Supplier trends: Aerial equipment in recovery

Manufacturers discuss latest trends and advances


Aerial equipment manufacturers were among those hit the hardest by the recession. As big construction jobs ended without new ones starting, the demand for these types of machines plummeted. Rental companies sold off aerial equipment while letting fleets age.

It wasn’t until last year that these manufacturers started to report significant gains in new equipment sales and some of that growth has continued into 2013, although several in the industry point out that much of the activity has to do with rental companies replacing fleet and not necessarily expanding inventory.

“Rental companies are our focus and we regularly see reports on utilization and rental rates, which have been trending into positive territory for the past 18 months. In terms of business, it was a strong year in 2012,” says Brad Boehler, president, Skyjack, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

“There has been some downward movement as a result of heavier purchases recently, but the average fleet age is still at a level where rental company efficiency can be compromised. Although we do not expect fleet age to return to pre-recessionary levels, there is much room for improvement,” Boehler says.

David Smith, president of Snorkel, Elwood, Kan., said his company saw recovery in 2012 and that the market for aerial equipment in 2013 is showing signs of stabilizing.

“We are at very good levels of recovery and nothing shows that we will not continue to recover further in 2014, but what is happening is still replacement of fleet that needed to be replaced because rental companies allowed their fleets to age during the recession. The variable for 2014 is if we will see recovery and replacement, which could be a pretty good bump up of demand based off of rental companies,” Smith says.

Haulotte Group | BilJax, L’Horme, France and Archbold, Ohio, reported a 16 percent increase in equipment sales in 2012. First-quarter sales this year are slightly down, but improvement is expected.

JLG Industries, McConnellsburg, Pa., a subsidiary of Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., reported sales increased 7.5 percent to $817.4 million for the second quarter this year.

“Currently the AWP business is recovering with strong replacement demand in mature markets like North America. We expect to see strengthening in construction and continued adoption in emerging markets, which will expand the use of AWPs into new markets, height classes and applications,” says Jeff Ford, JLG’s global product director.

“I think the industry is getting healthy again,” says Matt Fearon, who became president of Terex Aerial Work Platforms (AWP), Richmond, Wash., in January.

“When the economy turned down, everything stopped for rental companies and manufacturers. Now, this is the third year in a row where we are growing and rental penetration is improving. If there is a silver lining in the economic downturn of 2008, 2009 and 2010, it pushed more people to try rental. As the market comes back, I think there will be more aerials out there at the next peak,” Fearon says.

“From a manufacturer standpoint, it’s continuing to be about globalizing the business. AWP acceptance and penetration in North America and Europe is deep, solid and not going away. In other parts of the world, they are just getting going in this area. We’ll have to stay on our toes. Where I’m pushing the organization is the same thing — customer responsiveness and continuous improvement,” he says.

Aerial equipment manufacturers also now have to deal with implementing Tier 4 diesel engines as necessary.

“Tier 4 will be more expensive and I think most manufacturers will simply not be able to absorb this cost. It’s a significant change for the industry, but we need to remember the positive impact it will have on both emissions and the environment we all live in,” says Skyjack’s Boehler.

“Having said that, we still have to deal with the fiscal realities. We see our customers as partners. We therefore feel obliged to apply significant resources toward cost reduction to mitigate the upward trend. However, holding pricing is not always possible. I think the other lesson we, as an industry, need to address is that of the overall timing of Tier implementation throughout the supply base,” he says.

“In our experience with Tier 3 and Tier 4i, the availability of qualified components has sometimes been lacking, making meeting the deadlines extremely challenging,” he says.

At Snorkel, Smith says he’s been pleased with some of the solutions engine manufacturers are offering, as they are less complex than initially anticipated.

“It is a completely new engine and install. The cost is significantly higher, but not as drastic as we originally thought. We can get by without a major redesign for anything under 25 hp. For anything 45 hp and above, it is a complete redesign of the engine install. Fortunately, a majority of the machines have enough room, so you do not have to make significant changes to the overall design,” he says.

“The highway truck market has paved the way for moving to Tier 4. I think off-highway equipment manufacturers have learned a lot in the last 18 months about the trials and tribulations the highway truck market learned, which means our learning curve should be much faster,” Smith says.

Fearon says Terex AWP also is looking to be creative as machines are developed to meet new emissions requirements.

“Safety is the driver. We’re in the business of creating solutions that are safer. Behind it, we need to make sure people can make money on our machines. As we introduce more expensive engines, there are some product categories that rental companies are struggling to make money. We have to be innovative in our solutions, coming up with ways to allow people to work at height and make money,” Fearon says.

