Lifts, Booms and Bucket Trucks For Video Surveillance

Author: Ari Erenthal, Published on Dec 21, 2016

While ladders are economical and easy to transport, they can only accommodate a single technician at relatively low heights. When techs need to work further up, aerial work platforms, commonly called "lifts", come into play.

In this report, we examine the different types of lift available, the pros, cons, and price difference of each, and give our recommendations on when to use each.

Five Types of Aerial Work Platforms

There are five main kinds of aerial work platforms, shown here:

The chart below summarizes the these options, their common use, and rental costs:

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Scissor *****

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Articulating **** ****

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Comments (26)

One advantage Bucket Trucks have over lifts is speed. If you are installing a lot of cameras on poles for say a large mall parking lot. It is a lot faster to drive the bucket truck/van to the new location then it is the lift.

Micahel,

Do you drive both you bucket truck and a tech vehicle to the job site? Or do does your tech just tool up the bucket truck and take that?

We have been looking at buying either an articulating boom lift or a bucket truck and really can't decide what would be best.

Not to answer for Mike, but...

At my past employer we had that same debate for awhile. We first got a bucket truck which was a given because we did city surveillance, and a lift would be pretty useless. The 2-3 people who normally used the bucket truck stocked it with their stuff so they had what they wanted/needed. No second truck.

But when it came time to debate a second vehicle, the lift was a thought for awhile. It really came down to the fact that we had no easy way to transport the lift, plus the cost to maintain it, so we got a second bucket and just rented lifts as needed.

That being said, I think if you have a couple of accounts where a taller boom or indoor articulating model, etc., is used routinely, you may be able to spread the cost out over several projects and service contracts.

Depends on the project. If it's a service call to troubleshoot or fix a camera on a pole we will normally send one guy with the bucket. If it's an install where we have some custom mounting or boxes to billed we would send multiple techs.

Another point about bucket trucks. We have a 41ft articulating bucket truck with huge storage bins on the outside. We can store and transport a huge amount of tools and equipment which is really nice most of the time. Becuase of the huge swing up doors on the side we need at least 3 parking spots to open up the truck which makes this not ideal for city camera work. I would recommend a bucket Van if you need to get into tight spots over a truck.

Question for everyone that has bucket trucks or lifts. Do you charge extra when you have to use these tools onsite for a project? Example: Do you add a $200 bucket truck use line item to your quotes or do you just up your pricing across the board to cover your bucket costs?

At all my past gigs, we added a line item for bucket trucks or lifts. It varied from about $150-300ish depending on which (the electrical contractor I worked for had a bucket van, two line trucks, a couple of booms, a scissor, and a one man...quite a selection!).

Do you charge extra when you have to use these tools onsite for a project?

When I was an integrator we owned a bucket truck and we charged a line item fee when used. The rationale to me was clear: that resource was needed for that task and the customer should pay specifically to benefit from that resource. It could also be easily explained that if we did not own one we would have to rent it and, of course, we would add the rental fee for that.

The alternative would be to treat it as overhead and raise rates overall accordingly but that would penalize / make us less competitive for jobs that were indoor only or otherwise did not require the resource.

for our scissor lift we charge that out in the bid or service work at $125/day...

One thing I will say it was shocking when I saw the cost of bucket vans or trucks. For a new 32ft van your looking at $80K. My 41ft F-550 was $120K new. Your best bet is to find a used one with low hours/miles.

FYI this might be our next lift as long as we keep it clean you can use it inside and outside. You can drive it through a standard door opening and even up and down steps.

man that would be nice... have you gotten a demo on it?

No, not yet. Knowing myself I would love it and order one on the spot.

...even up and down steps.

without a ramp?

Cool. That thing is built like a tank!

It actually looks too slow for anything but niche uses, but man would it be super handy when you need it. I just did a job where we had to swing a tech off the roof because we couldn't get a lift safely up 6 steps to an elevated patio. This would have been a lifesaver.

