet. Their flagship Spider 43 WE stretches to 140 feet. The company sell throughout Europe and recently expanded to South America.
BigRentz carries JLG, Genie, and Skyjack aerial lifts primarily. Availability varies from region to region. Here are some examples of units you’ll find, from large to small, in both telescoping and articulating varieties.
The 40-foot telescoping boom lift has always been the bread and butter of the JLG corporation. The 400S keeps up that tradition. It comes with either a 2.9-liter four-cylinder diesel engine or 82 horsepower dual fuel motor. It can handle grades up to 45%. It can carry 600 pounds of people and gear fully extended (unrestricted) or up to 1000 pounds to about 75 percent of its reach (restricted). It can stretch vertically to 40 feet and horizontal to just over 33. The 400S is a reliable everyday straight boom lift for many roofing, painting, construction, or repair applications.
Skyjack builds rock-crawlers with booms on top. The SJ45T is built like a truck with an axle based four-wheel drive system, Detroit Locker rear differential, and a limited slip front differential. The engine bay and cowlings swing wide open for easy access and maintenance. The wiring is color-coded and numbered so that you won’t be chasing electrical gremlins. Choose either a 48 horsepower diesel engine or 82 horsepower dual fuel motor. It can climb a 50 percent grade. It has a 45-foot platform height, 40-foot horizontal reach, and 125 degrees of vertical jib rotation.
For bigger jobs, look to the S-60X. Choose either diesel or gas/LPG hybrid. Both provide 75 horsepower. It can reach 60 feet vertically and 50.8 feet horizontally. A foot and a half of ground clearance can handle tricky terrain. Its platform capacity is 500 pounds unrestricted and 1000 pounds restricted. The operator can select the weight at the start of the job, and the machine will warn him when approaching the maximum reach. Other intelligent technologies include ramped boom control, which utilizes angle sensors and limit switches for finer control, and a virtual pivot primary boom to align the center of gravity and reduce weight.
Skyjack’s tallest boom lift is both sophisticated and simple. Controls are simple to operate and maintain. The driving and operating functions are always oriented to where the operator is facing, regardless of the platform position. The operator is also in control of a locking rear differential and limited slip front differential for confident bad-terrain control. The SJ86T is powered by a 74 horsepower diesel engine and can drive fully extended. It has a vertical reach of 92 feet and a horizontal reach of nearly 77.
With greater size comes greater technology. The S-125 incorporates four-wheel drive with brakes on each wheel. The four-wheel steering system can be set for front, rear, crab, and coordinated steer. Extendable axles make it easier to transport. It can stretch to 125 feet vertically, 80 feet horizontally, or nearly 11 feet below ground. Choose a Deutz 78 horsepower turbo-diesel, a Perkins 83 horse diesel, or a Cummins 80 horse diesel.
The SX135XC is designed for extra capability and range. The narrow Mini XChassis excels in tight workspaces. The Jib-Extend gives extra articulation, providing 125 degrees of motion and a below ground range of nearly 20 feet. The boom reaches its maximum working height of 141 feet in only 150 seconds. It can reach 90 feet horizontally, which exceed the range of taller competitors. It carries 660 pounds unrestricted and 1000 pounds restricted.
JLG 1500 SJ
The 1500SJ features JLG’s oscillating axle system with a full foot of articulation and a foot of ground clearance for off-road agility. It’s powered by a 74.2 horsepower Deutz diesel and can climb up to a 40 percent grade. Retractable axles mean it won’t need an oversized load permit, although an overweight permit might be required for highway travel. The maximum platform height is 150 feet with a horizontal outreach of 80 feet.
The 1850SJ is currently the largest boom lift in the world, with a platform height of 185 feet and the ability to reach 3 million cubic feet of workspace. With the axles extended, it spans 16.5 feet. For working on 19-story buildings, stadium construction, or dramatic panoramic photography, this is your monster machine.
Skyjack SJ30 ARJE
This compact unit features a rotating articulating jib for superior maneuverability. It weighs only 500 pounds, has a 60-inch turning radius, and is only 47 inches wide with zero tail swing. The battery charges from any AC source. It can climb a grade of 35 percent and handle winds up to 28 miles per hour. It can reach up and over 13 feet. Its dexterity and small frame make it perfect for unloading trucks or warehouse work.