On the safety side, Terex AWP has introduced its Genie® Lift Pro™ online-based aerial work platform training program. By completing the online training program and susequent hands-on familiarization training with a qualified person, end users can become qualified AWP operators in accordance with American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards.

The Lift Pro online training program is available through authorized Lift Pro Training Centers throughout North America and will be applicable for most brands, makes and models of AWPs. Genie customers also are eligible to become authorized Lift Pro Training Centers by meeting specified criteria.

The online program includes interactive features and video training that can be paused at any time. A 30-question exam is administered upon completion of the training modules and end users are required to answer all questions correctly. If an incorrect answer is given, participants are required to return to the module and search for the correct answer as a way to help ensure complete comprehension of the material, the company says.

Snorkel’s Smith says his company also is starting to develop online interactive safety training that would complement International Powered Access Federation (IPAF) and American Work Platform Training (AWPT) in North America.

Skyjack’s Boehler is an IPAF board member and the company has an IPAF and AWPT training center.

“However, there have been geographic limitations with the number of people that we can train out of our two North American training centers,” Boehler says.

“With the imminent release of the new IPAF/AWPT eLearning initiative, I believe that we may be able to help rental companies achieve the goal of promoting operator training in the U.S.,” he says.

Aerial manufacturers also continue to develop ways to make the machines themselves safer. For example, earlier this year Haulotte Group launched its entrapment prevention system, which is designed to protect operators from this type of risk.

The system alerts the operator to potential entrapment situations and features a Safety Gap™, which can potentially allow an operator to get out of danger, the company says.

JLG introduced JLG SkyGuard in 2012 as an aftermarket accessory and Snorkel has partnered with third-party aftermarket suppliers offering sanctuary zones for aerial equipment.


Terex and ESPN

In a unique alliance between an equipment manufacturer and the Walt Disney Co., Terex Corp., Redmond, Wash., the manufacturer of Genie® branded products, has signed a long-term strategic alliance with ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to be the official lift equipment provider to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

As part of the deal, Genie equipment will be used for a variety of applications, including scissor and boom lifts as elevated platforms for cameras and camera operators to tape and broadcast sports events at the sports complex. The lifts also are used to perform ongoing maintenance at the 255-acre site.

“Disney looked at the values of our company to see if we aligned with what they do. We are focused on safety and continuous improvement, so it was a match. There are so many threads to this, it’s hard for people to understand where this can go,” says Matt Fearon, president, Terex Aerial Work Platforms (AWP).

“There is brand association and we are the preferred equipment provider on their property. We have access to other Disney partners who have gone through the same process. From the ESPN standpoint, they have access to our expertise on access equipment. We can look at what they are trying to accomplish and see what we can do to make it safer and more efficient for them,” Fearon says.

“They are fun people to be around. They bring an energy because their world is so different with the way they view how to go to market. The experience they have makes you think differently,” he says.

Skyjack’s ‘The Survivor’

Earlier this year, Skyjack, Guelph, Ontario, Canada, launched Quest2013, an international search to find the company’s oldest working lift.

So far, the folks at Power Lift Equipment, Concord, Ontario, Canada, have one of the earliest Skyjack machines still working in its fleet, an SJ106.5-10 originally purchased from LW Matthews Machines, a Skyjack dealer later purchased by Hertz Equipment Rental Corp.

For at least two decades, the unit has been going strong and its combination of endurance and reliability have earned it the nickname “The Survivor.” According to Marsh Tonner, service manager at Power Lift Equipment, the SJ106.5-10 continues to work consistently and without fuss as a general rental unit for electricians, plumbers, contractors and others, providing secure and solid lift assistance.

Apart from requiring periodic battery changes and having its guard rails replaced after the discovery of some hairline cracks, the machine has never had any notable problems. “This machine is a marvel. It has cost us virtually zero dollars in maintenance over the years,” Tonner says.

The SJ106.5-10 was one of the first Skyjack models produced in the company’s 29-year history. It has a 40-in.-by-82-in. platform that can extend to 24 ft. and an overall capacity of 750 lbs. The 3,510-lb. machine has two-wheel drive and three forward and reverse speeds controlled from the platform. It also has a retracted height that’s low enough to fit through standard doorways.

Power Lift Equipment is a heavy construction equipment rental and leasing business that specializes in aerial work platforms. Starting out in 1975, the company has 14 employees.

Companies running older Skyjack machines also are encouraged to submit details of the machines by uploading information to Facebook at, to Twitter at @skyjackinc/#skyjackquest2013 or online at

The company found to be running the overall oldest machine will be presented with a new Skyjack machine.