It's often tough to justify dedicated trucks. A flatbed, water or dump truck may not get enough use to allow a clear-cut purchase decision. In these instances, a truck that allows bodies to be interchanged quickly can prove an attractive solution.
Quick-change systems come in two types. "There is a roll-off, which is a cable-based system. It uses a cable to raise and lower containers onto rails," says Fred Fisher, American Roll-Off. The second type is a hook system. "The hooklift operates from inside the cab. It works well for dump-style applications and small trucks because it doesn't weigh much."
Each type has strengths and weaknesses based on the application. For example, a small truck with a long container may favor a roll-off, while a small truck with a little container may favor a hooklift. If you tow with the truck, a hooklift may be a better choice because the cable-operated systems have more overhang. "You need to look at both systems to see which works best," says Fisher.
Hooklift expands use
High-Tech Pools Inc., a Cleveland, OH-based swimming pool contractor, builds pools for a range of clients, from theme parks and hotels to apartments and country clubs. It also builds residential pools, fountains, water features and therapy centers in hospitals. This wide variety of projects is scattered throughout Ohio and five surrounding states.
The contractor previously used a dedicated flatbed truck to move equipment and materials to jobsites. "The truck we used for that originally sat 60% of the time," says Jeff Hammerschmidt, owner/president.
Approximately five years ago, a Sterling truck with a Stellar Shuttle Hooklift and multiple bodies replaced the flatbed truck. "I did tons of homework," says Hammerschmidt. "I went out on the jobs, watched them operate and talked to owners. There are more advantages than you can imagine. Now that truck probably runs 95% of the time. It was expensive, but it is well worth it. I am getting more out of it than I expected."
High-Tech Pools uses three bodies: a flatbed, an open box and an enclosed box. The open box serves as a dump truck to carry materials and waste. The flatbed is primarily used for finishing pools. "We carry palletized sand and cement materials and tow a small plaster pump," says Hammerschmidt. It also moves equipment, including an excavator, a skid steer and trucks.
The interchangeable bodies can be loaded on the ground, then lifted onto the truck. This enables High-Tech Pools to also use the flatbed body as a tow truck. Several SUVs, 1-ton+trucks and vans travelling over a six-state territory translate into the occasional breakdown.
"When we break down, we put another truck on the back of the flatbed and take it to the down truck," says Hammerschmidt. "We exchange the equipment they had in the truck right on the side of the road so no one is missing a beat, except for the time that it takes to get to them." There is no towing fee and the down truck can be taken to a familiar repair shop.
The enclosed body also serves a dual purpose. "The enclosed body that we have is 22-ft. fiberglass construction with a translucent roof," says Hammerschmidt. "It's relatively light." In addition to storing equipment, the company name is placed on the side of the body and it's used as a mobile office, replacing jobsite trailers. "We are down to three trailers. Before we had five or six," he adds.
Ayars and Ayars is a Lincoln and Omaha, NE-based general contractor that performs commercial and light industrial work. Despite an extensive equipment fleet, Ayars and Ayars only needs three medium-duty trucks. Two of them are equipped with Stellar Shuttle Hooklifts and one is a 5-yd. dump truck.
These hooklifts serve as true multi-tasking tools. "We probably have 30 sites right now on the books," says Darin Mensik at Ayars and Ayars. The trucks with the hooklifts have dedicated drivers, and they run between all of the sites, racking up 40,000 miles a year.
Ayars and Ayars has 29 open-top containers, a dump truck body, flatbeds and 32 enclosed containers for the hooklift. The open-top containers are used for cleaning up the jobsite. The dump body is used for granular material and flyash.
The flatbeds are used to haul equipment. "You can raise one piece up on the flatbed with the hook, then tow a trailer for mobilization and demobilization," says Mensik. Loading equipment on the flatbed at ground level is also safer, especially with equipment such as aerial work platforms.
Similar to High-Tech Pools, Ayars & Ayars uses enclosed, 20-ft.-long containers for general jobsite material storage and as replacements for jobsite trailers. "The benefits are no wheels, no license plates, no lights and no maintenance," says Mensik. "They are more secure. We have less thefts."
Flatbeds organize jobsites
Kale's Nursery, Princeton, NJ, is a design/build firm that caters to high-end residential and commercial customers. Along with its fleet of backhoes, light dozers, skid-steer loaders and tractors, Kale's has two hooklifts. The first was purchased approximately nine years ago and installed by American Roll-Off.
The hooklifts have proven trouble free and have helped Kale's organize its jobsites. "We preload our jobs on flatbed bodies," says Doug Kale. Materials for a specific job are loaded onto a flatbed body in the yard. The truck then picks up the designated flatbed, transports it to the jobsite and sets it on the ground. "The body stays there and the landscape crew works off of it," says Kale.
The flatbeds are also used to move equipment. "We have D-rings that hold the equipment down with chains," says Kale. "When you take equipment off, the body is flat on the ground. It is up about 6 or 8 in. and you can just pull right off of it with your equipment."
According to Kale, this has helped reduce workmen's comp claims. "We have less injuries from people trying to tie down loads and falling off of the truck," he states.
The company has approximately six 22-ft. flatbeds. One has a water tank mounted for jobsites where water is not readily available. In addition, Kale's has 20- and 30-yd. dumpster bodies that help the 12 landscape crews sort recyclable materials and waste.
Kale's has been impressed with the productivity of the hooklifts. "You get one larger hooklift truck and it really ends up being six trucks in one," says Kale. "We keep it on the road all of the time."
