Service Trucks Keeping Up With Technological Advances

Mon February 13, 2006 - Southeast Edition

The past years have seen a tremendous change in the quality and technology of construction equipment. The same thing has happened to the trucks that are used to service the equipment out in the field.

The biggest change in service trucks can be seen in the cranes, said Brian Glover, president of Tampa Crane & Body.

“Their capacity and reach have grown, but the biggest change is the use of FM radio remote controls,” he said. “Just a few years ago, this was an expensive option. Now, just about all of the cranes come with it standard.”

Glover also said the use of hydraulic extensions instead of their manual counterparts has become more common.

“We can now supply cranes with up to a 25- to 30-foot reach with the hydraulic extensions. The crane manufacturers have done a great job of increasing capacities without increasing the weight,” Glover said.

Tampa Crane & Body sells two types of service trucks. The service body is mounted on a truck without reinforcement and usually has a smaller capacity crane — usually a maximum of 3,000 lbs. The other is a crane service body, for which the truck comes from the factory with additional frame reinforcement for larger cranes.

Glover has seen vast improvements in the quality and features of the bodies.

“The old bodies were welded together from various pieces and you could have problems with cracks. The new bodies are plasma cut from one piece for each side and one for the inside bed. The door openings that are cut out from the side pieces are used as the door faces, so they fit properly.”

The new process eliminates the need for most of the welds.

He said the handles and latches also have been upgraded.

“Features have also been increased,” Glover said. “We used to buy a standard body and have to custom fit a lot of the features that the customer wanted. Today, the manufacturer is handling a lot of this work.”

Some of the upgrades to the bodies Glover’s customers are now requesting are better bumpers, parts cleaning systems and hydraulic outriggers. One of the most popular upgrades is to the work bench type of bumper.

“This bumper has a work surface, usually about 20 inches deep, a place to mount a vice and lockable storage,” he said. “Among the newer options are self-contained parts cleaning systems. Many of our municipal customers are also specifying hydraulic outriggers to reduce the chance of injury.”

With automatic transmissions, air conditioning and better radios, Glover said, “Our customers are trying to take better care of their employees by buying them better vehicles.”

Sales Manager Andy Solo said he has seen more and more people purchase a combination of a service and lube truck.

“The bigger contractors like this set up where they can handle both service and things like hydraulic oil, water, grease and transmission fluid,” Solo said. “Most of these systems are now hydraulically driven instead of air, but we still have a few customers who like the air system.”

He also pointed to an increase in hydraulic driven welders and rotary screw compressors.

“They are small, weigh less and have less maintenance. We are also mounting a lot of evacuation tanks where they suck the fluids out of the machine into a self contained storage area,” Solo said.

Both Glover and Solo agree that improvements in cranes and features will continue to come in the future, with the capacity of cranes probably the being biggest change to come in the short run.

Tampa Crane & Body is located in Tampa, FL, and represents AutoCrane and Maintainer service bodies and cranes.

For more information, call 813/246-5510 or visit CEG