This towable unit is solid enough for a tough day’s work but light enough to use on tile, lawns, or gum floors. It can fit through the side door then unfold hydraulic outriggers. It self-levels on inclines up to 11 degrees. It includes forklift pockets for easy transport. Dual pneumatic jockey wheels enable you to position the unit precisely. Working height is 40 feet with a horizontal reach of over 18 feet and 16 feet of up and over range. It can carry 500 pounds while weighing just over 3000 pounds itself. It’s powered by four 6V batteries.
The 340AJ is the winner of EquipmentWatch’s Highest Retained Value Award for 2017. It’s a great machine that will keep punching the clock for a long time. With six inches of axle oscillation, 10 inches of ground clearance, and 265/50020 lug tread tires, it’s built for bad terrain. It can climb a 45 percent grade in four-wheel drive. You can get either a clean Tier 4 Kubota diesel engine providing 24.8 horsepower or a 28.7 horse dual fuel motor. This compact unit can still carry 500 pounds unrestricted to a platform height of nearly 34 feet, a horizontal outreach of almost 12 feet, and an up and over height of 17 feet.
Genie Z40/23N RJ
The Z40/23N is built for clean, agile indoor work in a congested environment. The electric motor, which draws power from eight 6V batteries, operates with zero emissions and has considerably fewer moving parts than a combustion engine for ease of maintenance. It’s under five feet wide with a turning radius of only 32 inches. The self-leveling platform features 128 degrees vertical and 180 degrees of horizontal jib rotation. It can handle a 30 percent grade safely with automatic hill braking and ramp braking. The working height is over 46 feet with a horizontal reach of nearly 29 feet. It’s a great machine for aircraft repair, shipbuilding, or vast warehouses.
When you have big work to do but a narrow entrance, choose the X430AJ. The 29-inch wide machine will fit through a standard doorway then unfold four booms for stability. The tracks distribute the machine’s weight to be gentle on delicate floors. It has a working height of 50 feet, a horizontal outreach of over 21 feet, and an unrestricted platform capacity of 500 pounds. It includes forklift pockets and lifting eyes for easy transport. Choose either a Honda iGX390 gas engine or an electric motor with a 36V lithium-ion battery. This is the machine for next time you need to drive through the side door of a cathedral and change a light bulb in the ceiling.
Genie Z 62/40
The Z62/40 is a gentle, agile giant. The Fast Mast can reach a working height of nearly 68 feet, and a horizontal reach of over 40 then swiftly return to retrieve more materials, workers, and tools. The dual parallelogram lift linkage with full-time active oscillating axles enables precise placement of the platform to put you in the right spot to work. The swing-out engine tray makes it easy to maintain. You may choose either a diesel or dual fuel engine.
Like all Skyjack products, the SJ85AJ is built for ease of use. The swing-out engine tray and swing-up cowlings make it easy for technicians to work. The EasyDrive direction sensing controls help the operator no matter where the machine is facing. The SpeedyReach boom system let you access the 91-foot working height and 56-foot horizontal reach swiftly. It features oscillating axles, locking rear differential, limited slip front differential, and an overload sensing system. The modular platform railing system with tri-entry sliding mid rails let you set the machine up however it works best for you.
The 1250AJP is built for speed and utility. It can stretch from the ground to its full 125-foot height in 95 seconds. Its 74.2 horsepower Deutz diesel engine is compatible with the Tier 4 emissions standards. Customize it to your job with SkyWelder, SkyPower, SkyGlazier, or SkyCutter attachments.
Genie ZX 135/70
The ZX135/70 is a flexible lift. It utilizes the X-design chassis to both extend and retract for stability and ease of transport. The three-part boom provides a working height of 141 feet with 160 degrees of horizontal platform rotation. The telescoping jib extends from 12 to 20 feet with 110 degrees of vertical rotation. Four-wheel drive with traction control, four-wheel steering, and four-wheel brakes mean this machine can go almost anywhere.
