9 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Spec’ing Liftgates for Medium Duty Trucksadmin
The best option for lifting heavy cargo (150 lbs. or more) from the ground onto the bed of a medium-duty work truck is a liftgate, a platform that raises and lowers (from the rear and/or side of the truck) using an electric hydraulic system.
The challenge, however, is specifying the right liftgate for each application. There are myriad specs to consider, with cost ranging from $2,000-$9,000, depending on the type of gate, platform size and material, power supply, and lifting capacity.
What can go wrong? Consider these real-world examples:
The gate doesn’t lower all the way, hovering 4 inches above the ground, making it impossible to roll a pallet jack or handcart onto the lift platform – essentially rendering the gate useless.
The tuckaway liftgate functions OK when the truck is empty, but sits too low underneath the body when the truck is loaded, impeding the liftgate platform from being able to properly lower and unfold.
The liftgate runs out of battery power at a delivery halfway through the truck’s route, forcing the crew to regularly stop work and run the engine to recharge the battery, resulting in costly delays and diminishing productivity.
No fleet manager wants to deal with the headaches (and expenses) that come with a liftgate spec gone awry. Ensure the right liftgate is spec’d for the job by avoiding these common mistakes.
- Selecting a Liftgate Incompatible with Truck Bed Height
“The biggest area you run into problems with is when somebody specs the truck and tries to hang a tuckaway liftgate underneath a truck that doesn’t have enough of a loaded bed height clearance to allow that gate to be put on,” said Doug Greve, sales coordinator for Thieman Tailgates Inc., which markets a full line of hydraulic liftgates for light-, medium-, and heavy-duty trucks and trailers. “We get calls all the time when somebody has hung a liftgate on a truck where they can’t get it open or it won’t touch the ground. That’s what creates the most headaches.”
Two key terms to learn when it comes to bed height and liftgate installation are laden and unladen.
“Laden” refers to the bed height when the truck is at full load, causing the chassis’ rear suspension to depress, representing the lowest point the body should drop. “Unladen” is when the bed is completely empty, denoting the highest point the body should sit.
Each liftgate spec needs to account for both the lowest point (which determines the minimum clearance requirements) and highest point (dictating the maximum distance the platform will need to lower to reach and lay flat on the ground).
Work closely with the body manufacturer to select the liftgate type most compatible for the specific truck. The manufacturer should have laden and unladen height dimensions specific to the truck, based on its chassis and body specifications, available as a reference to guide decision making.