Aerial Lift types and lift selection guide by Alexander Equipment
Whether you’re looking to rent or purchase an aerial lift, the first thing that must be accomplished is choosing the right lift for the job at hand. There are many different types of Mobile Elevating Work Platforms or MEWP’s (formerly referred to as AWP’s) available from multiple manufacturers.
If you’re an expert certified aerial operator you will have no problem deciding which type of aerial lift is right for the job, but if you’re new to the world of MEWP’s, here are some of the criteria for choosing the right lift:
Take a look at our Aerial Lift Types diagram that depicts types and sub-types of aerial lifts as well as power source . Visit our Specification Library for detailed model specific information on all types of aerial lifts from major manufacturers such as Genie, Skyjack, JLG, Snorkel and more.
Scissor lifts have a base that is the same size as the work platform and are designed to lift personnel and their equipment vertically. Most modern scissor lifts come equipped with an extension deck that will allow a minimum of horizontal reach. Scissor lifts are typically available in platform heights that range from 15 to over 50 feet high.
There are two basic types of scissor lifts
This type of scissor lift has a low ground clearance and is best suited for inside jobs on a concrete floor where very low emissions are required. Most electric scissor lifts are equipped with non-marking tires. Narrow widths are available that can easily go through a 36” framed door opening.
This type of scissor lift can be used to travel over rough terrain to where the work is needed. Available in diesel, dual fuel (gas & LP), hybrid (comes equipped with an onboard gas powered generator that can charge the batteries when needed even when no electric service is available) and 4 wheel drive as options. Some models are equipped with outriggers for elevating on sloped surfaces. Rough terrain scissor lifts generally allow higher occupancy and weight limits.
Boom lifts are an excellent solution for hard-to-reach jobs and/or jobs that require considerable heights, delivering a stable and secure work platform. Boom lifts are typically available in platform heights that range from 30 to 135 feet high.
Boom Lifts are available in three types:
This type of MEWP has a maneuverable boom that extends in a straight line from a base. Telescopic boom lifts offer the greatest horizontal reach of all aerial lifts. They are available in diesel or dual fuel (gas & LP) power options as well as 4 wheel drive and can travel safely over rough terrain outdoors.
These mobile elevating work platforms are equipped with a movable boom arm with multiple sections that hinge or articulate, allowing the operator to gain access to work areas over obstacles and barriers. Also referred to as knuckle booms or up-and-over booms, these versatile MEWP’s are perfect for tight access and hard-to-reach areas.
Engine powered articulating boom lifts (available in dual fuel and diesel power options) are an excellent choice when a combination of vertical lift, horizontal reach and rough terrain maneuverability is needed.
Electric articulating boom lifts offer quiet, emission free operation in an indoor environment where the surface is firm and level such as a concrete floor.
Trailer mounted or towable boom lifts let you tackle many of the same jobs as other electric or engine powered booms, but with an extremely portable transportation option. They can be hooked up to the bumper hitch of most pickup trucks and towed by the operator to the job site without the need of heavy equipment transport. Available in gas or electric power, towable boom lifts are great for construction, exterior painting, decorating or maintenance tasks.
Also known as personnel lifts, these vertical elevating lifts are ideal for warehousing, stock-picking, inventory management, and general maintenance. Relatively light weight, compact and great when space is limited. They can increase your overall productivity. Available in self-propelled electric and push around options and are best used on a firm level surface such as a concrete floor.
Although there are slight variations, most aerial work platforms are similar in the way they are operated. When it comes to manufacturers the choice is like choosing between Ford and Chevy. It’s primarily a consumer preference, since all aerial lift manufactures have the responsibility of building MEWP’s that meet ANSI, SAIA and OSHA standards in the USA. So once we choose between Genie, Skyjack, JLG, Snorkel or any other major equipment manufacturer, it’s time answer some important questions.
All MEWP’s have a stated maximum platform lifting capacity. This can be found in the operator’s manual and on the data plate attached to the machine. Determine how many people will be needed to complete the job and what equipment the personnel using the aerial lift will need, then add up all estimated weight. The total number of pounds in the platform will help you determine which aerial lift is safe for your job.
Visit the Lift Specification Library for weight capacity and other characteristics of particular lift model and brand.
Good luck…and stay safe working on aerial lifts!