The 1500AJP includes the available ClearSky telematics system, which gives you a wealth of information including full management of the other machines on your team. It can stretch 600 pounds unrestricted to 150 feet vertically with an up and over height of 60 feet and 125 degrees of horizontal jib rotation. It’s powered by the same 99.8 horsepower Deutz diesel as the 1850SJ telescopic boom lift.
With so many models to choose from, reviewing every one here would be impossible. Search the web, and you’ll find articles and videos from both manufacturers and owners expressing opinions on individual models.
JLG, Genie, and Skyjack all build great machines that but each brand has its personality and strengths. How do these producers compare to each other?
JLG, as one of the oldest companies in the business, is known for consistently delivering reliable lifts. It never puts out a product that is not rock solid and industry ready. Yet, it is not completely traditional. It is always innovating. With inventions like the fuel cell powered lift and the battery-free EcoLift system, JLG is pushing toward a clean energy future in an old-fashioned diesel world. Giants like the 1850SJ and 1500AJP prove the company is aggressively staying ahead of the competition.
Genie is no newcomer to the business. Its partnership with Terex provides it with the operating capital and research and development-related muscle to continuously invent. Operators love their precise controls, agile handling, and soft touch even with their largest machines. They are a great choice when the job involves tight spaces and delicate materials.
Skyjack is the progressive new kid. Their systems are known for being the easiest to operate and maintain. User interfaces are clear with intuitive controls. Inside wires are color-coded and numbered for easy troubleshooting and repair. Their mechanical axles and differentials are solid and basic with few fancy parts to fail or trip up a technician. For those who relish understanding every part of their machine, Skyjack is the best call.
Using a boom lift for camera work allows for innovative aerial angles
Any time you might use a ladder or erect a scaffolding, a powered boom lift might be a better choice. They’re more stable, nimble, mobile, and capable. They may cost more to rent or own, but they rapidly close that gap with increased productivity and safety for your workers.
They are a natural choice for off-the-ground construction workers and roofers. Not only do they make it easy to access elevated work areas, but power outlets and tool storage are a great convenience. Painters and electricians also use them often.
Building and repairing aren’t the only use for a boom lift. They also make excellent camera platforms. You’ll see them consistently at outdoor sports games. Meanwhile, Hollywood has specialized cameras and platforms for getting great angles. A famous early use of an aerial lift in a movie was the scene in Gone with the Wind where the camera rises away from Scarlett to reveal thousands of wounded and dying soldiers.
Specially adapted aerial lifts have been used by firefighters almost as long as orchard workers have used them to expedite harvest work. Boom lifts have proven to be extremely efficient when spraying down into a building or through windows.
So you need a boom lift, but what kind? Size is obviously a primary question. How high do you need to reach? You want sufficient range but not the extra expense of an oversized lift. A smaller unit will be easier to maneuver. Be sure to measure your entire workspace. An ultrasonic distance meter will help you measure id=”HowtoChoosetheRightOne”dig distances you can’t reach with a tape measure. There are quite a few other issues you should consider before choosing the right boom lift for your project.
Movement Type Needed
So you need to get up and over or only up? A single-mast telescopic boom lift will allow you to stretch up to a high position. A multiple mast articulating boom lift will give you the ability to reach over beams and down into tight spaces.
How many workers and how much gear will be in the bucket? Make sure your people have enough elbow room. Add up the weight and round up, just to be overly cautious. Overloading the bucket is very dangerous.
What terrain are you working on? How steep do you need to climb? A four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering lift will help you conquer the trickiest of job sites, but it may be more than you need. You also might be traveling over delicate tile or soft ground. Like any vehicle, tires are important. Consider flotation, non-marking, standard pneumatic, solid rubber, or foam-filled.
What spaces must your lift fit through? In a wide-open job site, this may not be an issue. But when working inside a tall building, like a cathedral or stadium, slipping through a doorway may be essential. Atrium lifts are specifically designed to fit through standard doorways then unfold to get the job done.