Choosing the correct hoist
Quick-change systems are available in lift capacities from 3,000 up to 65,000 lbs. Fully loaded bodies can be picked off the ground as long as everything is matched to the capacity of the hoist system.
Two common hooklift designs are the single-pivot and the double-pivot. "The single-pivot designs weigh less," says Fisher. They are also less expensive, but they almost touch the ground when they dump.
A roll-off system dumps in a manner similar to a single-pivot hooklift, notes Fisher. "Most roll-offs touch the ground when they dump at 52[degrees]," he explains. "The dual-pivot designs are more like a dump truck, but they are about 20% more in price."
In addition, the weight of the hooklift's hoist system reduces payload. "Most double-pivot systems being sold today in the 20,000-lb. range on a single-axle truck weigh about 2,800 lbs.," says Glenn Rasmus, distributor sales manager, Stellar Industries.
The initial purchase price of the systems varies with the design and capacity. For example, look at a double-pivot hooklift. Rasmus explains that if you buy a 12,000-lb. hook for a 19,000-lb. GVW truck, it is roughly one-third the cost of an additional chassis. If you look at a 65,000-lb. hook for a tandem-axle chassis, depending upon the make of the chassis, it could be from one-third to one-half the cost of a second chassis.
Fisher encourages customers interested in a smaller truck to buy as close to 25,900-lb. GVW as possible because it is the largest non-CDL vehicle. "The minimum GVW we suggest is 15,000 lbs.," says Fisher. "At 25,900 lbs., you get a 10,000-lb. payload. At a 15,000-lb. GVW, you only get 6,000 lbs. of payload. If you start with too small a truck, there is nowhere to grow with the system."
According to Bud Greenert, product manager, Bucks Fabricating specializes in truck sizes in which traditional designs are not practical due to weight or cost. This includes light medium-duty trucks in Classes 3 through 6.
The company's Switch-N-Go system uses a scissor hoist with an electric/hydraulic pump and an electric winch. There are 9,000-, 12,000- and 15,000-lb. lift capacities.
The Switch-N-Go system adds approximately 1,000 lbs. to the chassis weight. "If you have a dump truck, you still have the dump cylinders and the weight of the body. In essence, there is a 500-lb. difference between our system and a dump body on that chassis," says Greenert.
Benefits vs. cost
If you currently get maximum utilization out of your medium- and heavy-duty trucks, then interchangeable bodies are probably not well suited for your operation. But many of you have underutilized trucks that drive up costs while they sit idle.
To determine if you might benefit from quick-change systems, Rasmus advises identifying similar cab-to-axle chassis in your fleet with similar-length bodies. "Do a mileage check on a monthly basis because the truck will not make you money if it is sitting there," he states. In some cases, a quick-change system can eliminate underutilized chassis.
The ability to use multiple bodies on one chassis can also offer other economic benefits. There is only one chassis to maintain and total insurance and licensing fees are reduced. Plus, you no longer have to dedicate trucks to specialty applications that are only occasionally performed. "Anything that fits on a truck now, you can put on with this system," says Greenert.
TruckCraft TC-200 COMBO
The TC-200 COMBO converts a single- or dual-wheel pickup to a combination service/dump body.
* Aluminum body designed for a full-size pickup
* Provides 32 cu. ft. of storage and 2.4 cu. yds. of dump volume with a 5,000-lb. dump capacity
* Body for single-rear-wheel pickups weighs 805 lbs., approximately 405 lbs. more than the original pickup bed
* Virtually no modification required to the chassis
Stellar X-Tra-Lift Xchange 3
The X-Tra-Lift Xchange 3 pickup-mounted hydraulic loading device is designed to provide expanded uses not available with a standard pickup box.
* Hydraulic single-pivot hooklift capable of interchanging 9-ft.-long bodies with a total weight of 3,000 lbs.
* Allows for loading and off-loading and for dumping loads at up to a 45[degrees] tipping angle with an 8-ft.-long body
* Various bodies can be exchanged such as dump boxes, flatbed bodies and small water or fertilizer tanks.
American Roll-off HA-175 Hook Lift
The HA-175 Hook Lift from American Roll-off is a 17,500-lb.-capacity dual-pivot unit designed for use on a 25,900-lb. GVW non-CDL chassis.
* Dumps like a true dump truck and allows the operator to switch bodies to increase truck utilization and versatility
* Utilizes dual lift cylinders and operates at 2,800 psi
* Easily picks up and dumps 12- to 14-ft. containers
Bucks Fabricating Switch-N-Go
Switch-N-Go truck systems can change beds in a matter of minutes, yet provide a securely attached truck body for movement down the highway.
* For 11,000 to 26,000 GVW trucks
* Can lift a loaded bed filled with cargo without a dock or a fork truck
* Can dump at a 50[degrees] angle
* Allows one truck to be used with four or five different bodies
The ChoreMaster cargo loading system loads up to 2,000 lbs. from ground level into a truck in seconds.
* Insert dump unit offers over 40 cu. ft. of capacity for up to a full ton of loose material
* Cargo box easily detaches to become drop and leave refuse container
* Installed in any full-size pickup truck in less than two hours
Standard Hamilton Dump-Pro
Standard Hamilton's Dump-Pro enables a user to go from pickup to dump truck in minutes with the Quick Change-Out option.
* Polyethylene dump body
* Drive system does not require hydraulics
* WarnWorks winch provides lifting and dumping power
* 60[degrees] dump angle
* 3,000-lb. payload capacity
* Weighs under 400 lbs. and fits most pickups
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