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How to choose your areal platform: rent a suitable vehicle for maximum safety

  • 15/06/23
  • 6 min

Connecting the fibre optic cable, changing the bulbs in the street lamps, putting up or taking down Christmas decorations are all jobs that require a special construction machine: the aerial platform.
Coupled with a light commercial vehicle or a heavy goods vehicle, it allows easy access to the work area located at height to carry out maintenance, repair, servicing or cleaning operations. How to choose the right vehicle?

fraikin nacelle

Criteria for choosing an areal platform

Truck-mounted aerial work platforms are divided into two categories: light vehicles and heavy vehicles. In France, 80% of aerial work platforms are 3T5 max platforms or 3T5 max vans or simply 80% of aerial work platforms are 3T5 max.

As Pierre Dalla-Corte, equipment project manager and vehicle referent at FRAIKIN, tells us, “most customers know what they need.

Understanding this need, without leaving anything to chance, is organised as early as the audit phase…


Choose your boom lift vehicle according to the nature of the task

The choice of the ideal vehicle depends on the category of work in which the task to be performed falls.

The telecoms group accounts for 80% of the work requiring the use of a utility vehicle equipped with an areal platform: a range of 6 metres (sometimes up to 8 metres) in height and at offset level is required to work on the network.

The constraint will not be the same at all for lighting specialists: the installers of bulbs (street lamps, urban decorations, etc.) will need a gondola that is twice as high (about 12 metres). On the other hand, a long axial reach is not necessary, since the operator is hoisted vertically, at the foot of the site on which he is working, without any offset.

Finally, sign, alarm, advertising or signage installers will need the same type of vehicle with maximum lifting capacity.


The payload: a determining factor in the choice of a bucket vehicle

The decisive element in the choice of a bucket vehicle will be the payload: the maximum permissible mass corresponds to the sum of the vehicle’s empty weight (PV) and the maximum permissible mass of material that it is allowed to transport (CU).

According to the current regulations, the maximum “kerb weight” of a bucket van with 2 seats in the cab is 3282 kilos, while a light vehicle weighs up to 3500 kilos.

These 3282 kilos are made up of the vehicle, its equipment, the driver whose weight is estimated at 75 kilos, as well as all fluids and 90% of the fuel; the payload is therefore 218 kilos maximum.

This is a value that should not be exceeded!

To ensure the safety of its equipment and compliance with the standard, Fraikin has even introduced a 3% margin of error, which is equivalent to 100 kilos, to guarantee safety for all its customers. Above the maximum load of 3,500 kilos, a truck must be hired.


The driving licence held by the works operator

The light bucket truck, limited to 3T5, is accessible with a simple B licence.

If the work requires transporting heavier loads, then a heavy vehicle must be chosen, which requires at least a C licence.

However, few telecom operators or lighting engineers have this type of licence. For their part, clients may not want to train their employees for this type of licence to avoid them retraining as truck drivers and leaving the company.

Pierre Dalla-Corte explains that an intermediate solution exists: the C1 licence.

According to him, “this training allows you to drive heavy goods vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes, which is more than enough for a areal platform. The worker is thus trained to drive this type of vehicle, but does not become a heavy goods vehicle driver.


Hiring a bucket truck: safety first

Falls from platforms, electrocutions, rollovers or collisions account for the majority of accidents related to the use of aerial work platforms.

In its 2020 World Report, the International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) counted 736 accidents between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2020, involving 768 people.

The industries in which fatalities are most common are forestry and construction, followed by maintenance and telecommunications.

Fraikin is uncompromising on these issues, and as Pierre Dalla-Corte insists: “We don’t play with the safety of our customers.

A rented aerial work platform without a height range would force the operator to climb the guardrail to gain a few metres, which is strictly prohibited and extremely dangerous.

Overloading is also the cause of many accidents:

  • Tipping of the machine too heavy ;
  • inability to brake in front of an obstacle: if the bucket truck is too heavily loaded, the vehicle will not be able to stop in time.

It is therefore necessary to be extremely rigorous in the choice of vehicle equipped with a basket, with regard to the payload.

As Pierre Dalla-Corte reminds us, the customer must take responsibility and not exceed the load limit imposed by the law and by the equipment hire company: “It is absolutely essential that the public authorities become aware of the need to strengthen controls on overloaded platforms.


The hybrid bucket truck: the choice of a clean vehicle

Due to its construction, a bucket truck cannot be fully electric. However, in some specifications of public works operators, it may be required that the equipment used is non-polluting.

The platform works with hydraulic energy: a pump is used to increase the pressure of the oil that feeds the cylinders. It is usually connected to a pulley located at the front of the vehicle at the level of the combustion engine: this installation, which was still prevalent among bodybuilders until three years ago, is not only the cause of frequent breakdowns but is also harmful to the environment.

On the one hand, the recurrent vibrations of the machine cause damage to the hydraulic pump, as it passes through the vehicle and is connected to the front of the truck.

On the other hand, the combustion engine works continuously: since the hydraulic pump is connected to it, it is impossible to work with the engine off.

For some years now, the hydraulic pump unit can be driven by an electric motor in the rear of the vehicle. An additional battery pack allows the pump to be powered independently of the engine, which can be disconnected during operation.

This means fewer breakdowns, but above all, the bucket truck equipped in this way allows for “zero emission” and silent operation!

The autonomous operation of the gondola offers significant fuel savings and vehicles equipped with this new system are increasingly popular with customers. According to Pierre Dalla-Corte, “three years ago, we had about twenty vehicles of this type in circulation; in 2021 we rented between 130 and 140. They do not replace an all-electric vehicle, but they also contribute to the fight against global warming.


In brief

When choosing a boom lift vehicle, the first thing to do is to listen to the advice of the experts: define your needs with the vehicle rental company, but also take all the precautions to avoid danger and respect the limitations imposed by the legislation, particularly with regard to the payload.

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