Power Source Compatibility
What power source should you choose? Diesel is still a popular choice, especially if you have other diesel vehicles at your workplace. You’ll always have fuel handy, it provides abundant torque, and your diesel technicians will feel right at home.
Dual fuel motors give you the greatest flexibility. They can run on gasoline or diesel for outdoor power or propane for indoor quietness and fewer fumes.
Electric motors are best for working indoors or with inadequate ventilation, especially when recharging is convenient. They are quiet with no emissions and plenty of torque.
Since 1999, JLG has been working with hydrogen fuel cell aerial lifts. They also manufacture a line of unpowered EcoLift machines that use no fuel, oil, batteries, or hydraulics to raise workers vertically to a working height of over 13 feet.
With so many options, contact a BigRentz representative to choose the right machines for your job.
No matter how comfortable you get using an aerial lift day in and day out, never forget that you are dealing with serious heights and powerful machines. A boom lift can perform very delicate maneuvers, but when misused or not respected, it can damage and injure.
Yet, at the hands of a properly trained operator, a well-maintained boom lift is the safest choice. More workers are injured or worse in scaffolding-related accidents or by falling from ladders.
When you understand the hazards involved with working around a boom lift, you’ll be much more likely to stay safe. Here are the five most common aerial lift accidents:
Caution and respect will keep you safe. Electricity is insidious and silent; something electrical workers are acutely aware of. Non-electrical workers can overlook the danger, especially when doing non-electrical work. Be aware of all electrical sources and treat them all as if they were live. Be careful not to touch a metal object to a live source accidentally.
Don’t use an aerial lift without supervision and be careful not to overextend yourself. Take the time to move the lift rather than stretch yourself too far. Use a safety harness to stay connected to the platform. When you are safely inside the bucket of a boom lift safely positioned, falling will not be an issue.
Secure all your tools and be especially careful not to dislodge or lose control of materials you are working on. Even a small object can strike with powerful force after falling a few stories. When working with trees, tie off any limbs before cutting them off. Always assume someone is below you. When on the ground, always wear a hard hat and stay out from under a lift.
Working under beams poses a risk of pinning in a boom lift
When working near a ceiling or overhead beams, respect the power of your machine. Keep your limbs inside the safety railings. If you move the bucket against a wall or other object, your arm or body could be crushed.
Although modern design has developed tremendously stable boom lifts, they’re only as safe as the operators and the ground they rest upon. Test the terrain to be sure it is solid, especially after rain. Individual wheels can sink into soft or unstable ground, causing the machine to tip. For workers at the end of a long boom, those forces are magnified. They can be tossed from the platform.
When you are aware of the potential hazards, you are significantly less likely to be part of an accident. Be sure your whole team follows the proper safety protocols and gets the latest training.
No job is done right if not done safely. Make sure you adhere to the following guidelines for safely operating any aerial lift, including a boom lift:
Genie Lift Pro Training
Proper aerial lift training is a good idea even if you’re only renting for one day for a small job. For a professional, it’s essential. Not only will it prevent injuries and accidents, but it will defend you from potential litigation and build you into a better worker for your company. Once you are trained, you become a resource for your co-workers and improve your management capabilities. This is a resume builder.
BigRentz offers Genie Lift Pro Online Operator Training courses to make sure you are operating safely and responsibly. How do you complete the training?
JLG also offers its JLG University to provide a wealth of training on all their equipment. Skyjack provides similar services. Many outlets are ready to offer aerial lift training, but you can trust three of the largest lift manufacturers to do it right.
If you had to work up off the ground early last century, you had two choices: a ladder or scaffolding. Ladders were easier to move around, but they still took time to set up. Scaffolds were more steady, but they were impractical to relocate while working on a large project. Both could be unstable on uneven ground or when hastily erected. The invention of the boom lift was largely able to solve the problems these often unreliable tools caused.
The Original Boom Lift
Orchard workers, who moved from tree to tree all day, needed something quicker and safer than a ladder. Walter E. “Ted” Thornton-Trump provided the solution. He attached a bucket to the end of a double-boom hydraulic arm on a wheeled platform. His “Giraffe” was born in 1951.