I just did a job where we had to swing a tech off the roof because we couldn't get a lift safely up 6 steps to an elevated patio. This would have been a lifesaver.

Wow. Condolences.

The main disadvantage is that users are constrained by battery life, and must wait for the lift to charge, instead of swapping a propane cylinder or adding gas.

Can't the batteries be swapped with an extra set and be charged off-line?

Is there never an option to run off of AC, or at least charge while in use?

Maybe a 48-port passive POE injector with a custom 48 jack to DIN plug? Jk.

Changing the batteries isn't really an easy task. A lot of them use 6V batteries similar to golf carts, but they use multiple batteries. Like 8 of them. So swapping eight 60+ pound batteries isn't really happening in most cases.

Some of them use batteries similar to forklifts, which are heavy to act as counterbalance. I mean heavy, in the hundreds of pounds range.

On a recent job the client rented a JLG scissor that was able to run off AC power after the batteries had died. I'm not sure if the built in charger was actually powering the motors or if it was just getting enough charge while stationary to give the lift enough juice to move to the next spot. If it was charging/discharging then I'd guess running off the cord is fairly hard on the batteries and should only be done when absolutely necessary.

However I have also used an older Skyjack lift that had specific instructions to never operate when on the cord and would not charge unless the key at the base was turned off and the platform was down.

I recently made the mistake of renting a towable bucket lift. We only needed it to mount 4 cameras, and they were accessible from paved parking lots. The lift was terrible to maneuver, agonizingly slow, had to be picked up and dropped off, wouldn't level, and barely lasted long enough for the job. It appeared to be brand new, so I was shocked by the battery issue. Bottom line, I rented it because it was $220 vs $500 for a delivered gas unit, and it ended up costing way more at the end of the day in labor and transport.

On a more positive note, I've recently become so enamored with the GR20 Genie Runabout that I'm considering buying one. It's small, but large enough to get most jobs done. It turns on a dime, can be used in finished buildings, gets up high enough for 90% of what I do, works at extension, and can be easily trailer-ed.

Good feedback.

What kind of trailer are you using or planning on using? Did you already own the trailer, or are you buying a trailer and tow package specifically for the lift? If so, how much was it?

Which lift did you rent?

I've always preferred gas powered for outdoor stuff when it is an option, you can fill a tank of gas faster than you can charge/swap/deal with batteries.

Sunbelt has a ~50ft towable lift that I've used a few times for basic house maintenance stuff. You are right, it is slower to maneuver, but if you have to go up a steep incline with the lift (as I did), you have better odds with a tow vehicle than with the lifts own power.

Biggest advice I would say for towable lifts is get the biggest/longest one you can justify or afford, so that you do not have to move it as much.

We already have a single axle 6x6.5x12' trailer that we use for larger jobs. It has a workbench, conduit storage, cables, fittings, etc. We carry a chop saw, table saw, pipe threader, etc. as well as bulk cable. You wouldn't think it would be needed with full size high roof cargo vans, but it sure helps. I'm going to be adding another, and already planned on moving to a 2 axle with brakes, likely 7'x'7'x14'. Given the GR20 is only 2500 lbs it appears it could be carried with the new trailer, although it will likely require ramp modifications. I haven't quite decided yet, but I don't think a hydraulic lift trailer is necessary for a unit of this size. My vans should (just) be able to handle it either way.

I have a 2006 gmc topkick 48 ft reach and i have to say its the way to go.I have rented those tow behinds and jlg and scissors lift have their advantages but speed isn't one of them.I find it awesome for camera work and probably takes care of 85-90 % of my needs.The biggest issue is speed and speed equals money.Also the truck has advantage in lean times to do chimney sweeping ,putting up christmas decorations on utility poles and taking them down,sign repair and light replacement also tree trimming and antenna alignment have been things that i have used the truck for.The insurance and repairs are only drawbacks but it can't be all good.

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