Ted’s Giraffe enabled workers to get up and into trees. The original unit, which came to be known as a “cherry picker,” was pulled by a tractor.
In 1956 Ted produced the self-powered Girette, which could move about the orchard with only one operator. He expanded to 14 models of boom lift specialized for orchard work, firefighting, and other industries. His largest was a truck-mounted unit that could reach the top of a 12-story building.
The Introduction of JLG
Aerial view of the JLG 1850SJ
John L. Grove utilized Thorn-Trump’s ideas and expanded them further. In 1969, John and Paul Shockey founded Condor Industries to build cherry-picker-style lifts, primarily for the aircraft industry. In 1973, the corporation was renamed JLG and is dominating the industry today.
JLG reacted to the needs of workers with numerous innovations including the scissor lift, bucket-mounted controls, track-driven frames, and all-wheel steering. By the end of his career, John owned over 60 patents.
As boom lifts became a ubiquitous part of construction, they gained the personalized touches workers needed. Manufacturers added electric and pneumatic tool attachments to the buckets. They integrated welding equipment. Nimble atrium lifts were designed to creep through narrow doorways and then open up to access tall ceilings. Diesel-hybrid, electric, and hydrogen fuel cells gave workers many options for power.
In 2015, JLG introduced the 1850SJ. This 185-foot monster became the world’s largest boom lift, able to access over 3 million cubic feet. The work platform, which carries up to 1,000 pounds, includes an LCD display to deliver a wide range of information and communication to the operator.
The 1850SJ is not only big, but it’s also fast. It can extend to full height in under five minutes. Its axles extend or retract to transport mode in under one minute.
Boom Lifts Today
Modern boom lifts have precise controls and intricate displays to tell the operator everything they need to know about their position, forces, fuel levels, and more. They can self-level and actively maintain balance.
The boom lift has become more specialized since Ted’s original cherry picker, much to the advantage of many trades.
Image from the US3332513A Patent
The history of the boom lift is marked with numerous patented inventions. Like military and space innovations, breakthroughs in the construction industry have trickled down to benefit other fields. Telescopic booms, for example, have directly influenced modern movie cameras.
Here are some of the most important boom lift related patents:
For various rental options, go to BigRentz.com. Find the boom lift with the size, power source, and features that fit your needs. Call us with any questions at (888) 325-5172.
You can select from an eight-hour block to 20-day rental.
Fire and rescue personnel utilize aerial platforms to better reach people who are in dangerous situations and precisely apply fire retardant.
Yes. Many lifts have built-in outlets for plugging in electrical equipment. Consider the number of outlets and the space you’ll need when using these extra tools when you’re selecting the right lift.
Diesel is good when you have other diesel vehicles in your fleet, with extra fuel and technicians handy. Electric-powered lifts work best indoors because of their clean operation. Dual fuel offers more options and a good efficiency/power balance.
That depends on your environment. Wide flotation tires offer the best traction in sandy or muddy conditions. Solid rubber tires resist punctures, a regular hazard on a construction site. Non-marking tires won’t leave black marks on gymnasium or lobby floors. Treads spread out a lift’s weight, placing the lowest psi load on fragile flooring.
An oscillating axle system allows independent wheels to move, compensating for uneven terrain. This allows the platform to stay level without tipping.
The boom lift has changed the way construction, repair, maintenance, and even filmmaking is done. Pioneers like Ted Thornton-Trump and John L. Grove greatly improved safety and efficiency for workers around the world. Awkward ladders and scaffoldings became unnecessary once sturdier, safer, and more mobile options were made available.
Three major manufacturers have emerged to produce top quality boom lift models. From compact atrium models with electric motors to sky-scraping behemoths, the collection of toys is exhilarating. While sticking fairly true to the original design, engineers from JLG, Genie, and Skyjack keep competing against each other and creating new inventions that invigorate the entire construction industry.
These pieces of aerial equipment are capable of creation and also destruction, so operate them with respect. Take time and care on the job site and be sure to get the right training.
We now have a great range of telescopic and articulated aerial lifts specialized to whichever job you need to be done. So which one is right for you? Contact us at BigRentz, and we’ll connect you to the perfect machine.